Standards-Based Education Reform in the Computer Age:

Lessons from Boston's Murphy School

March 5, 2005
Frank Levy (Rose Professor of Urban Economics, MIT) and Richard Murnane (Foss Thompson Professor of Education and Society, Harvard Graduate School of Education)

This brief is based on a chapter in Frank Levy and Richard Murnanes’ book, The New Division of Labor: How Computers are Creating the Next Job Market.

Standards-based education reform is the strategy Massachusetts and almost all other states have adopted to increase the number of the nation’s students who master the problem-solving and communications skills they will need to thrive in our increasingly computerized economy. This approach, which ties increased funding for schools to accountability for performance as measured by standardized tests, has produced dramatic results in many urban schools that serve low-income communities. Boston’s Richard J. Murphy Elementary School, for example, has dramatically improved student performance on standardized tests among its largely low income student body. Achieving these gains was not easy. Rather, it requires seven essential components Schools like the Murphy that have successfully put all of these components in place make it easy to understand why standards-based education reforms have so many advocates. However, this is not easy to do.