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The Global Achievement Gap: Why Even Our Best Schools Dont Teach the New Survival Skills Our Children Needand What We Can Do About It Paperback – March 11, 2014
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"Parents, teachers, administrators and policy makers urgently need to understand what Wagner is telling us."―Clayton M. Christensen, author of Disrupting Class and The Innovator's Dilemma
"I consider this book more of an experience than a read.... [Wagner] is a likely leader for the new era."―Washington Post
"Tony Wagner is not just talking about our schools here--he is talking about the future of our nation. The Global Achievement Gap cuts through the complexity and partisan posing so often associated with this genre. It is a powerful call to action, and a roadmap of how to fundamentally rethink the education of our children. If we ignore it, we do so at great peril."―Keith R. McFarland, author of #1 Wall Street Journal and New York Times bestseller The Breakthrough Company: How Everyday Companies Become Extraordinary Performers
"The Global Achievement Gap is thoughtful and inspirational.... This book will capture your head, your heart, and I hope, your future actions. This is a very important book for anyone who cares about preparing young people for success in a rapidly changing global society. Every school board member, administrator teacher, and parent in the nation should read this book."―Anne L. Bryant, Executive Director, National School Boards Association
"Tony Wagner takes us deep inside the black box of school curriculum in a way very few authors have done. What do we mean by rigor? By 21st century skills? Wagner shows us concretely what thinking skills really are, how current approaches to 'raising standards' cannot get us there, and what will. Everyone concerned with American education should read this book."―Linda Darling-Hammond, Charles E. Ducommun Professor of Education, Stanford University
"Tony Wagner has managed to penetrate the jargon and over-simplified responses to the pervasive underachievement that exists among our students. He has charted an important new direction and given us a way to get there. This book deserves to be powerfully influential."―Mel Levine, author of A Mind at a Time
"Tony Wagner argues persuasively that old ways of teaching are completely unsuited to new ways of working. The Global Achievement Gap should be grabbed by business leaders to guide a much-needed conversation with educators."―Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Harvard Business School professor, author of American the Principled and Confidence
"This book is a 'must read' for the change agents in public education. Wagner presents a compelling case for rapid and urgent change in the present American education system."―Betty Burks, deputy superintendent, San Antonio Independent School District
"The Global Achievement Gap is a lucid--and scary--book. It chronicles how policies that intend to improve our schools are actually shutting down their abilities to help students learn how to think. Parents, teachers, administrators and policymakers urgently need to understand what Wagner is telling us."―Clayton Christensen, professor, Harvard Business School, author of Disrupting Class
"In The Global Achievement Gap, Tony Wagner offers a thoughtful analysis of where we are in American public education. (behind the times), and what we need to do to adapt to the future that is upon us. Drawing upon years of accumulated wisdom as a teacher, principal, trainer, and well-traveled observer of schools, Wagner builds a persuasive case for change in the way we approach schooling, grounded in the question: what does it mean to be an educated person in the 21st century?"―Dr. Richard C. Atksinson, president emeritus, University of California
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Wagner posits seven “survival skills” that he says are necessary. These include:
1. Critical thinking and problem solving
2. Collaboration across networks
3. Agility and adaptability
4. Initiative and entrepreneurship
5. Effective oral and written communication
6. Accessing and analyzing information
7. Curiosity and imagination.
He discusses these shortcomings in detail and gives many examples. He states that there is an overemphasis on testing which leads teachers to teach to the test. Another problem is that the training future teachers get in education schools is not adequate to what is needed.
This book is very valuable for parents, students and anyone interested in education—both in the United States and globally. It not only provides specific examples, it also gives sources and organizations that you can contact.
Today's corporate work environment consists of clusters of business expertise distributed globally and connected via high-speed communications links. Workers collaborate in their local team and with other teams around the world to define and solve open-ended problems. In today's fast-changing, complex environment, teams are given broad objectives and asked to find the best way to achieve them. There are no pre-defined "right answers" in the business world, only profitable and unprofitable strategies. Similarly, there are seldom any "right answers" in politics, or healthcare, or any other aspect of society - including education. As adults, we have learned that history is always a selective interpretation of past events, and that the most effective communicators often break the established conventions. Yet in our schools we drill on facts and basic skills, and seldom encourage or even tolerate questioning, innovation, exploration, or collaboration.
Wagner presents seven "survival skills" that students should be learning in school in order to prepare for college and adult life:
* Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
* Collaboration Across Networks and Leading by Influence
* Agility and Adaptability
* Initiative and Entrepreneurialism
* Effective Oral and Written Communication.
* Accessing and Analyzing Information
* Curiosity and Imagination
Yet, according to a NIH study published in Science (2007), 5th-graders in middle-class public schools across the United States spent 90% of their time in their seats listening to the teacher or working alone, and only 7% of their time working in groups. Further, the average 5th grader received 5 times as much instruction in rote learning than they received instruction focused on problem solving or reasoning.
The US high school graduation rate is only 70%, and 40% of all students who enter college must take remedial courses. It is estimated that 50% of students starting college never complete a college degree. Wagner's interviews with students and professors suggest that what is missing is not content knowledge, but competencies. In core classes and even in AP courses, students are drilled in specific content and vocabulary necessary to pass standardized tests, rather than trained in open-ended inquiry, assessment, reasoning, collaboration and presentation.
Wagner takes us beyond the usual complaints about tenure and unions to examine disfunctional structural components of the educational system. In general, degree programs for teaching and school administration suffer the same flaw of content over competencies. Once they graduate, teachers are seldom given more than checklist evaluations, and rarely sit in on one another's classrooms or collaborate for instructional improvement. Instead, Wagner suggests, most teachers have little recourse other than to re-discover effective teaching on their own, in a hit-or-miss manner. As a consequence, not only are best practices not promulgated, but there is little consensus among teachers about what constitutes good teaching.
Wagner also looks at the problem of how our current teaching practices fail to engage and motivate students. Outside of school, our children have team sports and group activities, and are immersed in the Internet world of interactivity, social networking, and visual information access. Despite legitimate concerns about addictive behavior, violent content and cyber-bullying, Wagner points out that our kids online experience, including even gaming, is much more relevant to the kind of activity found in most information-intensive careers. Our children want group connections, open-ended exploration, immediate feedback response, and relevance. Multi-tasking, search, and filtering are natural tasks to them, while they have little patience for long, linear, non-visual texts.
Our schools offer students little of what engages them. Instead of group activity, they get one-way lectures and individual worksheets. Instead of open-ended exploration, they get drills and tests. Instead of rich interactive, multimedia information, they get dry textbooks. Wagner argues that most high-school school drop-outs occur not because the student lacks ability, but because they lack motivation. School does not engage them, and they correctly perceive a lack of relevancy to their current and future lives.
Finally, Wagner offers us some profiles of a few schools that are "doing it right". While it is wonderful to see such examples, they are all small schools. It is probably not feasible nor desirable to open hundreds of thousands of new schools in every neighborhood, and Wagner doesn't offer much perspective on how we can translate these examples to the large schools that make up most of our national school system. But perhaps it is better if we all collaborate on solving that problem! I highly recommend this book by Tony Wagner as a starting point.