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Descriptions du produit


The Smartest Kids in the World


the mystery

Heat Map: In a handful of countries scattered across the world, virtually all kids are learning to think critically in math, reading, and science.

For most of my career at Time and other magazines, I worked hard to avoid education stories. If my editors asked me to write about schools or tests, I countered with an idea about terrorism, plane crashes, or a pandemic flu. That usually worked.

I didn’t say so out loud, but education stories seemed, well, kind of soft. The articles tended to be headlined in chalkboard font and festooned with pencil doodles. They were brimming with good intentions but not much evidence. The people quoted were mostly adults; the kids just turned up in the photos, smiling and silent.

Then, an editor asked me to write about a controversial new leader of Washington, D.C.’s public schools. I didn’t know much about Michelle Rhee, except that she wore stiletto heels and tended to say “crap” a lot in interviews. So, I figured it would be a good story, even if it meant slipping into the fog of education.

But something unexpected happened in the fog. I spent months talking to kids, parents, and teachers, as well as people who have been creatively researching education in new ways. Pretty soon I realized that Rhee was interesting, but she was not the biggest mystery in the room.

The real mystery was this: Why were some kids learning so much—and others so very little?

Education was suddenly awash in data; we knew more than ever about what was happening—or failing to happen—from one neighborhood or classroom to the next. And it didn’t add up. Everywhere I went I saw nonsensical ups and downs in what kids knew: in rich neighborhoods and poor, white neighborhoods and black, public schools and private. The national data revealed the same peaks and valleys, like a sprawling, nauseating roller coaster. The dips and turns could be explained in part by the usual narratives of money, race, or ethnicity. But not entirely. Something else was going on, too.

Over the next few years, as I wrote more stories about education, I kept stumbling over this mystery. At Kimball Elementary School in Washington, D.C., I saw fifth graders literally begging their teacher to let them solve a long division problem on the chalkboard. If they got the answer right, they would pump their fists and whisper-shout, “Yes!” This was a neighborhood where someone got murdered just about every week, a place with 18 percent unemployment.

In other places, I saw kids bored out of their young minds, kids who looked up when a stranger like me walked into the room, watching to see if I would, please God, create some sort of distraction to save them from another hour of nothingness.

For a while, I told myself that this was the variation you’d expect from one neighborhood to the next, from one principal or teacher to another. Some kids got lucky, I supposed, but most of the differences that mattered had to do with money and privilege.

Then one day I saw this chart, and it blew my mind.

The United States might have remained basically flat over time, but that was the exception, it turned out. Look at Finland! It had rocketed from the bottom of the world to the top, without pausing for breath. And what was going on in Norway, right next door, which seemed to be slip sliding into the abyss, despite having virtually no child poverty? And there was Canada, careening up from mediocrity to the heights of Japan. If education was a function of culture, could culture change that dramatically—that fast?

Revue de presse

“[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)

“Fascinating….Ripley’s voice is engaging, and Smartest Kids is impeccably researched and packed with interesting interviews and anecdotes….The book ends on a positive note….while the issues are complex, we certainly get the message that we can improve our educational system for our kids.” (Washington Independent Review of Books)

“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’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)

“[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)

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Détails sur le produit

  • Relié: 320 pages
  • Editeur : S & S International (24 octobre 2013)
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ISBN-10: 1451654421
  • ISBN-13: 978-1451654424
  • Dimensions du produit: 15,2 x 2,5 x 22,9 cm
  • Moyenne des commentaires client : 3.0 étoiles sur 5  Voir tous les commentaires (2 commentaires client)
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1 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile  Par A. D. Thibeault le 5 septembre 2013
Format: Format Kindle
*A full executive summary of this book will be available at newbooksinbrief dot com, on or before Tuesday, September 10, 2013.

The main argument: In the recent past the K-12 public education system in the United States has been lackluster at best (some might say deplorable). Not that the various levels of government have not put in a great deal of effort (and money) to try and fix the problem; indeed, numerous attempts at education reform have been tried over the past 20 years or so, and the US currently spends more on public education per student than any other nation. Still, all of these good intentions (and boatloads of money) have achieved relatively little in terms of results. When compared with other developed nations, for example, American high school students currently rank 12th in reading, 17th in science, and a paltry 26th in math. These numbers would be concerning even at the best of times, but with the nation currently struggling through a seemingly endless economic slow-down, and with the global economy becoming increasingly competitive (and modern jobs requiring more and more advanced cognitive skills all the time), these numbers are very troubling indeed.

