Illinois high school never planned to implement ‘race-based grading’
- An Illinois high school was the focus of right-wing outrage this week.
- An article that incorrectly claimed that the school plans to grade students differently based on race.
- The school “did not and never intended to categorize students differently based on their race.”
An Illinois high school has been the subject of right-wing outrage after an article written by a conservative website falsely claimed that the school system plans to classify students differently based on their race. Although the article makes baseless claims and comes from a dubious source with no author listed, the story gained attention after several influential conservative media figures shared it on social media.
The article claimed that officials at Oak Park and River Forest High School, a school in suburban Chicago, at a May 26 meeting discussed plans to “adjust their classroom grading scales to take into account the skin color or ethnicity of his students”. The headline was more brash, saying the school system has decided to “implement” a “race-based grading system” for the upcoming school year.
But the claims were not true. The May presentation that was the subject of the article was an initial report, and the school system had not decided to change any of its policies. While the presentation called on educators to explore “equitable assessment and grading practices,” it did not suggest grading students differently based on their race.
The school administration said in a statement Tuesday that the article was “misleading” and contained “inaccurate statements.”
“The OPRFHS did not, and never intended to, categorize students differently based on their race,” the statement said.
The story was published by a media outlet called West Cook News. According to its website, its core belief is in “limited government, in the constructive role of the free market, and in the right of citizens to choose the size and scope of their government and the role it should play in their society.” .
The website is part of the Local Government Information Service, a larger network of conservative Illinois media outlets that give the appearance of being local media. As established local news outlets had their reputations worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic, organizations such as LGIS News Service and partisan outlets such as West Cook News began to take their place.
The story had no author but was credited to the LGIS News Service. LGIS was co-founded by Dan Proft, a conservative radio host and former GOP candidate for governor of Illinois, according to the Columbia Journalism Review.
Neither West Cook News nor the LGIS News Service returned Insider’s request for comment.
LGIS is connected to the conservative Illinois Policy Institute think tank, according to the CJR report. Many stories are written by an algorithm, said co-founder Brian Timpone, and human-written stories are written by freelance writers often outside of Illinois.
LGIS is part of a larger network of similar websites across the country linked to Timpone, a conservative businessman and former journalist, according to Dan Moynihan, McCourt chair of Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy. .
“As local news media have disappeared, ‘pink slime’ outlets like LGIS have taken their place, relying on inexpensive or automated content repeated across sites and avoiding basic journalistic practices” , Moynihan wrote in a Substack post on Wednesday.
Proft, one of its co-founders, appeared to back the story on Wednesday despite the criticism, writing in a tweet: “Lots of ad hominem contempt from the identitarian left about this story – the usual.”
The story was amplified by several high-profile conservative figures online, greatly expanding West Cook News’ audience. Conservative Substack author Andrew Sullivan shared the article on Twitter, writing, “but sure.” He deleted the tweet on Wednesday. It was also shared by Libs of TikTok, the right-wing and anti-gay social media personality known for sharing inflammatory and sometimes misleading stories about educators in a bid to infuriate conservatives.
“At no time was any statement made recommending that the OPRF implement a race-based grading approach,” the school said in its statement. Officials said any changes to the ranking policies would be discussed at a public meeting before they are implemented.