Amanda Ripley looks at the world's new education superpowers through the experiences of three American teenagers who chose to spend one school year living abroad — one in Finland, one in South Korea and one in Poland. Amanda Ripley examined how these countries rose to the top in student performance world wide. The discovery: effective change not only could be done, it has been done in countries with the same challenges we face.
The book presents a clear path to a solution to school under performance. It is Beta Academy's desire to partner with parents and bring the importance of education back to the forefront.
“One thing was clear: To give our kids the kind of education they deserved, we had to first agree that rigor mattered most of all; that school existed to help kids learn to think, to work hard, and yes, to fail. That was the core consensus that made everything else possible.”
“Wealth had made rigor optional in America. But everything had changed. In an automated, global economy, kids needed to be driven; then need to know how to adapt, since they would be doing it all their lives. They needed a culture of rigor.”
“rigor mattered. Koreans understood that mastering difficult academic content was important. They didn’t take shortcuts, especially in math. They assumed that performance was mostly a product of hard work—not God-given talent. This attitude meant that all kids tried harder, and it was more valuable to a country than gold or oil.”
“The question then was not what other countries were doing, but why. Why did these countries have this consensus around rigor? In the education superpowers, every child knew the importance of an education. These countries had experienced national failure in recent memory; they knew what an existential crisis felt like. In many U.S. schools, however, the priorities were muddled beyond recognition. Sports were central to American students’ lives and school cultures in a way in which they were not in most education superpowers. Exchange students agreed almost universally on this point. Nine out of ten international students I surveyed said that U.S. kids placed a higher priority on sports, and six out of ten American exchange students agreed with them. Even in middle school, other researchers had found, American students spent double the amount of time playing sports as Koreans.”
“I’d been looking around the world for clues as to what other countries were doing right, but the important distinctions were not about spending or local control or curriculum; none of that mattered very much. Policies mostly worked in the margins. The fundamental difference was a psychological one. The education superpowers believed in rigor. People in these countries agreed on the purpose of school: School existed to help students master complex academic material. Other things mattered, too, but nothing mattered as much.”
“We had the schools we wanted, in a way. Parents did not tend to show up at schools demanding that their kids be assigned more challenging reading or that their kindergarteners learn math while they still loved numbers. They did show up to complain about bad grades, however. And they came in droves, with video cameras and lawn chairs and full hearts, to watch their children play sports.”
Many educators, parents, political leaders, business people, and concerned citizens are determined to save our educational system. Waiting for “Superman” (2010) offers powerful insights from some of those at the leading edge of educational innovation, including Bill and Melinda Gates, Michelle Rhee, Geoffrey Canada, and more.
Waiting for “Superman” is an inspiring call for reform and includes special chapters that provide resources, ideas, and hands-on suggestions for improving the schools in your own community and throughout the nation.
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