School & District Management Obituary

Murphy Battled Achievement Gap

By Alexandra Rice — August 29, 2011 1 min read

John A. Murphy, a longtime superintendent best known for his bold efforts to improve test scores and desegregation in schools in Prince George’s County, Md., and Charlotte-Mecklenburg, N.C., died Aug. 9 in North Andover, Mass. He was 76.

According to The Washington Post, his death was due to complications from a stroke and a heart ailment.

Mr. Murphy began his seven-year tenure in the troubled Prince George’s County district in 1984 after heading districts in Raleigh, N.C., and Park Ridge, Ill. In Maryland, he became a leading proponent of test-based accountability. In what was a controversial move at the time, he also released test-score data by race, exposing racial achievement gaps in the district.

“We want to prove public education works for minority kids,” Mr. Murphy told Education Week in 1989. “If it can happen in Prince George’s County, it can happen anywhere.”

He set up magnet schools, instead of busing more students, a move that received much praise before it was discontinued several years after Mr. Murphy left to lead the Charlotte-Mecklenburg district. While there, from 1991 to 1996, he instituted another plan for using magnet schools rather than mandatory busing as an integration tool.

Mr. Murphy received the “Leadership for Learning” award in 1989 from the American Association of School Administrators for his “outstanding contribution to student achievement.”

A version of this article appeared in the August 31, 2011 edition of Education Week as Murphy Battled Achievement Gap


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