Here, again, are the results on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) for Chicago:There are three major problems in Chicago’s school system.Basic skills: Seventy-nine percent of the Chicago Public Schools eighth-graders don’t read at grade-level proficiency, according to the U.S. Department of Education, and 80 percent aren’t up to grade-level in math.[...]Sources: U.S. Department of Education, Chicago Public Schools, Consortium on Chicago School Research
Here is a description of what the "Basic" achievement level in reading means from the USDOE:
In other words: "Basic" is the standard level of achievement on the NAEP; "Proficient" is a much higher level. As Diane Ravitch explains:
Eighth-grade students performing at the Basic level should be able to locate information; identify statements of main idea, theme, or author's purpose; and make simple inferences from texts. They should be able to interpret the meaning of a word as it is used in the text. Students performing at this level should also be able to state judgments and give some support about content and presentation of content.
The term "proficiency" - which is the goal of the law - is not the same as "minimal literacy." The term "proficiency" has been used since the early 1990s by the federal testing program, the National Assessment of Education Progress, where it connotes a very high level of academic achievement. (p. 102)As anyone able to achieve an 8th Grade "Basic" level can see, 64% of Chicago's 8th Graders achieved a reading test "basic" level in 2011: the highest percentage in years. And the gains in mathematics over the last 10 years have been remarkable.
The Star-Ledger should be deeply, deeply embarrassed by their cluelessness. If you don't know a subject, fellas, don't write about it.
Star-Ledger Editorial Board