For the record, Canter is not an underperforming school

To the Editor:

Through reckless school closings set on a fabricated chaos-creating timetable, Mayor Emanuel and his appointed school board have managed to distract us from one important detail about our neighborhood middle school: Canter is not an underperforming school.

On the contrary, Canter has outperformed the CPS district average by nine to 19 percentage points on the cumulative measure of all standardized tests every year of the last decade. In five of the last seven years, it also outperformed the state average, with one year tied and the last year within one percentage point—and still well above the district average. (See graph reprinted from Illinois Interactive Report Card at

Canter’s ISAT cohort data are equally impressive. Comparing the last three years of ISAT scores of incoming 7th graders with the scores of the very same group of students one year later in 8th grade, show consistent gains, all in a single year at Canter. (See chart, below.)

Finally, The University of Chicago’s Urban Education Institute developed the evidence-based 5Essentials Survey to evaluate school organization and climate. In their language, “schools strong on at least three out of five Essentials are 10 times more likely to improve student learning” ( For the record, Canter scored “very strong” on three out of five of these “Essentials” and an overall rating of “well organized for improvement,” the highest possible rating.

Bottom line: Canter is a good school in a safe neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago. Instead of shutting it down, the mayor and his fleet should be investing in it, sending their people to figure out what exactly this school is doing right. To close it would be to throw away a well-functioning gem of a school with a healthy, nonviolent school culture, so rare in CPS. Don’t shut it down; fill it up!

Jill Petty and Audrey Petty
Louis Wirth (now Canter)