AUBURN GRESHAM — Thirteen-year-old Daysha Straight was the only student at Cook Elementary to get the maximum score on the Chicago Public Schools selective-enrollment test this year which determines where she’ll attend high school in the fall.
Her secret? Paying attention in class. She said she felt “100 percent prepared.”
“I didn’t study a lot [for the exam] because the work we’ve been doing all year was on the test,” she said. “I'm feeling great.”
According to her admissions letter from CPS, she was awarded 300 out of 300 points on the exam and scored in the 99th percentile in language and reading. Her overall high school admissions score — which also factors in grades and performance on standardized tests — was 896 out of 900 points total.
She was accepted at Walter Payton College Prep on the Near North Side, which this year was again the toughest selective-enrollment school to get into.
Cook Principal Narineh Gharashor said Friday that Daysha scored better than any other Cook student in recent memory on the test.
“She amazes me because she's competitive, but she's really compassionate and kind," Gharashor said. “She's very much loved by her peers, and she has made being smart cool at Cook.”
The Auburn Gresham student has been a high achiever since day one, and she describes herself as “competitive.”
In 2015, she participated in the Revolution of Young Artists as Leader, or ROYAL, poetry workshop, which brought Simeon High School’s Writers Never Die championship team to work closely with Cook students for six weeks.
Daysha said the workshop was fun and that she was shy in the beginning, but joined to overcome her fears.
“I got over it because I knew I couldn't be shy all my life,” she said. “I have to conquer my fears and just go out there.”
Last year she was one of two students at the school, at 8150 S. Bishop Ave., selected to be on the Principal's Honor Roll after she earned straight A’s, Gharashor said.
"We are extremely proud of our scholar Daysha Straight for this accomplishment," a statement from the school read. "We attribute her success to her determination and focus on academics as well as the love, care and intention our teachers at Cook have put into their students like Daysha."
Daysha became the president of her school’s new student council this year. She said it has sharpened her leadership and time-management skills. The student council is planning a movie day at the school, among other projects.
She also has been playing chess since fifth grade. She helped her school land second place at the first Network 11 Englewood Chess Tournament held March 3.
Daysha Straight (far left) competed in the first Network 11 Englewood Chess Tournament held March 3. [Provided/Cook Elementary]
Although her scores got her into Payton, she’s strongly considering attending Deerfield Academy, an independent, coed boarding school in Massachusetts. Even though no one in her family has attended a school like Deerfield, Daysha said she’s not afraid to leave Chicago.
She learned about the school at a high school fair. She's still waiting to hear whether she got accepted there.
“My mom thinks it's a good idea because I would be exposed to more people than I would if I stayed in Chicago, but the reason I want to go is because they were more intriguing than the other choices,” Daysha said.
She said she likes that she could have her own dorm room there and that it’s a cellphone-free campus. Also, all grade levels eat lunch together, so that gives her the chance to meet everyone, giving it a “family feel,” she said.
Straight said she sees this school as a great place to thrive academically and prepare for college, which she’s already thinking about.
“I want to be a math professor, so I’m going to major in education,” she said, adding that she’d like to minor in law.