I’m finally getting around to doing my book report (I thought I was too old for those) on THE SMARTEST KIDS IN THE WORLD by Amanda Ripley. This book was a little long and difficult to get through. However, it is a “hot” read right now and I’m going to give you my “Cliff Notes” version today.
This all started in the early 2000’s with the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), which was designed to measure students’ ability to think critically and solve new problems in math, reading, and science. Amanda Ripley set out to solve this mystery: Why were some kids learning so much –and others so little? She also wanted to explore why children’s skills rose so high in Finland and South Korea and the US scores continued to plummet. Interestingly enough, (and I quote) “Our elementary students did fine on international tests, thank you very much, especially in reading. The problems arose in math and science, and they became most obvious when our kids grew into teenagers.” (See, all of you early childhood teachers are doing a great job!!!)
The book focused on three American teenagers who spent a year as foreign exchange students. A boy from MN went to Korea, a girl from OK went to Finland, and another boy from PA went to Poland. Their experiences were quite diverse and quite surprising. One thing I learned was that I would NOT like to be a high school student in Korea. Talk about long hours, a pressure cooker, and competition! And, can you imagine high school with out sports teams and extra-curricular activities?
Here are the key thoughts I gleaned from the book:
Attendance in some kind of early childhood program had real and lasting benefits.
Countries who scored higher than the US used less technology in their schools.
What parents did at home mattered significantly. Reading to children and talking about school was very important. Parents showed their children they valued education by asking about school, what they learned, what they liked, etc.
*Not only did reading to children increase scores, but parents who modeled reading for pleasure had a significant impact.
In countries with high test scores teachers were respected, paid more, and given more latitude to accomplish goals. They had autonomy to do their jobs.
At the end of the day/book, I’m proud to be an American. You can’t compare oranges and apples, and we still have the best education system in the world. I know that because the most desirable country for higher education remains the United States of America!!!!
Let's hear it for the GREATEST kids and teachers in the world!!!