All is not lost, though. Other nations have shown that they are able to achieve far better academic results using far less money, and thus we may deem it high time that we investigate just what the leading nations are doing different that has allowed them to be so successful. It is this very project that journalist Amanda Ripley sets for herself in her new book The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way.

Ripley focuses her attention on the education systems of 3 countries in particular: South Korea, Finland and Poland.
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Par atuttabirra le 24 août 2015
Format: Format Kindle Achat vérifié
Very well written, pleasant to read. The methodology adopted for collecting information comparing three different education systrems (Corea, Finland and Poland) is not bad. It's enquiring journalism and not a comparative study of education. The author considers results of the international survey PISA done by OECD as a golden benchmark for showing weaknesses of the US education systems. Some key words: rigor, disciplineand creativity, agreement on education goals. How to combine this factors? She doesn't say despite the huge differences between the three esducation systems considered in the book. There are other dimensions to take in account as the splendid output of learning psychology or of intelligence psychology. The PISA results are not the top of educational achievements. Other schooling results can be achieved. It's a very biased book. Comparative approach is used for critising education styles in US schools. There are education systems and education policies resisting against PISA pressure where learning achievements are not probably high as in Corea or Finland but where they are not so bad. By the way the Corea living style of high schools students is scary. Is this the price to pay for achieving well in PISA?
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252 internautes sur 273 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Likely to challenge your assumptions about what factors contribute to real learning 14 août 2013
Par Kcorn - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié Achat vérifié
By her own admission, journalist Amanda Ripley used to go out of her way to avoid writing articles about education. She'd rather cover almost anything else. But after she was assigned a story on a controversial educator, she became intrigued. What types of education helped children become smarter? Did particular skills help them tackle learning challenges better?

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?

These questions are part of what Ripley calls "the mystery" and it is at the heart of this book: the reasons why some kids learn so much in some countries and so little in others. As part of her attempt to gain more insight into how a select group of countries excelled at educating their children, Ripley sought the help of three American teenagers - Kim, Eric, and Tom - who were sent to live and learn in "smarter" countries for a year. Much of this book is based on first-hand accounts of the teens' experiences while living and learning in another culture.Without them, Ripley notes, she "never would have glimpsed...the scenes that make it possible to understand why policy works or, more often misses the mark totally."

The three American students have very different backgrounds. There is Kim, who left her rural area of Sallisaw, Oklahoma and a relatively mediocre school system to travel to Finland. Eric attended a high school in Minnetonka, Minnesota which was regularly ranked among the top schools in America by Newsweek. He traveled to Busan, South Korea to experience the "Korean pressure cooker" of education there. Tom left behind a high school culture in Gettysburg,Pennsylvania, one which was focused on sports and the Future Farmers of America and traveled to Wroclaw, Poland.

I was fascinated by reading about these students' lives abroad and the challenges they faced when navigating different school systems and cultural traditions. Many of the descriptions are vivid, from Eric's sense of dread when he realized that Korean students attended school a staggering 12 hours a day to Tom's recollection of his first humiliating attempt at a math problem (in front of the class) in Poland.

But this book is more than a series of personal perspectives from three teens. There is also plenty of hard data interspersed between their anecdotes. This does make for a certain scattered quality to the book at times. A description of Tom's initial struggles with math in his Polish classroom leads into a long section on math education in the United States before coming back round to Tom as he picks up the chalk and attempts to solve a math equation. When Kim struggles to understand a Finnish novel, her teacher brings her a children's book which simplifies the plot details. This section is the jumping off point for contrasting Finnish teacher training with that in the United States before returning to Kim and her discussion with some classmates.

In spite of an occasionally bumpy flow, this book was still very engaging. It not only gave me a cross- cultural perspective but new insights into ways to help children become innovative and effective learners.
118 internautes sur 130 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Interesting Read 15 octobre 2013
Par FunIsReading - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Format Kindle
My husband and I have been having lots of conversations about higher education in the United States, so when I read The Book Wheel's review of The Smartest Kids in the World, I decided to read the book to get a better understanding of what children are learning prior to entering college.

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. In regards to teachers, Ripley's research indicates that teachers that provide rigor and push their students to do better are doing more for their students than teachers who provide all the answers. As someone who had teachers who gave me the answers and other teachers who made me rewrite a thesis sentence ten million times before I could write the rest of the essay, I can attest that teachers who made me work for my grade had my respect and trust.

Unlike some articles that I have read about school systems in other countries, Ripley does a good job showcasing what Finland, South Korea, and Poland do right and what these countries need to work on. It was refreshing to see that school systems around the world (not just the United States) have their problems. Of course, Ripley rightly shows that the United States' educational system has some serious problems and is ranked accordingly. She does give the United States hope; however, when she shows that countries like Poland have only made recent changes that have greatly improved their national rankings. We have hope as a country!

