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The Global Achievement Gap: Why Even Our Best Schools Don't Teach the New Survival Skills Our Children Need--And What We Can Do About It Hardcover – August 12, 2008

4.5 out of 5 stars 176 ratings

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Wagner, a Harvard education professor, begins by offering his astute assessment of secondary education in the U.S. today and how it fails to produce graduates who are “jury ready” (i.e., able to analyze an argument, weigh evidence, and detect bias). He then presents a concise manifesto for the steps needed to “reinvent the education profession.” His thesis revolves around “Seven Survival skills”—the core competencies he deems necessary for success both in college and in the twenty-first-century workforce. These encompass problem solving and critical thinking, collaboration across networks, adaptability, initiative, effective oral and written communication, analyzing information, and developing curiosity and imagination. Wagner visits a wide spectrum of schools, both public and private, meets with teachers and administrators, and demonstrates how these survival skills have been forgotten in the preparation for mandatory tests. He stresses the importance of being able to analyze new information and apply it to new situations in the “global knowledge economy,” then details the programs, including team teaching, at a few innovative schools that are effectively meeting this challenge. --Deborah Donovan


Howard Gardner, author of Five Minds for the Future and Multiple Intelligences
“In this persuasive book, Wagner delineates what skills are needed in a globalized era, why most American schools can’t nurture them, and how today’s schools could be transformed to cultivate tomorrow’s skills.”

Jay Mathews, Washington Post
“I consider this book more of an experience than a read…[Tony Wagner] is a likely leader for the new era.”

Educated Quest
“If I had the money, I would buy a copy of this book for every governor, congressman and senator; this book presents a far better direction for education politics than the current thoughts from Washington…
The Global Achievement Gap is well-reasoned and well-written…If you’re a parent who is serious about your child’s education and course content, buy this book and use the Survival Skills as your guide.”

Harvard Crimson
“Wagner’s book raises many important questions about both the state and purpose of secondary education in America.”

Education Review
“Through Wagner’s story-telling style, using cases and examples, we were impressed by his profound insight and his patience in sharing what he has realized.”

Anne L. Bryant, Executive Director, National School Boards Association
“Every school board member, administrator, teacher and parent in the nation should read this book.”

U.S. Senator Daniel K. Inouye
The Global Achievement Gap is a ‘must’ read for all policymakers.”

Linda Darling-Hammond, Charles E. Ducommun Professor of Education, Stanford University
“Tony Wagner takes us deep inside the black box of school curriculum in a way 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.”

Mel Levine, author of A Mind at a Time
“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.”

Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Harvard Business School Professor and author of America the Principled and

Dr. Arthur E. Levine, President, The Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation
The Global Achievement Gap offers a simple, readable, intelligent and compelling analysis of the needs of our schools and the ways to address them.”

Deborah Meier, author of The Power of Their Ideas
“It’s always an occasion for delight when Tony Wagner writes a new book. He’s done it again by provoking us to think about the reasons behind the current furor over school achievement.”

Keith R. McFarland, Author of #1 Wall Street Journal and New York Times Bestseller, The Breakthrough Company
“Tony Wagner is not just talking about our schools here—he is talking about the future 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 Sawyer, author of

“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.”

Clayton Christensen, Professor, Harvard Business School, and author of Disrupting Class
“Parents, teachers, administrators and policy makers urgently need to understand what Wagner is telling us.”

Dr. Richard C. Atkinson, President Emeritus, University of California
“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?”

Larry Stupski, Chairman, Stupski Foundation
“Tony Wagner makes a strong case for rethinking our entire approach to education, and his argument is persuasive.”

Charles Fadel, Global Lead for Education, Cisco
“This insightful book calls for a much needed dialogue between educators, business leaders and policy makers on the future of American education. By using many real-life examples, the book is a very readable starting point for that discussion.”

John Abele, Founding Chairman, Boston Scientific, Board Chair, FIRST
“Kudos to Tony Wagner.”

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Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Basic Books; 1st edition (August 12, 2008)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 320 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0465002293
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0465002290
  • Reading age ‏ : ‎ 14 years and up
  • Grade level ‏ : ‎ 11 and up
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 1.2 pounds
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 6.25 x 1 x 9.5 inches
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.5 out of 5 stars 176 ratings

About the author

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A globally recognized expert in education, Tony Wagner currently serves as a Senior Research Fellow at the Learning Policy Institute, founded by Linda Darling-Hammond in 2015. Prior to this appointment, Tony held a variety of positions at Harvard University for more than twenty years, including four years as an Expert in Residence at the Harvard Innovation Lab and the founder and co-director, for more than a decade, of the Change Leadership Group at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. His previous work experience includes twelve years as a high school teacher, K-8 principal, university professor in teacher education, and founding executive director of Educators for Social Responsibility.

Tony is a frequent speaker at national and international conferences and a widely published author. His work includes numerous articles and seven books, including three best-sellers: Most Likely To Succeed: Preparing Our Kids for The Innovation Era, co-authored by Ted Dintersmith, was published by Scribner in 2015. Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change The World, was published in 2012 to rave reviews and has been translated into 17 languages. His 2008 book, The Global Achievement Gap continues to be an international best seller, with more than 140,000 copies in print. Tony’s memoir, Learning By Heart: An Unconventional Education, will be published by Penguin/Random House in 2020.

Tony served as the Strategic Education Advisor for a major new education documentary, “Most Likely to Succeed,” which had its world premiere at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival and has since been shown in more than 8000 communities. He also collaborated with noted filmmaker Robert Compton to create a 60 minute documentary, “The Finland Phenomenon: Inside The World’s Most Surprising School System.”

Tony earned an M.A.T. and an Ed.D. at the Harvard University Graduate School of Education.

To contact Tony and for the latest news, go to

Customer reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5
176 global ratings

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Top reviews from other countries

D. Azevedo
5.0 out of 5 stars STEM bible
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on June 1, 2014
Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars Good analysis and ideas.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on May 24, 2014
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on July 21, 2014
Jorge Gaete
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, a must read.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on March 4, 2016
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book
Reviewed in Germany on October 25, 2012