Black Cincinnati Mom Rails Against Lowering Academic Standards for ‘Diversity’

Cincinnati mom Sylvia Nelson is taking one school district to task after it reportedly considered lowering school standards at her kids’ high school to boost black enrollment. Nelson, who is black, shot down the idea in a statement and has since been on a campaign against reducing admissions standards for the sake of 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,” Nelson told Fox News Digital in an interview. “It doesn’t solve the issue.” Nelson has two children enrolled in the Walnut Hills High School under the Cincinnati Public School (CPS) district.

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According to the Fox report, Walnut Hills maintains a 40 percent non-white enrollment, despite the total number of CPS students being 80 percent black. When CPS lowered admissions standards temporarily during the COVID-19 lockdowns, the district noted that non-white eligibility at Walnut Hills increased by 25 percent. Eligibility later plummeted after the district returned to its original standards.

Walnut Hills currently accepts students who score in the 65th percentile, but the district recently compiled a report on the effects of lowering the threshold to the 55th or 50th percentile. While the CPS school board has reportedly discussed the idea, Nelson says that her kids’ high school does not have a “diversity problem.”

“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. I think that there could be more done to make sure that our kids are prepared for the rigor of a college preparatory school.”

In a separate interview with WKRC News, Nelson also said, “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.” According to the mom of two, “it was under the auspices of having more African Americans at Walnut Hills” that the district was considering lowering standards.

In a March 19 statement directed to other CPS parents, Nelson shared an email she had originally sent to the district’s superintendent.

“Reducing cut off scores would have the unfortunate effect of decreasing performance at Walnut Hills, as students who score below the required score tend to need more support… I respect that you would like to increase the number of African American students who qualify, but after reviewing the data from the Committee of Whole it is inconclusive that reducing the cut scores would increase the percentages of African Americans at Walnut Hills.”

In her email to the superintendent, Nelson noted that out-of-district students, including black students, had higher pass rates than children enrolled in Cincinnati Public Schools. She suggested that CPS faced an education problem, not a diversity problem.

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“What action are you taking to address education and learning gaps due to COVID across the district?” she asked. “What is your plan to address the fact that most CPS elementary schools have failing report cards?”

Since Nelson’s public statement on March 19, CPS stated its position, insisting that they would not be lowering admissions standards for Walnut Hills High School. “[T]he Board of Education has not voted, nor is the Board considering lowering admission requirements,” the statement reads.

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