Let's talk about some of my concerns with this book. My major concern was regarding the research in this book. Ripley focuses the book on one international exam, the PISA, and three international exchange students' perspectives. Although she does speak with some other people, Ripley appeared to get most of her book from these three high school students. Granted, I think that their opinions are well thought out and interesting; however, I wish that she had interviewed a broader group of people both within the United States and in other countries.

When I first started the book, I thought Ripley had only three exchange students' perspectives, so I was a little worried. Then I discovered that she had done a survey including lots of students, so I felt better. Unfortunately, I then looked at the numbers. Ripley sent a survey out to 242 US students who attended school abroad and 1104 international students who attended school in the United States; however, only 37 American students and 165 international students responded. Ripley states that these data are still good; however, I cannot see how that is true without the needed statistical analyses that she does not provide. Throughout the book, she notes that 8 out of 10 students said "fill in the blank." I do not feel confident in these statements. The sample size is much to small. I may be wrong about this; however, the lack of any statistical explanation in the appendix does not lessen my concern. I think I would not have been so bothered by this, if she had cited more of her sources in the text. Because I did not know where statistics were coming from, I did not know if I could believe them. Ripley does have resources in the back of the book, but they are grouped by chapter, not line by line (at least this is how it was done in my galley copy). Some may argue that having lots of references in the text would be distracting, but Mary Roach does this in her books and they are very readable.

So how did I like this book? This is a tough question. I loved the writing style, and I though the exchange student perspective was a great way of getting at a unique perspective. I thought that Ripley had some interesting theories on some of the problems with the American educational system and possible ways of improving it. At the same time, this book had several flaws. First, I thought a larger variety of people needed to be interviewed for this book. Second, if Ripely wanted to use her student survey, she needed to show more evidence that the results were not skewed. I think I am particularly alarmed by this survey, because she only explains its limitations in the appendix that I doubt many people read. I would recommend this book to someone who is interested in a jumping off point for learning more about the American educational system and how it differs from other countries' systems with the caveat that the statistical analyses may be misleading.

Although I do have problems with the student survey statistics, I am still giving this book 3 out of 5 books for the international student exchange interviews and conversational style writing approach.

I received this item for free in exchange for an honest review.
107 internautes sur 119 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
The U.S. Education System Compared to Finland, S. Korea, and Poland 18 août 2013
Par Timothy J. Bartik - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
Amanda Ripley's book, "The Smartest Kids in the World" is a valuable addition to the literature on education policy. Its main contribution is to add a personal student view to what the education experience is like in Finland, Poland, and South Korea - three countries that score highly on standardized international tests - compared to the U.S., where scores are average in reading and mediocre in math. This personal student side of education is provided mainly by following three American high school students in their exchange school experiences in Finland, Poland, and South Korea.

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. It is hard to see how South Korea's test-cramming system develops any soft skills other than persistence. This is a valuable soft skill, but it is clearly not the only soft skill. And in fact the American high school exchange student she profiles drops out of his assigned South Korean high school because it is such a crazy, anti-social environment.

The other striking aspect of the book is how much the strengths and weaknesses of the American education system have to do with American culture. The U.S. has not traditionally had a culture that places the highest value on intellectual rigor. This has sometimes had some advantages in that it allows some students to advance even though they don't conform to school standards. But she raises the important issue of whether our cultural attitudes have become outmoded due to changes in our economy that require more intellectual attainment in a wider variety of good jobs. Ms. Ripley cites any number of examples where American parents and policymakers simply don't place a very high value on having higher standards that some students might struggle to pass.

The book has a great appendix giving advice to parents on choosing good schools. This includes very useful information such as how to observe whether a classroom truly engages students and is productive. This appendix by itself will be worth the book's purchase price for many parents.

The book would have benefitted from more discussion of "where do we go from here" for U.S. policymakers. For example, in a practical sense, how would we best go about significantly increasing the selectivity of our teaching training institutions and attracting better college students into teaching? What role should be played by standardized tests for prospective teacher candidates versus higher salaries for teachers versus better hiring practices in local school districts? Greater exploration on how we could adapt the lessons of Finland's teacher quality efforts to the U.S. political environment would have improved the book.
56 internautes sur 67 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
'Without Data, You Are Just Another Person With An Opinion' - Anon 13 août 2013
Par George Bush - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
American pupils consistently perform poorly when compared to those in other nations. Numerous excuses have been offered, all refutable, but that's a subject for another time. Amanda Ripley's new 'The Smartest Kids in the World' provides insight on how they get that way.

