With teachers striking in Chicago, the news is not good over all for parents and students in my home town after the Department of Education released data showing an incredible Seventy-nine percent of the 8th graders in the Chicago Public Schools are not grade-level proficient in reading. In addition, 80 percent are not grade-level proficient in math.
Looking at the report, this appears a slight improvement. It is an astonishing disclosure and a ringing condemnation of our current efforts on public education. These children are being condemned to a life of low-level employment if they cannot meet basic reading and math requirements. Moreover, our country is unlikely to compete in the world economy with such a work force.
The data is the result of the U.S. Department of Education administered National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) tests in reading and math to students around the country — scored on a scale of 0 to 500. Nationally, students on average score a 264 on the test. In Chicago, the average is 253. The students are placed in ascending groups from “below basic,” “basic,” “proficient” or “advanced.”
Nationally, public school 8th graders scored an average of 264 on the NAEP reading test. Statewide in Illinois, the 8th graders did a little better, scoring an average of 266. But in the Chicago Public Schools, 8th graders scored an average of only 253 in reading. That was lower even than the nationwide average of 255 among 8th graders in “large city” public schools. Only 19 percent rated proficient in reading with another 2 percent rated advanced. That latter figure is equally disappointing that only two percent reached the highest category of performance.
The data shows 48 percent at basic for reading; 18 at proficient; and 3 percent at advanced. That would appear to show 31 percent below even the basic line for reading. Math looks better on that scale with 64 percent at basic, 20 percent at proficient, and 2 percent at advanced. However, it still shows a large percentage at just barely getting by on math.
Once again, I will have to note that we are spending hundreds of billions in countries like Iraq and Afghanistan while our schools continue to decline and our students fall lower in global rankings for reading and math. The ultimate result is both inevitable and disastrous for this country – we will gradually lose our economic and technological edge in the world. Moreover, the distance between the wealthy and poor in this country is likely to grew even more extreme as citizens enter the job market without basic tools needed to secure better paying jobs.
The lack of support is not necessarily in teacher salaries. According to ABC News, the average salary in Chicago is the highest in the country at $71,236 a year. There remains a serious crisis in our schools in terms of the support given to programs, tutoring, and resources. While Congress is keen on constantly studying the relative strength of our military, it does not appear to see the national security crisis growing in our emerging workforce in the twenty-first century.
Source: Department of Education