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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)
“Amanda Ripley observes with rare objectivity and depth. She finds a real and complex world ‘over there’—schools with flaws of their own but also real and tangible lessons about how to do better by our kids. The Smartest Kids in the World gave me more insights, as a parent and as an educator, than just about anything else I’ve read in a while.” (Doug Lemov, author of Teach Like a Champion)
“Such an important book! Amanda Ripley lights the path to engaging our next generation to meet a different bar. She makes an enormous contribution to the national and global discussion about what must be done to give all our children the education they need to invent the future.” (Wendy Kopp, founder and chair, Teach For America, and CEO, Teach For All)
"The Smartest Kids in the World is a must read for anyone concerned about the state of American public education. By drawing on experiences, successes, and failures in education systems in the highest-performing countries across the globe, Amanda Ripley lays out a course for what we must do to dramatically improve our nation's schools.” (Michelle Rhee, Founder and CEO of StudentsFirst)
“Ripley’s stirring investigation debunks many tenets of current education reform.” (BookPage)
“In lively, accessible prose….Ripley’s book looks at the data from a new perspective. Those stunned parents and teachers in New York State and elsewhere would do well to read this book first if they are inclined to blame their children’s/students’ poor results on a new test.” (OECD “Education Today” Blog)
“[Ripley] is a compelling storyteller who deftly plaits humorous anecdotes and hard data to whip you in the face with her findings.” (Kristen Levithan Brain, Child Magazine)
“Ripley’s evaluation of education in a changing world is revealing and thought-provoking.” (Rocky Mountain Telegram)
“A good read . . . . If you want to understand what goes on in other countries’ education systems, read [The Smartest Kids in the World].” (Coshocton Tribune)
About the Author
Top Customer Reviews
During her research, Ripley happened to see a chart compiling half a century of student test scores and performance rankings, gathered from a variety of different countries and cultures. She was intrigued - and puzzled. The data in that chart (collected by economists Ludger Woessmann and Eric Hanushek) greatly changed her perspective and upended her assumptions about what children need to reach their learning potential.
The research revealed that in a handful of countries scattered across the world, kids seemed to be gaining critical learning skills, outpacing many other countries, including America (especially in math). From their earliest years, the students in these select areas learned effective and innovative ways to tackle reading, science, and math problems. Their skills also helped them master not only familiar but new information more quickly and easily.
What accounted for these differences over time? How on earth did Canada go from having a mediocre educational system to one with impressive results- even rivaling Japan? Why did a country without child poverty, Norway, end up with students who still received inadequate schooling? Why did American teenagers (even those attending elite schools) rank 18th in math compared to kids in New Zealand, Belgium, France, and other countries?Read more ›
I really enjoyed Ripley's writing style. I felt like I was going on a journey with the author. In my humble opinion, I think a conversational style is perfect for nonfiction books, because they are a journey of discovery for the author and are filled with the author's newly found opinions. Nonfiction books are typically filled with strongly supported hypotheses, so we might as well write them like that. As a science writer myself, I use the verbs to suggest, to indicate, to find a lot. I hate it when I am reading for pleasure and nonfiction writers describe strongly supported theories as fact.
I thought this book had a lot of great take away messages for both parents and teachers. In particular, Ripley reports that parents are most helpful when they read to their children when they are young and ask their children how their days were when they are older. Interesting, but not too surprising, children whose parents are very involved in the schools' extracurricular activities tend to perform worse than children whose parents are not involved. Ripley notes that this is only a correlation, so parents might be encouraging their kids to focus more on extracurricular activities more than schoolwork or that parents are getting involved because their kids are doing poorly and want the school to look at their children in a better light.Read more ›
The overall impression one is left with is that Finland and Poland's educational systems clearly have advantages over the U.S. system. These systems are more rigorous, and have higher expectations than the U.S. system. Furthermore, Finland apparently has much higher standards for teacher candidates, and higher relative teacher salaries. One is left to wonder if perhaps this teacher quality variable is the key to meaningful education reform.
On the other hand, although Ms. Ripley explicitly disagrees, it is hard to see why South Korea's education system would be preferred to the U.S. `s educational system. The South Korean system is largely motivated by an overly rigid "meritocracy" that bases college admission and hiring for good jobs on performance on a standardized test in high school. While this leads to a huge amount of time devoted to cramming for this test, one has to wonder how much learning is going on for anything that isn't tested. At one point, Ms. Ripley cites the literature that shows that much of life success depends on "soft skills", which involve many traits of character including social relationships, self-confidence, etc.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Such an eye opener. I used this for a Univ course on international education and it was the best possible tool for understand education.Published 2 days ago by Nikos
As far as textbooks for a class go, this was one of the better books I've ever read. Kept me engaged and interested throughout and didn't feel like required reading even though it... Read morePublished 2 days ago by kaela mlsna
I loved this book, written from the perspective of three students traveling abroad as exchange students.
I'll read it again.
I won't rehash what many have already said, but will add two anecdotes that show the problems we face here in America.
First, I teach computers. Read more
There is so much to love and admire about this book and the author. The considerable amount of research and time he put into his craft give me hope and courage to go above and... Read morePublished 1 month ago