St. Athanasius School in Evanston is one of 269 schools across the country named Friday as Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence by the U.S. Department of Education.

In announcing the award, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, said the schools selected for the award “are committed to accelerating student achievement and preparing students for success in college and careers. Their work reflects the conviction that every child has promise and that education is the surest pathway to a strong, secure future.”

Fifty private schools were among those selected for the award, which was earned by a total of 21 schools in Illinois — the closest other winner to Evanston was St. Francis Xavier School in Wilmette.

The National Blue Ribbon Schools award honors public and private elementary, middle, and high schools where students perform at very high levels or where significant improvements are being made in students’ levels of achievement.

The program recognizes schools in one of two performance categories. The first category is “Exemplary High Performing,” in which schools are recognized among their state’s highest performing schools, as measured by state assessments or nationally-normed tests.

The second category is “Exemplary Improving,” in which schools that have at least 40 percent of their students from disadvantaged backgrounds demonstrate the most progress in improving student achievement levels as measured by state assessments or nationally-normed tests.

Both St. A’s and St. Francis Xavier won in the “Exemplary High Performing” category.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. The previous St. A’s

    The previous St. A's principal moved to a school in the city that earned a blue ribbon last year after several years of her stewarship.

    It's great to see all of this success.

  2. Kudos to St. A’s

    My kids go to St. A's. We love it for so many reasons.   Most important to me is that it creates a family-like environment with 7th and 8th graders taking on "buddy" kindergarteners/first graders.  BIg buddies plan holiday parties, they write encouraging notes, and they lead reading sessions with their younger buds.  It is common to see high school kids return to St. A's during weekend parties to run games/activities for younger students.  

     The school loops kids into 2 grade units, so that they have the same group of 4 teachers for two years in a row.   The kids switch teachers starting in first grade for science/social studies/religion. One teacher in each unit specializes in this subject.  This prevents any gaps from forming because as kids move up to the next "Unit" the teachers link by subject area.   St. A's also uses the WIlson program Fundations to teach reading, which is the gold star best practice.  They utilize language based Everyday math, but supplement with drill worksheets to ensure that basic skills are mastered.  

      I'm so proud to be part of the St. A's community.  This award was just a nice little ribbon on the already fabulous package. Great job to Sue Castagna, principal, and all the fabulous teachers.

      Even though St. As is a catholic school, there are many kids who attend school who are not catholic. Our school bulletin has had Dalai Lama quotes and one parishioner teaches yoga on the lawn on Sundays.  To me, the school takes all the best parts of religion-  community, sharing, kindness, discipline and ditches the discrimination and intolerance of catholic schools of years past. When students get into 7th/8th grade, the religion class is actually a multi-religion study, so students learn about all religions out there. In the eyes of most St. A's parents, the various religions of the world are just different paths up the same mountain.  We believe in teaching in depth this one path, and when kids are ready to see multiple viewpoints, we show them the rest.

    If you're curious, come check it out!  There are still spaces left at all grades, and scholarships are available.

  3. A Beloved Teacher

    A Beloved Unit B teacher moved to another school after many years of her stewardship and excellent teaching.

    It was great to see her at St. Athanasius Blue Ribbon ceremonies.


    Congratulations St. A's!

Leave a comment
The goal of our comment policy is to make the comments section a vibrant yet civil space. Treat each other with respect — even the people you disagree with. Whenever possible, provide links to credible documentary evidence to back up your factual claims.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *