Suburban Chicago high school district to implement race-based grading by 2023

May 31, 2022

By John Ransom

According to reports from a suburban Chicago newspaper and the slides of the school’s presentation to teachers, the Oak Park and River Forest High School will require teachers to adopt a new grading system based on race. 

The high school is the only high school in the twin city school district outside Chicago, famous as the home to many Windy City mobsters. 

“School board members discussed the plan called ‘Transformative Education Professional Development & Grading’ at a meeting on May 26, presented by Assistant Superintendent for Student Learning Laurie Fiorenza,” reported the West Cook News, a community newspaper in Illinois that concentrates on government news. 

The plan is for the staff and teachers to read books in common that promote grading equity during the rest of the 2022 year and then implement the ideas as proposed in the half-dozen books by 2023. 

“Traditional grading practices perpetuate inequities and intensify the opportunity gap,” according to the slides from a professional development meeting held May 26. 

The slides say that teachers “are successfully exploring and implementing more equitable grading practices such as: utilizing aspects of competency-based grading, eliminating zeros from the grade book, and encouraging and rewarding growth over time.”

In 2019, the school adopted a racial equity policy, because white students, who make up 56 percent of students, outperform Black (20 percent), Hispanic (12 percent) and multi-racial students (9 percent). 

The district did not address the performance of Asian students, who make up 3 percent of the study body and outperform all students. 

“We believe it is our responsibility as an institution to identify and remove unconscious biases and system-wide barriers that inhibit success for all students,” said the racial equity statement at the school district. 

“To achieve racial equity we must work to address the root causes of inequities, not just their manifestation,” the statement said. 

Total enrollment has remained relatively steady throughout the COVID crisis but has gone down among Black students by about 16 percent since 2018, according to the Illinois School Report Card, which compiles official stats for the state on school performance.  

Part of that may be because black students accounted for 43 percent of “F” grades in the district in 2021, according to a district report from Patrick Hardy, executive director of equity and student success, Kristen McKee, coordinator of learning analytics, and Laurie Fiorenza, assistant superintendent for student learning. 

While the number of “F” grades among black students is down from 52 percent in 2018-2019, it’s apparently not enough. 

But of course, that’s the point of “equity” in grading. 

When schools struggled under lockdowns for COVID, rather than finding solutions that worked, schools lowered standards, such as eliminating Ds and Fs.  

Now the trend has caught on, and experts are eager to cash in, using race as an excuse for easy solutions that really don’t help black students do better. 

One of the leading books about equity in grading, “Grading for Equity” by Joel Freedman, is essentially a front for consulting services sold by the author. 

Behind Freedman stands the Crescendo Education Group, which makes money by charging school districts by offering consulting services that do everything from teaching teachers to evaluating schools to changing the grading systems of entire school districts based on Feldman’s theories.

“Think about it — in the professional world, you get redos all the time,” Feldman told the Los Angeles Times in support of eliminating homework, attendance and bad grades. 

“When you’re late to a meeting at work, it’s not like they dock money from your paycheck. Your boss might ignore it the first time, and then the next there might be a conversation about why you’re showing up late, and the importance of meeting expectations,” Feldman said. 


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