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Though the U.S. spends more to educate its students than almost any other country, its teenagers rank 26th in math, below Finland (third), Korea (second), and Poland (19th). Yet in "a handful of eclectic nations... virtually all kids [are] learning critical thinking skills in math, science, and reading." Setting out to discover how this happened, veteran journalist Ripley (The Unthinkable) recounts the experiences of three American teens studying abroad for a year in the education superpowers. Fifteen-year-old Kim raises $10,000 so she can go to high school in Finland; Eric, 18, trades a leafy suburb in Minnesota for a "city stacked on top of a city" in South Korea; and Tom, 17, leaves Gettysburg, Pa., for Poland. In addition to these three teenagers, Ripley interviews educators, students, reform-minded education ministers, and others. In riveting prose, Ripley's cross-cultural research shows how the education superpowers value rigor above all else; the "unholy alliance" between sports and academics in the U.S.; why math eludes the average American teenager; what parents in the educationally successful countries do; and how the child poverty rate doesn't necessarily affect educational outcomes. This timely and inspiring book offers many insights into how to improve America's mediocre school system. Agent: Esmond Harmsworth, Zachary Shuster Harmsworth. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.