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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 1st Edition
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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
“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.”
“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.”
“Wagner’s book raises many important questions about both the state and purpose of secondary education in America.”
“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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Top Customer Reviews
The Global Achievement Gapdoes a great job of discussing how we need to change schools today so that the students are better prepared for college and work - not just to pass tests. He discusses how teachers should use content to teach kids to think - and not making the content the goal. He discusses different ways students can be taught to speak and think for themselves, to be able to question things around them and be able to solve problems on their own. While reading this book, I kept thinking about how *I* could have benefited from these had I had an education like he described. However, as an adult looking at the big picture, I have a hard time believing that such a big change to cover *everything* he describes is realistically feasible in our world. Maybe we can take small steps toward that goal but the changes he described for the schools and the teaching education and profession are huge and require significantly more money. It will also require changes to current political system in place for schools.
The most useful purpose of this book is for parents and teachers to think about how they might start making changes in the way they are educating the students today so that students today can start reaping the benefits of an education that will prepare them properly for their future. The survival skills Mr. Wagner describes are definitely important and can be taught in every home and every classroom.
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.
All teachers, administrators, school boards, universities with teacher certification programs, parents, business owners, community leaders, and policy makers who are frustrated but optimistic about school reform should invest time to read this book because it lays out causes of the global achievement gap, identifies core competencies, and highlight schools that serve as models for an achievable school reform.
In addition to the large implications this book might have for the education world, it is valuable for helping me transform my approach to teaching.