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The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way Paperback – July 29, 2014
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“Compelling . . . What is Poland doing right? And what is America doing wrong? Amanda Ripley, an American journalist, seeks to answer such questions in The Smartest Kids in the World, her fine new book about the schools that are working around the globe ….Ms. Ripley packs a startling amount of insight in this slim book.” ― The Economist
“[T]he most illuminating reporting I have ever seen on the differences between schools in America and abroad.” ― Jay Mathews, education columnist, The Washington Post
“[The Smartest Kids in the World is] a riveting new book….Ripley’s policy recommendations are sensible and strong….The American school reform debate has been desperately in need of such no-nonsense advice, which firmly puts matters of intellect back at the center of education where they belong.” ― The Daily Beast
“The Smartest Kids in the World should be on the back-to-school reading list of every parent, educator and policymaker interested in understanding why students in other countries outperform U.S. students on international tests.” -- US News & World Report
“Gripping….Ripley's characters are fascinating, her writing style is accessible, and her observations are fresh….If you're interested in how to improve public schools, read Ripley's book today.” -- The Huffington Post
“In riveting prose...this timely and inspiring book offers many insights into how to improve America’s mediocre school system.” -- Publishers Weekly, starred review
"If you care about education, you must read this book. By recounting what three intrepid kids learned from the rest of the world, it shows what we can learn about how to fix our schools. Ripley's delightful storytelling has produced insights that are both useful and inspiring." -- Walter Isaacson, author of Steve Jobs and Benjamin Franklin
“This book gives me hope that we can create education systems of equity and rigor—if we heed the lessons from top performing countries and focus more on preparing teachers than on punishing them." -- Randi Weingarten, President, American Federation of Teachers
“This is a no-nonsense, no-excuses book about how we can improve outcomes for all kids, from the poorest to the wealthiest. It avoids platitudes and ideology and relies instead on the experiences of students.” -- Joel Klein, CEO, Amplify, and former chancellor, New York Department of Education
About the Author
- Publisher : Simon & Schuster; Reprint edition (July 29, 2014)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 320 pages
- ISBN-10 : 145165443X
- ISBN-13 : 978-1451654431
- Item Weight : 8.9 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.38 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #66,677 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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To make her case, rather than rely on data and research (for which there are plenty to support her conclusions), Ripley actually takes us deep inside schools, and show us what actually happens in them. This makes for an entertaining read, and some of her anecdotes are outright hilarious. Ripley has a clear and analytical mind, and as an outsider she offers a fresh and balanced view on what makes schools great.
My only objection is that Ripley seems so adamant about making her case that she's all too willing to ignore the complexity of the situation, and even make bold statements that weaken her argument. For example, she compares the South Korean education system to a hamster wheel in which kids are being driven to work outrageously hard, and the American system to a "moon bounce" in which kids are praised to the sky. Neither option is good, but she says she'd prefer the hamster wheel because it teaches students to work hard and to think deeply. Really?
Ripley also takes for granted certain things that are hotly debated right now. For her, a country's PISA scores is the best touchstone of academic achievement -- if students do well on the PISA, it's because they've been taught to think rigorously and deeply. (She knows because she took the PISA once, and she got one question wrong.) She also believes that the Common Core is America's best way forward. No wonder then that her book has received ringing endorsements from the likes of Wendy Kopp and Michelle Rhee.
It's unfortunate that Ripley seems to have a political agenda in writing this book. It would have been a much more interesting and enlightening book if she had just focused on telling the stories of how three American teenagers fared in faraway lands.
Top reviews from other countries
The title was misleading the book was narrowed down to pisa scores without looking at other aspects ie. Countries such as Finland which is considered to be a consistent top performer in the Pisa League tables has been accused of failing miserably on other international academic tests such as TIMSS and that is mainly due to the fact that the Finnish curriculum is centralized and has ignored various concepts that are not tested in PISA.
I would not recommend this book unless if someone is interested SOLELY in PISA scores then it is the right book for them. The title of the book is misleading.
In the second chapter of this book Amanda Ripley spends many overly drawn out pages describing the life of a poor American student Kim, who is soon to be transplanted to Finland. This chapter seems overly detailed on the feelings of Kim and I feared that this book was going to be an emotive journalistic and anecdotal book with little int he way of facts to back it up. Gladly I was wrong. Amanda Ripley weaves both journalism and hard fact into an incredibly enjoyable book on immense flaws of the American education system and the superiority of the education in South Korea, Poland and Finland. However she translates a work-life balance to her arguments by demonstrating the inverse of sporting superiority of the States versus the soft South Koreans.
This book will leave one with a sense of what makes an education system great (mainly fantastic teachers) and what countries around the world need to do to ameliorate their own education systems in order to avoid The Great Degeneration as covered by Niall Ferguson.