Archives of Rudolph W. Giuliani

Mayor's WINS Address
Sunday, January 18, 1998

Restoring Accountability, Performance and Standards to Our City's Schools
by Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani

In my annual State of the City address last Wednesday, I outlined our plans to enhance accountability and improve the standards of education in our city.

Under the inspired leadership of Chancellor Rudy Crew and his team, we've already begun to transform our public school system. Reading scores are improving, math scores are improving, arts education is being returned to our schools, computers are being installed, standards are higher, safety is being emphasized. A culture of unaccountability is being replaced with a culture of performance. The change is still in progress, but we've already begun to see what happens when we release our students' potential.

But as we work to teach young people to make the most of their potential at the Board of Education, the same should be done at CUNY, the City's public university system.

Today, standards at CUNY are a disaster. Only 32% of incoming freshmen at CUNY senior colleges pass the basic CUNY skills tests in math, writing and reading. Even worse, only 14% of incoming freshmen at CUNY community colleges pass these three tests -- tests that are geared to the 10th and 11th grade education standard. That means almost 68% of incoming freshmen at CUNY senior colleges and 86% of incoming freshmen at CUNY community colleges can't read, write or do math at the 11th grade level.

The CUNY system is meant to be higher education, but the overall graduation rate for the two-year community colleges is approximately 1% in two years. The overall graduation rate for the four year colleges is now less than 9% in four years.

Since 1980, the graduation rate at CUNY has been in a continued state of decline. And in the face of this alarming trend, what did the people running the system do to stop the ongoing destruction of standards? Absolutely nothing.

It is clear that a revolutionary change is necessary.

We have to start by setting standards -- and that means doing away with open enrollment. A college can only function when it has standards, and it's impossible for any college to have standards of performance if there are no standards of entry.

The Board of CUNY should welcome the challenge to turn around and improve a failing system.

First, they should provide an entrance exam to prove that you have the basic skills necessary to earn a publicly subsidized higher education. Only those with passing grades should be admitted in the limited positions available for two and four year programs. And only those who pass examination and meet attendance requirements should be allowed to continue their education.

Second, the CUNY Board must also set basic requirements for graduation from two and four year colleges. Obviously, these standards should include being able to read and write the English language.

If we do not impose more stringent standards now, we are setting cruel and unrealistic expectations for our young people as they prepare to enter the workplace.

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