The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way Paperback – Jul 29 2014
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“[Ripley] gets well beneath the glossy surfaces of these foreign cultures and manages to make our own culture look newly strange…The question is whether the startling perspective provided by this masterly book can also generate the will to make changes.” (New York Times Book Review)
“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
Amanda Ripley is a literary journalist whose stories on human behavior and public policy have appeared in Time, The Atlantic, and Slate and helped Time win two National Magazine Awards. To discuss her work, she has appeared on ABC, NBC, CNN, FOX News, and NPR. Ripley’s first book, The Unthinkable, was published in fifteen countries and turned into a PBS documentary.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
In a country such as South Korea where that is not the case, ambitious parents enroll their children in hagwons (highly intensive, after-school for-profit teaching centers) to ensure that they will pass the country's stringent graduation examination, "the key to a successful prosperous life." In 2011, parents spent $18-Billion on these cram schools. Ripley calls this system "rigor on steroids," a "hamster wheel" that has created as many problems as it has solved. In 2010, one Hagwon teacher - Andrew Kim - earned $4-million and in South Korea is renowned as a "rock star teacher." Most of his teaching is done online. Thousands of students are charged $3.50 an hour. They or their parents select specific teachers -- not hagwons -- with selections based entirely on how well the instructors' students score on the national exam.
As for Poland, its public schools seem to accomplish much more with less than do the other two.Read more ›
In Korea, one big test at the end of school decides everything: an extreme meritocracy in school creates what is almost a caste system for adults with your entire future decided by how you did on the exam. In Finland, the stress is lower for students but higher for teachers, with only 8 universities giving degrees in teaching, and all of them as competitive as MIT to get into. Both countries, however, are top performers on the international PISA tests, a method of comparing educational achievement across countries, dramatically outscoring the US and others.
The Smartest Kids in the World takes the PISA test as a way of finding out which countries are doing well, and then tries to understand what has led to their success. It’s a whirlwind tour of the high school experience in Korea, Finland, and Poland, three top achievers, and the reforms that got them that way.
Ripley’s bottom line, though she doesn’t say it quite this way, is that reforming education isn’t magic or even surprising. It means agreeing on common goals for the system, training teachers well, making the subject matter rigorous and not being afraid to fail students if they don’t learn it, and above all keeping expectations for students and teachers high. Not rocket science, but it’s amazing how hard the special interest groups in the US can make it.
Lots of things go into a great educational system, but Ripley makes some profound criticisms of the American model. It’s harder to retain varsity athlete status in the US, for example, than to get into teacher’s college, and the average SAT score of teachers is lower than the national average.Read more ›
Ripley comes up with some possible answers, based on anecdote mainly, as mentioned before. Ripley is skilled at telling this story and helping us understand what it could mean, without taking any conclusions too far.
Maybe this book will make you smarter, along with helping us along to educate smarter kids.
Impeccably researched and engaging, the book comes alive through Kim, Tom and Eric. Kim finds out that gaining admission to a teacher training program in Finland equates to getting into MIT and revels in the freedom teenagers have to manage their time. Eric astonishingly witnesses Korean students, whose school day routinely runs 12-15 hours, sleeping in class on their own pillows. Tom listens to Polish students argue about philosophy in a coffeehouse and finds that, to them, some degree of failure is normal and acceptable. These insider observations provide amusement and illumination, highlighting the values and practices that these countries have cultivated to help their kids succeed.
Finally, Ripley addresses the roles played by child poverty, multiculturalism, technology, extracurricular activities and parental involvement in successful education. The book ends on a positive note, asserting that any education system can reform as long as policymakers, teachers and students can tolerate feeling uncomfortable in the process.
Most recent customer reviews
very well written-about time we review current teaching methods.Published 21 months ago by Rosemay Thomasse
Very interesting insight, recommended to all North American teachers.Published 21 months ago by Gab
Should be mandatory reading for all those involved in designing curriculum and determining how schools should be operated in Canada. Read morePublished on March 9 2014 by Teach
It was a little short and anecdotal for my tastes. However it was easy to read and makes some very good arguments and inferences about how cultural attitudes and institutional... Read morePublished on Jan. 5 2014 by Nicholas T. Hillier
This book has been quite interesting and useful in my search for schools. Even though the subjects are American students, it is still relevant for Canadian parents, and educators. Read morePublished on Dec 5 2013 by ferhannah
Ripley found a unique way of figuring out what to do with American's failing education system: find out what works in other countries through the eyes of American students. Read morePublished on Oct. 26 2013 by Flatlander11
This is a most engaging book. Instead of using 'educationspeak' to explain why countries' secondary education systems perform so differently (with the US ranked as mediocre), the... Read morePublished on Sept. 25 2013 by John Daniel