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Showing 1-10 of 492 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 611 reviews
on September 2, 2017
This book gave me a lot of food for thought. It was very interesting to read what changes were made in the school systems of Finland, Poland, and Korea that have led to those countries seeing such great improvement in students' test scores. I think the author does a fairly good job of presenting the pros and cons of various education systems. I would love to see some of the changes she describes implemented here in the good old U.S. of A, but I don't think it will happen in my lifetime.
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on August 12, 2014
Amanda Ripley chose a great way to make the dry differences between educational systems exciting: by following American exchange students as they attend a year of high school in countries that did much better than the US on international tests.

This book covers the adventures of Kim, Tom, and Eric as they take on a year of high school in Finland, Poland, and South Korea respectively. The contrasts with their American experiences and with each other are illuminating and highlight the differences that drive success in each country.

However, for a book that starts with a quote saying that without data, there are just opinions, the author certainly asserts a lot of her own opinions. She sees certain differences between Finland and the US, for example, and claims without backup that those differences are responsible for the success of Finland. Some of her conclusions match my perception, others don't - but none of them are backed up by more than her personal observations.

I am persuaded by her larger themes: that poverty is no excuse for poor performance (she does present data that poor students in other countries perform better), and that massively increasing the prestige, pay, and quality of teachers is probably the best focal point odd change. However, many other claims - about the irrelevance do parental involvement, for example - are simply asserted as fact with no backup.

For all I know, that could be true...but to the author's own point, without data, it's just another opinion...

Anyway, a great read and a great contribution to thinking about how to improve our schools. Highly recommended.
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on August 28, 2015
This is an excellent book that analyses the global educational scene with rigor and good personal storytelling.
Takeaways from this book are that the Finnish teachers from the top educational country via results on the "PISA" test, mention three things, as the reasons they stay in education - they are: 1. salary 2. respect 3. autonomy. These definitely resound positively with me as an expereinced teacher and librarian.
Thus we see for effective education it is better for a country to spend money on its teachers: training, recruiting, hiring and paying them than on any other issues. This book is hope filled and gives many actionable alternatives for countries to "fix" their educational systems and the human resources route , focussing on Teachers is suggested as the way to go.

It is very well worth reading.
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on April 27, 2015
Excellent review and comparison of US schools to abroad and primary differences. The author does an excellent job of providing data but also interweaving a story so it isn't as dry. I imagine most teachers will dislike this book because it bemoans the ease in which most people become teachers (the college process by which one graduates with a degree, not the process of obtaining employment). With a number of pointed and razor sharp criticisms of how US teachers are making school too easy and in many cases don't have the prerequisite skills to teach subjects (off the top of my head how the minimum ACT for many teaching programs is below national average), it paints a picture of what is wrong. The section at the end as to what questions to ask prospective schools I found fascinating. I have a 6month old and will be asking them verbatim. Recommend for all parents and would also be interesting for any middle school on up students.
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on February 2, 2017
SUCH AN INTERESTING READ!! Who are the smartest kids?? They are in FINLAND! Yep... read this book!!
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on January 8, 2014
This is quick and easy read. In fact, it seems to be written at the newspaper level, i.e. so that someone with an 8th grade education can understand it.

Read this book if you are concerned about the US educational system, economy, and unemployment. By examining US primary and secondary schools and comparing them to the best in the world, the author shows how we are slipping in our efforts to remain the world leader. No, she doesn't state it in those terms, but it is clear that education in grade and high school determines the success of the coming generation and of course, the coming generation will have responsibility for the leadership of the US. Even if your children have been out of school for years, it seems clear to me that you still need to be concerned about our educational system.

Why only 4 stars? Well, it is something I learned from reading the book. In the US we tend to give students a passing grade just for showing up and making an effort. Anything more earns high praise. Well then, 5 stars implies it couldn't be better and yet somehow I didn't feel that the examination of US education was complete. For example, how do the various countries help students decide what course of study to pursue after high school? Being proficient in math is great, but where should that lead? The value of sports is examined in great detail, but there is little mention of the arts. Do the best educational systems give more or less value to the study of the arts?

That said, I still like this book and will be passing it along to a couple of retired teachers that I know. I hope it'll generate some stimulating conversation.
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on October 13, 2015
I am a college instructor and I use this as one of the texts for my "Curriculum" course. This book does a brilliant job of illuminating how America is doing as compared to the top 3 countries in the world (Finland, South Korea, and Poland) and the many deficits of our American education system. Why aren't we a global competitor? Why are our children embarrassingly behind children from many other countries around the world? You'll learn. Also, my college students continually comment on how palatable and easily digestible the book is.
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on September 9, 2014
An inspiring look at how education system should be for American students in every state. The author presents well researched and thoughtful comparisons between the world's top performing education systems and the United States. Unfortunately, the American people, students included, have yet to take the necessary steps toward "rigor" in our schools positioning American high school graduates so they can excel in a Global economy.

American students deserve a first rate global education. Strong in critical thinking skills; strong in math, science and basic engineering; high expectations and the ability to fail and learn from that failure in school. Anything less from the American system puts us further behind those countries that value learning over all other activities at school.

Read the book, talk to your neighbors about their school, ask your school leaders fair questions, start to take back our schools for the students. It's not about the adults. The plan is simple, the more you learn, the harder you work, the more opportunities you have in life.
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on June 13, 2014
Following a review about the book on TV, I became curious and bought the book. I never imagined that a book about education will be so fascinating. Although it is a non-fiction, following the lives of exchange students in Finland, South Korea and Poland, felt like reading an interesting fictional story.

As a veteran computer teacher, I have known for years that our commitment to an excellent education is lacking substantially compared to the seriousness, rigor and time that our students spend preparing to excel in sports. I always wondered why that is. This book opened my eyes. A must read for every educator, parent, and anyone who is committed to help students be equipped to compete in this new global economy and make the United States the best it can be for the future.
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on October 3, 2013
This is an eye-opening book and a must-read for anyone puzzled by why the US is lagging behind so many other countries in education. If there is a key word in the book so far (I'm a little less than half way through), it is rigor and the lack of it in the US education system. This is particularly true of teachers, how we educate them, what we pay them, and how well they are respected. It also takes a hard look at all the testing we do (the other countries do much less), the kind of tests we administer (we do the wrong ones), and what we do with the results (the other countries don't punish teachers and schools that underperform like we do). We can fix our broken education system - all it takes is a good road map (this book is a great start) and the will to do it.
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