CNSNews.com summer intern Ben Kelley wrote in a June 6 article:
According to the school’s Strategic Plan, dated May 26, 2022, the school has found that “traditional grading practices perpetuate inequities and intensify the opportunity gap.” The presentation goes on to explain that teachers have begun implementing equitable grading practices such as “eliminating zeros from the grade book” and that the school “will continue the process necessary to make grading improvements that reflect our core beliefs.”
Supporters of “equitable grading,” such as educator Ken Shelton, claim it minimizes grading biases, which are “rooted in racism, anti-Blackness, sexism, transphobia, and ableism.” Critics, however, say “equitable grading” hurts students of color and “impede[s] their success as adults” – it is “bigotry of low expectations,” remarked Wesley J. Smith, a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute.
As reported on May 30, 2022 by the West Cook News, “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.”
Just one problem: that's not true. The story was effectively manufactured by the West Cook News -- a anonymously written "pink slime" website run by right-wing dark-money operatives (the leader of which has his own shady journalistic history) posing as legitimate local news. As a legitimate news operation pointed out:
But the erroneous story cited no actual policy changes, and the school said in a statement that the claim is false. “OPRFHS does not, nor has it ever had a plan to, grade any students differently based on race,” the statement said.
The article instead mischaracterized a May 26 school Board of Education meeting, at which a committee focused on grading and assessment presented an initial report. The report noted at one point that “traditional grading practices perpetuate inequities and intensify the opportunity gap.”
At “no time were any statements made recommending that OPRF implement a race-based grading approach,” the school’s statement continued.
Bizarrely, Kelley violated journalistic ethics by waiting until the sixth paragraph of his story to explain that the previous five were false:
On May 31, following criticism of the school’s reported decision, the Oak Park and River Forest High School announced that a final decision to implement a race-based grading system had not been made.
The school said the West Cook News article contained “a variety of misleading and inaccurate statements,” and explained that before any grading changes are made they must first be “made to the Board at a public meeting.”
Kelley then tried to justify spreading this lie by adding: "So, although Oak Park and River Forest High School has not made a final decision, it is discussing and considering 'equitable grading.'"
Again: Despite the fact that the real story is that an secretive right-wing website spread a falsehood, Kelley spread the falsehood and downplayed the fact that it was false.
It's hard to know who to blame for this. This story was debunked a few days before Kelley's story was published, so there's basically no possible way he could not have known that.Which leaves two explanations: 1) Kelley knew the story was false and wrote it up anyway, and 2) Kelley was made to do a bogus story by his CNS overlords. Neither of which makes CNS look good.
If Terry Jeffrey and Co. are going to force interns to write stories they know are false, what exactly is the value of a CNS internship? It certainly has nothing to do with "news" -- it's all about forwarding right-wing narratives no matter their accuracy.
If CNS is knowingly publishing false stories, that's a black mark on the organization and a reason nobody should trust its work.
We've contacted CNS to give it a chance to respond to our concerns. We'll let you know if it responds.