September 23, 2002
Mr. Arne Duncan:
For the past several years, the Chicago Board of Education has mandated the administration of the Chicago Academic Standards Exam for all freshman and sophomore students in the core subject areas. For the past two years, teachers have been required to count the results of this exam as ten percent of the tested students' final grades. The CASE was created and implemented to hold teachers accountable for basing instruction on the Chicago Academic Standards toward the end of helping students acquire the skills detailed in the standards. As teachers in the Chicago Public School system, we are very concerned about this exam.
Our primary concern is that the CASE does not reflect the standards for which it was designed, particularly in the subjects of English and Social Studies. Using the Illinois State Goals as a foundation, the creators of the Chicago Academic Standards detailed their standards and framework statements to promote the idea that students do not only need to acquire basic skills such as recall and memorization, but also higher order thinking skills, including inference, synthesis, and analysis. The CASE, however, only evaluates students on recall and simple comprehension skills. In fact, the majority of the standards detailed in the Chicago Academic Standards are not assessed by this exam.
Furthermore, this fall, the Board of Education has mandated the implementation of the Chicago Reading Initiative (CRI). This initiative is designed to engage teachers in effective reading instruction across the curriculum. This model of reading instruction, developed by Tim Shanahan at UIC, requires teachers to implement strategies designed to develop student reading fluency, word knowledge, reading comprehension, and writing. The CASE, as it is currently written, does not accurately reflect the objectives of the CRI.