Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.

Few books are this impressive and depressing, and few authors have assessed and evaluated US education as thoroughly as Ripley. After several trips to Europe and a number of schools in the US, the author reports on the many ways that US schools fall below (often far below) international standards of public education. Following three American public school students studying in Europe and their teachers, the author points out the many ways that their general performance is clearly, categorically deficient (although primarily in mathematics). How these American students adjusted to local standards clearly calls into question the educational backgrounds they arrived with. The hows and whys of their deficiencies are discussed throughout the book. They clearly concern the author and should concern every US reader of the book. Ripley does not specifically address the deficient conditions of US schools, but she does address many of the reasons these conditions exist. Everyone associated with US education, from school board members and teachers to parents and interested members of the public, should read this book, and everyone concerned about US education should address and alter this reality. Summing Up: Highly recommended. General readers, graduate students, and above. G. A. Clark emeritus, Indiana University

Publishers Weekly
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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.