Richard Murnane, an economist, is the Thompson Professor of Education and Society at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research.
In recent years he has pursued three lines of research. With MIT professors Frank Levy and David Autor, he has examined how computer-based technological change has affected skill demands in the United States' economy, and the effectiveness of educational policies in responding to changing skill demands. Murnane and Levy have written two books on this topic.
The second line of research examines trends and patterns in U.S. high school graduation rates and their explanations. In June 2013, the Journal of Economic Literature published Murnanes interpretive review of the evidence on this topic.
The third line of research examines the respects in which the growth in family income inequality in the U.S. has affected educational opportunities for children from low-income families and the effectiveness of alternative strategies for improving life chances for these children. Murnane co-edited (with Greg Duncan) the 2011 volume, Whither Opportunity: Rising Inequality, Schools, and Children's Life Chances (Russell Sage). In January 2014, Harvard Education Press and Russell Sage) published Duncan and Murnanes book, Restoring Opportunity: The Crisis of Inequality and the Challenge for American Education.
Early in his career, Murnane taught high school mathematics. In 2001-02, he served as Special Senior Assistant to the Superintendent of the Boston Public Schools. In 2011, he and John Willett published the book, Methods Matter: Improving Causal Inference in Educational and Social Science Research (Oxford U. Press).
Data Wise: A Step-by-Step Guide to Using Assessment Results to Improve Teaching and Learning (co-editor with Kathryn Parker Boudett and Elizabeth A. City, (Harvard Education Press, Fall 2005) (2005)
The New Division of Labor: How Computers Are Changing the Way We Work (Princeton University Press and Russell Sage Foundation, 2004) (with Frank Levy) (2004)
Low-Wage America (co-editor with Eileen Appelbaum and Annette Bernhardt), Russell Sage Foundation (2003). (2003)
"Can the Internet Help Solve America's Education Problems: Lessons from the Cisco Networking Academies," (with Nancy Sharkey and Frank Levy) National Research Council (in press), in P. Graham and N. Stacey (eds.) The Knowledge Economy and Postsecondary Education, The Committee on the Impact of the Changing Economy on the Postsecondary Education System (Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 2002). (2002)
"Information Technology and Skill Requirements: Examples from a Car Dealership," (with Anne Beamish and Frank Levy), in F. Rauner, N. Schreier, G. Sp⎯ttl (eds.) The Future of Computer-Supported Diagnosis (Germany: W. Bertelsmann Verlag), 2002, 133-159. (2002)
Upstairs, Downstairs: Computers and Skills on Two Floors of a Large Bank, (with David Autor and Frank Levy), Industrial and Labor Relations Review (2002) (2002)
"Do the Cognitive Skills of Dropouts Matter in the Labor Market?" (with John H. Tyler and John B. Willett) Journal of Human Resources . 82(Feb. 2000)1, 23-37. (2001)
"From High School to Teaching: Many Steps. Who Makes It?" (with Emiliana Vegas and John B. Willett), Teachers College Record, 103(June 2001)3, 427-449. (2001)
"Key Competencies Critical to Economic Success," (with Frank Levy), in D. Rychen and L. Salganik (eds.) Defining and Selecting Key Competencies (Seattle, WA: Hogrefe & Huber Publishers, 2001). (2001)
"Will Standards-Based Educational Reforms Improve Education for Children of Color?" (with Frank Levy), National Tax Journal (June 2001). (2001)
Estimating the Labor Market Signaling Value of the GED, (with John H. Tyler and John B. Willett), Quarterly Journal of Economics 115(May 2000)2, 431-468. (2000)
Second Chance Strategies for Women Who Drop Out of School, (with Kathryn Boudett and John Willett), Monthly Labor Review, December 2000. (2000)
Who Benefits from Obtaining a GED? Evidence from High School and Beyond, (with John H. Tyler and John B. Willett), Review of Economics and Statistics (February 2000). (2000)
Do Male Dropouts Benefit from Obtaining a GED,Post-Secondary Education and Training? (with John B. Willett and Kathryn P. Boudett), Evaluation Review (October 1999). (1999)
"Does Acquisition of a GED Lead to More Training, Post-Secondary Education, and Military Service for School Dropouts?," in Industrial and Labor Relations Review (Vol. 51, No. 1, October 1997) (with John B. Willett and Kathryn Parker Boudett), pp. 100-116. (1997)
Teaching the New Basic Skills (The Free Press, 1996) (with Frank Levy). (1996)
Who Will Teach? Policies that Matter (Harvard University Press, 1991) (with Judith Singer, John Willett, James Kemple, and Randall Olsen). (1991)
Improving Indicators of the Quality of Science and Mathematics Education in Grades K-12 (National Academy Press, 1988) (co-editor with Senta Raizen). (1988)
The Impact of School Resources on the Learning of Inner City Children (Ballinger, 1975). (1975)
Restoring Opportunity: The Crisis of Inequality and the Challenge for American Education, Ford Foundation, (2014-2014) Richard Murnane and Greg Duncan co-authored a book entitled Restoring Opportunity: The Crisis of Inequality and the Challenge for American Education. They are employing WGBH to create a 10-12 minute video that will tell the story of the book, including both the disturbing effects of increased family income inequality on the quality of education provided to children from low-income families, and the evidence on strategies to improve educational opportunities for low-income children. They have already contracted with WGBH (with support from the Spencer Foundation) to make three five-minute videos highlighting effective school interventions at the pre-K, elementary, and high school level that are described in the book. This longer video will incorporate the 25-30 hours of extremely rich video footage that WGBH shot at the sites of the successful education programs, as well as lengthy interviews with the authors.
Intended and Unintended Consequences of State High-Stakes Testing: Evidence from Standards-Based Reform in Massachusetts, U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, (2010-2013) Over the past two decades, state and federal policymakers have turned to standardized testing to focus attention on student achievement in the classroom and to hold schools, teachers, and students accountable for their performance. These tests may carry either high or low stakes for students, with more than half of all states requiring students to demonstrate competency on a high school exit exam before earning a diploma. Building on previous IES-funded research, we will use rigorous quasi-experimental methods to draw causal inferences about the effects of high-stakes testing. We seek to understand more completely the effects of standards-based reform, and high-stakes exit examinations in particular, on a wide range of student outcomes. The plan is to examine all students in the Massachusetts public school system from 2002 through 2009 and GED testing records for students from 1980 to 2009. Massachusetts is an interesting laboratory for inquiry because its educational system is one of the highest performing in the country. Since the state introduced standards-based testing in 1993, 8th grade students have improved remarkably on the NAEP and now rank first among states in mathematics and reading.