Black mother comes out against lowering academic standards for diversity at her kids prep school

Sylvia Nelson, a mother of two, felt insulted that a superintendent would consider lowering standards for a college preparatory school in order to increase diversity.

A Cincinnati mother of two told Fox News Digital that she is against any consideration of her kids' college preparatory school lowering academic standards in order to increase diversity.

"So what problem are you trying to solve is really my question. To say we're just going to solve the problem by lowering the bar doesn't solve the problem. It doesn't solve the issue," Sylvia Nelson, a participant in the Instructional Leadership Team (ILT) and Local School Decision-Making Committees (LSDMC) at Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS), told Fox News Digital. 

Nelson, whose two kids attend the college preparatory Walnut Hills High School in CPS, said that the issue is that the district is not educating the students as is needed to provide options for students.


Nelson said she believes that Walnut Hills High School does not have a "diversity problem." 

Walnut Hills currently has approximately 40% of Black students enrolled in the school. Nelson notes that someone may believe there is a diversity problem because CPS has 80% Black children, which does not reflect the demographic makeup of Walnut Hills.

"I just think the resources need to be focused on really making sure that the parents feel like they have alternatives and safe places and quality education for their kids beyond elementary school. And Walnut Hills is not the only place that can happen, it can happen in these other schools," Nelson said. "I think that there could be more done to make sure that our kids are prepared for the rigor of a college preparatory school."

Nelson’s comments came after district leaders discussed the process of admitting students and the possibility of lowering academic standards during a school board meeting. After the meeting, Nelson told a local news outlet she was "insulted" by CPS' discussion.

"As an African American parent, I'm insulted because I don't believe standards need to be lowered for African Americans to get into Walnut," Nelson told local news outlet WKRC on Monday. "It was under the auspices of having more African Americans at Walnut Hills."


CPS officials compiled a report to weigh on what would happen if standards were lowered to the 55th or 50th percentile.

When CPS temporarily lowered its admission standards for the 2020-21 school year to the 50th percentile, non-White students’ eligibility reportedly increased from 32% to nearly 40%. Then it fell to 23% in the 2021-22 school year, according to the CPS report. Currently, students have to score in the 65th percentile in reading and math. However, district leaders saw a decline in qualified candidates for the 2022-23 school year, with only 16% of students passing the admissions test.

Nelson wrote on Facebook that reducing admission standards would have the unfortunate effect of decreasing performance at Walnut Hills as "students who score below the required score tend to need more support."

In the Facebook post, Nelson also called on officials to address "education and learning gaps due to COVID across the district" and the "failing report cards" in CPS elementary schools.

She also noted that out-of-district Black students have higher pass rates than those within CPS district.


Cincinnati Public Schools previously sent Fox News Digital a statement which made clear there was no formal proposal to lower academic standards. 

"Cut scores for admission to Walnut Hills High School have not been lowered, nor has the Superintendent made the recommendation to lower the scores," the statement reads. "Additionally, the Board of Education has not voted, nor is the Board considering lowering admission requirements. The Board requested an analysis of the admissions process from the Superintendent and this information was provided during the February Student Achievement Committee of the Whole Meeting, which can be viewed here."

Cincinnati Public Schools is Cincinnati's largest school district and Ohio's third largest, serving about 36,000 students.

Fox News Digital previously reported that average math scores saw the largest declines ever across every state, dropping five points for fourth-graders and eight points for eighth-graders from 2019 to 2022, according to the Nation's Report Card.

Reading scores dropped to levels not seen since 1992, decreasing three points for both grades in two years and revealing significant proficiency setbacks during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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