If you were on the internet this weekend, you may have seen a troubling story gaining traction in some circles. According to multiple outlets, high schools in Oak Park, Illinois, are introducing a new “equity based” system grading which will “raise the grade point averages of Black students and lower scores of high achieving Asian, White and Hispanic ones.” People were understandably outraged by the news, and such a “race-based” grading system would be outrageous, if it were true. But it’s not.
It’s true that Oak Park and River Forest High School is making a few changes to its grading system that will try to account for things outside of students’ control. Instead of docking grades for things like missing class and turning assignments in late, teachers are adopting more lenient policies around things like late assignments and re-do’s on exams. Crucially, these changes are being applied to all students, regardless of race.
These changes are being implemented following an OPRFHS Grading and Assessment Committee that studied national research and determined new practices to make sure all students have an equal chance to excel, regardless of their socio-economic status or home situation. The new grading practices are designed to help students struggling with difficult home situations but, according to an official statement, “OPRFHS does not, nor has it ever had a plan to, grade any students differently based on race.”
That didn’t stop the West Cook News from reporting that “Oak Park and River Forest High School administrators will require teachers next school year to adjust their classroom grading scales to account for the skin color or ethnicity of its students.” That news story got quoted in the National Review and, from there, spread far and wide across the internet where it caused no small amount of panic.
But the panic is being inflamed by misleading headlines that seem almost designed to conform to fears about “Critical Race Theory” and “woke” ideology — terms badly mangled, misunderstood and even deliberately twisted by certain fearmongers in the media. There are plenty of real, concerning stories in the news right now that need our time and attention. This is definitely not one of them.