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Dixon School Parents, Students Excited Over School's Top CPS Ranking

 Students Chance Barnes (l.), Kayla Vasser and Jayzoun Neal (r.) say they're excited and proud that their school earned CPS' top ranking.
Students Chance Barnes (l.), Kayla Vasser and Jayzoun Neal (r.) say they're excited and proud that their school earned CPS' top ranking.
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DNAinfo/Andrea V. Watson

CHATHAM — Students and parents from Arthur Dixon Elementary school said they were ecstatic this week to learn their school had earned the highest ranking on the 2015 CPS School Quality Rating Report for the first time.

And that sentiment was shared by the school's principal — herself a former student at the school: “All of our reactions were that we were so happy, just so excited,” said Terrycita Perry, who took the helm this year after being promoted from assistant principal. “We worked really hard for this.”

The students at the neighborhood school at 8306 S. Saint Lawrence Ave. in Chatham were brimming with pride.

“I’m excited because my school is the best,” said Kayla Vasser, an eighth grader.

She said she loves Dixon’s music and art program and that she will continue with arts in high school.

“I’m very proud of my school,” said Chance Barnes, also in eighth grade. The fourteen-year-old said he appreciates his teachers and the activities help him grasp each lesson.

Dixon earned a “Level 1+” for the 2014-2015 school year from Chicago Public Schools, up from a “Level 1” the previous year. The highest ranking is a "1+." Ratings are based on data that was gathered the previous school year.

Reading and mathematics levels have gone up at Dixon, which has 594 students. Nearly 99 percent of students at the school are African-American and 81 percent are low income.

In 2014-2015 the school bested 99 percent of schools nationwide in growth in reading scores on the Northwestern Evaluation Association of Academic Progress exam, or NWEA MAP.

Parent Leon Peatry said he likes that teachers incorporate black history into the curriculum and are easily accessible to parents. [DNAinfo/Andrea V. Watson]

That's up from 2013-2104, when students' growth on reading tests was better than the growth at 75 percent of schools nationally during the 2013-2014 year.

When it comes to math, the growth in test scores in 2014-2015 was better than 99 percent of schools nationally, jaw-dropping growth from 2013-2014 when it bested just 10 percent of schools nationally.

Some 87 percent of students in the school met state standards in reading and math.

Due to the efforts of his teachers, eighth grader Jayzoun Neal said he feels prepared for high school.

“The teachers are nice and they can be fun, yet serious about work,” he said.

Principal Perry, a Chatham native and former Dixon student, knows the school and the community well. She also taught at the school for seven years before becoming assistant principal for 10. Her experience has prepared her for the role, she said.

“Just having been a student here helps a lot, because I lived in the community and the children can see it’s attainable when they see me,” Perry said. “They know it’s not just a dream. I’m someone they can touch and talk to. I tell them that if I can do it, any of you can do it. So we never know who can be the next principal sitting in front of us.”

Parents praise the school’s staff for the great job. Leon Peatry has a son in first grade and a daughter in pre-K. He said he is glad that Dixon was ranked so high.

“Chicago Public Schools have kind of a bad reputation, especially around a lot of suburban areas, so it’s great to be able to get a high ranking,” Peatry said.

He said he likes that the teachers add a lot of black history into the curriculum and that they are easily accessible. He says he can text his son’s teacher.

Tymeka Woods has three sons enrolled at Dixon, one in eighth, one in third and one in first grade.

“The teachers and staff are really amazing, they are hands-on with the students and the parents right from the first day of school. ... They don't wait until report card pick-up when they see or feel a child needs help. They are on it right away,” Woods said.

Woods added that the programs challenge the students, helping them learn. She called the new ranking “awesome.”

Perry said that everyone is excited, but they can’t get comfortable if they want to maintain their ranking.

“One thing about being on the top is that you have to maintain it,” she said, “and never settle. Sometimes people think when they hit the top, that’s it, they get comfortable.”

She said the school still has work to do and this year they will focus more on their special education students.

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