A problem that is inherent in any system trying to create a basic level of math skills via a test is the test. In New York State, the benchmark has been the Regents exam. Right now, there is a state-wide exam after the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd years. The only students not taking the exam are those working below college prep level, referred to as "non-Regents". These students have to take 2 years of math in high school, but it may be at a very low level. In order to graduate, students had to pass a Basic Competency Test (translate arithmetic with a taste of algebra and statistics). This test is being phased out and these students will have to pass an A exam after 2 years, which includes algebra, geometry, probability, statistics, and problem solving.
Now this sounds great, but once the problems are developed, a certain pattern of problems becomes evident over the years. Teachers teach toward the test -- their job depends on their students performance on this test. Students can get high marks on the test, but don't really understand the math at all. They have simply memorized for the exam.
It is not true that students have not been taught the basics. It is true that they have not learned the basics. We don't require students to take an exam to qualify for admittance to college. The SAT exams do not really test student's math ability since they are multiple choice. If students had to qualify for college admittance on a more rigorous level, as occurs in other countries, then we could make sure they know the basics. But they college would be for the elite, for the very smart or for those who could afford private tutors. And, we would not be America.