Author Ripley follows three American teenagers who travel to and spend a year in school at other nations - Kim (15) goes form Oklahoma to Finland, Eric (18) from Minnetonka (Minneapolis suburb) to Pusan in South Korea, and Tom (17) from a small village in Pennsylvania to Poland. I was particularly interested in her reporting about South Korea, having spent 15 months there long ago, courtesy of the U.S. Army. Even back then it was obvious that Koreans saw education as crucial for success.

Eric had already graduated from Minnetonka High (a highly rated U.S. school in a well-regarded state for education) but wanted to broaden his perspectives prior to entering DePaul University. In Korea he was placed with pupils two years younger than himself because his hosts believed seniors would be too wrapped up preparing for the national testing program to spend time with him. The college-qualifying examination is considered a major life-determinant for Korean youth, and only those scoring in the top 2% are admitted into the top three schools. (No 'legacy admissions,' or other exceptions.) There he found himself in classes with over 30 pupils (primary school classes averaged over 28 in 2009, middle-school around 35), classrooms lacking American hi-tech (eg. interactive whiteboards that function as giant touch screens, numerous computer terminals), and graded on a curve - only the top 4% get the top grade (out of nine classifications), and the bottom 4% get the worst grade, regardless; examination results are posted on the board. (Student IDs are used, but Eric reports that the pupils all know each others' IDs.) Eric quickly tired of the intensity (and probably didn't score very well either, given the new language), and dropped out to go to a community college instead. Despite the rigor, Korea has the world's highest proportion of high-school graduates.

Classes lasted until 4:00 P.M. (Ripley doesn't tell us when they begin), at which time students take 30 minutes to clean and mop floors, erase and clean boards, and empty garbage - those with demerits (long hair, misbehaving) are assigned to clean bathrooms. At 4:30 they're back in their seats prepping for the next-years' college entrance exams. After dinner, its another two hours of loosely supervised study. At 9 P.M. pupils leave, with about 75% going to private tutoring academies ('hagwons') until 11 P.M. or later. In addition, they also attend school two months more than American pupils. During summer break libraries are overcrowded with students, and many pay for A/C quiet space in private libraries. Eric also reported that about one-third of pupils slept in class (stores sell special pillows that slip over one's forearm to make napping more comfortable) - turns out they had good reason, given the long hours put in.

The Korean government spends less than half the proportion of GDP on K-12 education as the U.S., with parents adding more ($1,500/year at Namsan), plus the cost of hagwons and/or private tutoring. Elementary-school teachers come from 12 elite universities that admit only the top 5% of applicants; for some reason high-school teachers are less distinguished in their prior preparation.

Andrew Kim is the Korean 'rock-star' of education, working 60 hours/week while taking in $4 million/year and employing 30 assistants. He teaches only three in-person classes; most of his earnings come from online classes - $3.50/hour, 150,000 students. He's also written about 200 books, and responds to student questions. Hagwons complain if parents are not involved - parents receive text messages when their children arrive, others on their progress. In addition, the teachers call home 2 - 3X/month. Students sign up for specific teachers. Kim has 120/lecture class, most classes are much smaller. Teachers whose pupils score low or have low enrollment numbers are placed on probation - 6 months w/o improvement leads to dismissal; about 10% are dismissed/year in the hagwon system the author investigated. Aspiring teachers must first present two mock lectures before hiring. Pupils surveys report they like their hagwon teachers better than those in the public schools, finding they learn more from them and seeing them as fairer. Hagwon teachers don't need to be certified, receive no benefits or salary guarantee; most earn less than their public-school counterparts.

Legions of students failing to get into top universities spend an entire year after high school attending hagwons to improve their scores.
Pupils, as well as teachers, have to compete to enter top hagwons. The prestigious Daesung Institute, admission is based on students' test scores, and only 14% are accepted. After a year of 14-hour days, about 70% gain entry to one of the nation's top three universities.

The government is trying to discourage 'excessive' hagwons - those open beyond 11 P.M. are given warnings, and after three such are closed for a week; repeat and its two more weeks. Government staff patrol and follow-up information from paid tipsters. Private libraries used for studying are exempt from these limits.

The PISA test is probably the most respected international comparison of pupil achievement. Recently the test also surveyed parents - volunteering in their children's extra-curricular activities (eg. 'PTA types') is associated with lower reading scores. Those reading to their young children on a regular basis - associated with much better performance; when the children get older, parental involvement with discussions about school, movies, current events, books, etc. is associated with higher performance, as well as asking about their school days. Another important finding - self-discipline and conscientiousness are strongly related to school performance and ultimate life success.

