It's no surprise that the American education system is lagging behind many other countries. The latest PISA exam shows that the United States falls 36th in the world in math; below a diverse rang of counties including Poland, Japan and Viet Nam.
What's interesting is not that the United States is in the middle of the pack, but rather that so many other countries have improved in the last three decades while the United States has stagnated.
But what are these countries doing that the United States is not?
That was the question reporter and author Amanda Ripley investigated in her newest book The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way.
Ripley was on Central Standard Tuesday talking about what she discovered following American exchange students in Poland, Finland and South Korea to understand how those countries' education systems excel.
The one thing that became clear to Mrs. Ripley is that teachers were the key. She says the one thing the United States could do that would begin to improve our education system was to make becoming a teacher difficult.
"Resist the urge to just do more — more testing, more buying of computers," Ripley said on the program.
"All [these] kind of things are not working for us. We're not getting the return on investment we should be getting. A much more worthy battle to fight would be to go your education colleges, the places that train your teachers, and ask, 'do you have a cut score that's above the national average on the SAT?' Because many, many places do not and they let anybody in and then they don't get any respect. This is a cycle that's not impossible to disrupt. We have districts in this country that have taken on tenure and won, that's incredible."
Amanda Ripley will be speaking at Kansas City Public Library, Plaza Branch at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 12. The event is free.
- Amanda Ripley, author of The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way and Emerson Senior fellow at the Emerson collective