Smartest Kids 2.0


It’s been one very full year since the hardcover publication of The Smartest Kids. Since then, I’ve been privileged to speak to thousands of people in dozens of cities. I’ve learned which stories and facts resonated most, from Tennessee to Idaho to California. I’ve heard stories and discovered new research that sometimes confirmed—and other times challenged—what I thought I knew. I’ve met teachers, kids, researchers and brave leaders who are committed to learning all that we can from the smartest countries in the world—and hell bent on doing even better.

The paperback edition reflects all of those conversations. It also includes new data from international test results that came after the book’s publication—which showed that Poland has rocketed to new heights, even beyond what I’d expected. I’ve added new material on the Common Core State Standards and early childhood education around the world, given the current, roiling debate over both issues in the U.S.

Meanwhile, I am happy to report that the American students I followed for the book are all doing well in college. Since he left South Korea, Eric has been studying philosophy and mathematics at DePaul University in Chicago, loving the energy of the city and scheming to figure out a way back to Asia. Tom, the Pennsylvania student who went to Poland, is entering his senior year at Vassar after spending a semester abroad (again)—this time in Heidelberg, Germany. And in just two weeks, Kim, the Oklahoma teenager who went to Finland (and the youngest of the three students), will move to my town of Washington, DC, to study at American University. (I am insanely excited about this but trying to play it cool and let Kim experience college without my hovering presence.)

Eric, Tom and Kim have all gamely participated in media interviews with me for the book, sometimes on camera, sometimes on the radio, occasionally in packed auditoriums--showing a worldliness and poise I still struggle to achieve. Once an NBC reporter asked Kim, without warning, "What does it mean to be 'smart?'" I held my breath. Kim paused for one beat and then replied, "I think being smart means learning from other people."

Amen to that.

Please let me know what you think of the paperback if you get time to check it out. I can be reached via email at or on Twitter @amandaripley. Thank you for reading and for sharing your thoughts and stories, as always.

EducationAmanda Ripley