Teenage suicide rates are lower than those in the U.S.; adults, however, for unknown reasons, have one of the highest such rates. Meanwhile, its students consistently outperform their peers in every country in reading and math, and since 1962 GDP has risen 400X.

For those who think kindergarten and preschool are 'the answer,' Ripley points to Finland - there they start mandatory school a year later than U.S. kids. (However, Finland does have extensive early childhood programs, and over 60% under age 7 attend municipal kindergarten programs. Many also have attended publicly funded preschool.) Another surprise - learned that Poland outperforms the U.S. in high-school graduation rates and achievement, while spending about half what the U.S. does.

Poland moved up the international test-score rankings in record time by following Finland and South Korea's examples - well-trained teachers (Finland closed all its education colleges in the 1960s and moved them into the top eight most elite universities in the nation where only top students could enroll), a rigorous curriculum, little if any high-tech gadgetry, and a challenging exam required of all graduating seniors. Poland also changed to keep all pupils in the same schools until they were 16, delaying when some would have entered vocational schools. Before 2000, half of Poland's rural adults had finished only primary school.

Three criticisms - First, Ripley opens with a graph attributed to Eric Hanushek et al - 'Dance of the Nations,' showing Norway in a steep decline in pupil achievement - down to one of the lowest in the world, as well as South Korea dropping steeply since 2000, though still above all nations except Finland. This does not square with my review of international pupil test results, especially for older pupils, nor could I locate the referenced graph via the Internet. Therefore, I ascribe zero credibility to her use of that data; fortunately, it does not affect the topics I was interested in. Second, sometimes her statistics lack clarity/solid reference points. Finally, Ripley correctly observes the pupils in some nations work much less than their counterparts in South Korea, even the U.S., and in my opinion, goes too-far in downplaying the importance of hard work - especially when her 6/19/13 'Motivation Matters More Than Ever' in The Atlantic reports that 'teaching motivation is probably more important than reading' (I'm assuming a bit of hyperbole there).
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Valuable lessons to be learned from how school children are educated in Finland, South Korea, and Poland 26 août 2013
Par Robert Morris - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
Amanda Ripley shares what she learned while studying pre-collegiate education in three foreign countries: Finland, South Korea, and Poland. The quality of education in any country reflects - for better or worse - what the adults in each country value most. For example, in Finland, rather than "trying to reverse engineer high-performance teaching culture through a dazzlingly complex performance evaluations and value-added data analysis," as in the United States, education leaders ensure high-quality from the beginning, allowing only top students to enroll in teacher training programs. Unlike in the U.S. the education of children is entrusted only to "the best and the brightest" teachers who demand academic rigor and best effort.

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. As in Finland and South Korea, however, parents have high hopes and great expectations for their children and generously support well-trained teachers, a rigorous curriculum, and a challenging national examination for all graduating seniors. Ripley was surprised to learn that "sports simply did not figure into the school day" nor does athletic competition between and among schools have any appeal. "There was no confusion about what school was for - or what mattered in kids' life chances."

I think the title of Ripley's book is somewhat misleading. Public school education in Finland, South Korea, and Poland does not produce smarter students than do schools anywhere else but they [begin italics] do [end italics] seem to produce students who are better prepared to compete in what Ripley characterizes as "an automated, global economy" in which competitors must be "driven to succeed" and have learned -- during their school days -- how to adapt in a "culture of rigor."

As she observes in the final chapter, "The stories of Finland, Korea, and Poland are complicated and unfinished. But they reveal what is possible [in the United States]. All children must learn rigorous higher-order thinking to thrive in the modern world. The only way to do that is by creating a serious intellectual culture in schools, one that kids can sense is real and true. As more and more data spills out of schools and countries, and as students themselves find ways to tell the world how much more they can do, these counternarratives will, I hope, be too loud to bear."

After reading these concluding remarks, I was again reminded of the "10,000-hour rule" revealed by decades of research conducted by Anders Ericsson and his associates at Florida State University. With rare exception, those who invest (on average) 10,000 hours in deliberate, highly disciplined practice (of almost anything) under expert supervision can achieve peak performance. If a student spends (on average) five hours a day in a classroom for 40 weeks a year for twelve years (grades 1-12), the total is 12,000 hours.

To repeat, the quality of education in any country reflects - for better or worse - what the adults in each country value most. What does the performance of students of U.S. public schools - in international competition -- tell us about what their parents value most? How well prepared will these students be for competition with students from other countries in the "an automated, global economy" to which Ripley refers, a business world in which competitors must be "driven to succeed" and have learned - during their school days -- how to adapt in a "culture of rigor"?
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