Monday, September 16, 2013

The Smartest Kids in the World

I think we can all agree something needs to be fixed with our education system.  Right now there are some massive changes sweeping through with the implementation of common core; a lot of which I do not agree with.  I think we can all agree that something needs to change though, so where can we look for the answer?   How about the schools and students that are doing the best in the world?

I was given The Smartest Kids in The World: and how they got that way by Amanda Ripley to review.

Did you know that across the globe the US ranks 26th in math, 17th in science and 12th in reading?  Sadly our scores are barely increasing.  However counties like Finland, have show a drastic improvement shooting to the top of the world.  In the 1950's in Finland only 10% of students graduated from high school, that number is now 95%.  What did Finland do to bring on these enormous improvements?

In The Smartest Kids in the World, Amanda Ripley doesn't just look at what the schools policies are and the ways they teach, but she actually tracks several American exchange students around the world to get a more inside perspective of the schools.   There is the girl form small town Oklahoma who travels to Finland.   There is also a boy who travels to Korea and one who travels to Poland.   Here is a trailer of the book.

I graduated in psychology, so subjects like this often interest me but I honestly rarely ever finish these kinds of books anymore.  Give me a good fiction any day of the week.  This book was different.  I found myself, highlighting, dog-earing pages, it was fascinating.   It was very interesting to hear the students experiences and perspectives as well as Ripley's analysis of the schools and their policies.  The information is presented in a way to be very informative but not over your head and also keeps you interested and engaged.

What is Finland's secret?  Why are their scores so great?  It doesn't come down to one simple answer but it begins with the teachers.  Not just expecting the teachers to do more, but educating the teachers more; setting the teachers up for success to be able to succeed.  In Finland, teaching has become a more prestigious career with it being a requirement to be in the top 1/3 of highschool graduates to be allowed into teaching colleges.   With more well trained teachers, they are ready to really take control of the classroom and students respect them more as they are educated.

There is much more to it than this and wait until you read what the schools in Korea are like!

If you want to purchase this book you can do so at the following locations:
Apple/Amazon/ Barnes and Nobel/Google
Also today I get to give away a copy to one of my readers!  Use the rafflecopter form below to enter.  The giveaway will be open for two weeks.

If you have any interest in the education system I truly think you will enjoy this book.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Disclaimer: I was given a copy to review.  All feelings and opinions are my own and truthful.  The publisher is responsible for providing a copy of the book to the winner of the giveaway.

23 comments:

  1. This sounds a lot like the book I read about Charter schools...it was all about training and continual training for the teachers. It really is eye-opening. I worry about with my boys get old enough for school b/c my friend that has her girl in 1st grade in a good school already commented how she didn't like the core...and how even if you are advanced you learn the same as everyone else. That's why we will consider private school.

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    1. Yea, I think it has a lot of good ideas in theory but there are just too many loop holes for problems. Something does need to change though

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  2. I'm the same with books.....give me a novel and I'll devour it.....these, not so much. But, this one does sound interesting!

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    1. Yes, I hated this one book club that I used to belong to as they always picked non-fiction self help kind of books. The one time I actually finished the book they picked was when it was a fiction. This one really did suck me in though.

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  3. I agree... novels have a way of pulling me in and holding on until the book is over with!

    I think that it's great that in Finland they only take the top students. I've heard of some teachers that just don't cut it and make more of a mess than anything. With my kids I've been very lucky so far.

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    1. Yes, luckily so far my kids have had good teachers too.

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  4. I've heard about Finland's excellent education system before. My husband is half Finnish...hmmm, maybe we should move there? Kidding! It would be nice if the U.S. adopted some of the things that these countries with really good educational systems do. Sounds like a great book!

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  5. I've heard about Finland's excellent education system before. My husband is half Finnish...hmmm, maybe we should move there? Kidding! It would be nice if the U.S. adopted some of the things that these countries with really good educational systems do. Sounds like a great book!

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    1. Lol, that would be a big move. In the book she talks about how in Rhode Island they tried to up the standards (to actually bring them up to what the rest of the US is) and everyone was in a huge uproar about how it would be discriminating against minority teachers, but she stuck with it and the number of minority teachers actually went up.

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  6. Having teaching seen as a prestigious degree probably helps Finland a great deal. Students aren't going to respect teachers if their parents don't.

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    1. Yes! There is definitely a level of respect and appreciation for education that needs to be taught at home too

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  7. I think teachers are trained enough initially...but I think it's the professional development that needs help. I am a former public school teacher, and really loved it...but we never had opportunities (free of charge) for specific professional development. I honestly think it's also the parents to blame as well.....I could go on for forever. You wouldn't believe the amount of teachers that get slammed daily for "giving" their child a bad grade, when their child never did homework, never studied, and was a disruption in class. It's crazy!!! I would love to read this book!

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    1. Oh yes!! I totally do not think it is all the teachers at all. It is really so much the entitlement trap of this entire generation, want it all without working hard. I think kids should be allowed to fail, especially when the consequences aren't so lasting.
      She actually addresses that too in the book

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  8. I think teachers have the proper training, but I find that most teachers are dealing with issues that are beyond teaching math and writing, etc. They are dealing with abuse and neglect issues. These issues keep them from proper education.

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    1. Oh I definitely agree that the teachers have to deal with a lot, way more than they should. I used to work for DCFS, so I know all too well about abuse and awful things parents do; but in this book she actually looks at Poland who suffered from some of the highest childhood poverty rates in the world and even they are improving.

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  9. I am finding my son's teachers are having to rush through curriculum to cover all the is required.

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    1. Yes, I have definitely seen that too

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  10. My brother just started his first year of teaching last month. He is teaching Biology in high school, mostly to freshmen. He said it was completely overwhelming. He has 140 students, several with learning disabilities. One of his students is a refuge from Kenya and doesn't know any English. He is just realizing how complicated it can be to try to teach all of the students with all of the different needs. That being said, I think education has taken a sad step backwards lately. I know there are amazing teachers, but I also am very aware that there are some who can't or won't teach. There is one teacher in a local high school who has told his students several times that he hates teaching and can't stand the kids. So why is he still teaching? Because his job is secure and as long as he shows up every day he won't get fired. It is so difficult to fire a teacher if they make it through the first year. I don't necessarily think teachers should be fired based on classroom performance, but if there is a problem the schools should be able to so something about it. Also in my area there is serious over crowding issues. New schools are being built that only last a few years before they are overly full again. If we could build for future expectations that would help, but schools can only get funded if they build for current enrollment. I really could go on and on, but I think you get the point. It is a complicated issue, but just fixing curriculum or testing standards isn't going to fix the problem.

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    1. Yes! Totally agree! I think the issue is so deep and complex and fixing testing definitely is not nor will ever be enough; but have to start changes somewhere, so hard to know what to do though.

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  11. This sounds very interesting! As a teacher I feel like we can never have enough training. However, there are teachers that think because they went to school and got a degree that they don't need to learn anymore. It's definitely a field of learners vs. non-learners. You have to be a learner in education and I think sometimes that where we have the breakdown. I'm lucky to work in an environment of learners in my specific job category, but that is definitely not the norm across our district. Our district is lucky that we provide the opportunities that we do because some don't or can't afford it.

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    1. That is so awesome your district is able to help out and provide that, it really does just them good to have even better teachers and more trained

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  12. Yes, I believe some teachers are. The good ones - but they are hard to find.

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  13. I love what they said (in the add about the book) about teachers having more respect and more education. That teaching was a more illustrious career and harder to get into a teaching school, and because of that, students are doing better in school. Wow! This book sounds absolutely fascinating, and I am not a non fiction sort of reader!

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