Amanda's bestselling book chronicles life inside the world's new education superpowers.Learn More
When Elina came to America from Finland at age 16, all she knew about American high schools she’d learned from movies. She thought every street would look like Rodeo Drive, and every Friday would be like prom night.
In 2000, Polish 15-year-olds scored below average for the developed world (and below American teens) on an international test of critical thinking. Twelve years later, they ranked at the top of the world--up there with Finland and Canada, and well above the U.S.
What happened in Poland? How did a big country with a high rate of child poverty evolve from a communist backwater into an education powerhouse?
Christmas came early this year. The new PISA results are out. (PISA = a relatively sophisticated test of critical thinking administered to half a million 15 year-olds every three years in 65 countries.) This year is especially intriguing for the US because the focus is on math—our biggest weakness.
So I’ve been hunkered down, reading through the 3,000 pages of analysis and data—which go far beyond what you read in the headlines—to see what we can learn.
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