The global achievement gap: why even our best schools don't teach the new survival skills our children need--and what we can do about it
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The global achievement gap: why even our best schools don't teach the new survival skills our children need--and what we can do about it

3.93 of 5 stars 3.93  ·  rating details  ·  826 ratings  ·  160 reviews
Despite the best efforts of educators, our nation’s schools are dangerously obsolete. Instead of teaching students to be critical thinkers and problem-solvers, we are asking them to memorize facts for multiple choice tests. This problem isn’t limited to low-income school districts: even our top schools aren’t teaching or testing the skills that matter most in the global kn
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published (first published January 1st 2008)
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Interesting book. I am a high school teacher and I wholeheartedly agreed with half of it. I see more truth in his critique of problems with the teaching profession than I relate to his observation of high school classrooms.

Wagner's main point, and the one I both agree with and struggle with, is that students need to be thinking critically and collaborating in all their classes. I work to incorporate collaboration into my classes, and try to include as much critical thinking as I can. It is often...more
Brian Ayres
I found this book to be extremely repetitive and highly disappointing. While I do not have all the answers and certainly agree with Wagner's stance on the lack of "rigor" in over-hyped Advanced Placement factories in the suburbs, Wagner continuously went back to the question: W.D.CEOs.W. That is: "What do CEOs want?" as if CEOs of major corporations are the epitome of Wagner's seven survival skills for teens today. It is comical to read -- though not surprising seeing Wagner is a member of the f...more
I'm a little weary of apocalyptic rhetoric in every genre, so I approached this with a skeptical eye. The author outlines "seven survival skills" for the future that every child should learn, and honestly, that kind of thing is always intellectually difficult for me to grasp, and seems very amorphous: critical thinking and problem solving, collaboration across networks, etc.

More helpful to me were the notes from the "learning walks" the author conducts at various schools, where he provided speci...more
Aaron Maurer
The title pretty much sums up the book. I began reading this book over the summer. I was about 1/3 of the way through and decided to stop reading the book and return it to the library. Why? Because there was so much great content that I was spending more time writing out my notes than actually reading the book.

I recently purchased the book for my iPad so I could highlight and type my notes. This proved a much more productive method(and lead me to a thought on education practices) and allowed me...more
In The Global Achievement Gap, author Tony Wagner makes the argument that the United States employs an “Old World” model of education that does not prepare students for the “New World” of work. Wagner states that the public education system in the United States lags behind those of its peers, and this disparity negatively affects the employability of US students. According to Wagner, public education in this country narrowly focuses on teaching students the “Three R’s” (reading, writing, and ‘ri...more
Lauren Sterling
I'm very delayed in sending out this review. I read this book back in 2009, and had the good fortune of then engaging Tony Wagner to come to Maine to keynote an education conference at the time the state's leadership was changing. Oddly, the Maine Education Commissioner tried to embrace the book/author's recommendations, but was blocked at every turn by Governor LePage. That being said, this book takes the research from enormous studies that identified the seven specific skills missing in our em...more
Joe Wood
A great book anyone should read. I purposely say anyone, because all of us shape the schools in our communities. Wagner does a great job of calling out just why our schools desperately need to change for the better to meet the demands of the 21st century economy. I use this book so much the pages are starting to fall out.
Deb Christenson
We are reading this book as mandatory summer reading for my school. It details what's wrong with most schools and how to get it right. Wagner affirms for me what I believe in educational best practices: highly recommended!
The description of the book on goodreads does a pretty good job of summarizing what's in this book.

I think this book is more relevant for principals and school administrators, but I still leared a lot from it. Here's some things I gleaned from the book (unfortuanatly, I lost a page of notes, so these are from midway through):

- Show students other students' work of what is good/not good. What makes it that way?
- Send home representative of students' work 2x/year to parents instead of report card...more
Great critique of modern education.
Sarah Hanawald
This book is so unfortunately named. It is NOT about the difference in test scores between American students and those in other, higher achieving countries. Instead, it is about the gap between what kids are doing and learning in school and what they need to be learning. Wagner's 7 survival skills are as good as anything else to put here:

1. Critical thinking and problem-solving
2. Collaboration across networks (across distance, time, space) and leadership by influence (as opposed to “by positio...more
I'm reading this for our School Superintendent's book discussion and its a topic I am quite interested in. There is a lot of pressure for rigor in the classroom and teaching kids a lot of stuff - but it seems little emphasis on how to do any of it well, anymore than necessary to pass the MSAs, at least, or how to understand what they have done. They are being taught basic probability and how to read a bar graph in 1st grade, but what's the point when they still don't know what it really means an...more
Robin Cicchetti
This was time well spent. Wagner did a solid job building the framework for understanding why and how the global terrain of work, economy and global relationships has changed. Building on the educational implications, he made sound arguments for the benefits of reviewing how we prepare students for productive, skilled lives in this new environment.
He bases his framework for change in 7 Survival Skills: 1) Critical Thinking & Problem Solving 2) Collaborating Across Networks 3)Agility and Ada...more
Jay Connor
"Our schools are not failing; rather they are obsolete." Part of my disappointment with Wagner's effort here are his on-going distinctions without a difference like in this quote.

Wagner cites the statistics which now are fairly ingrained in the school reform debate -- slumping graduation rates; slipping performance viz other industrialized countries; staggering increase in the need for remediation (40%) of those entering college.

The global / knowledge economy will require new skills in order fo...more
If you have young children and you are interested in their education, read this book! It is very thought-provoking and unfortunately scary.

Tony Wagner was a teacher for many years and based on his research (at high-schools), he concluded that high-schools today were mostly obsolete - that is, preparing children for a world that does not exist any more, and failing to prepare them for the 21st century. He identified instead 7 survival skills kids need : Critical Thinking and Problem Solving; Coll...more
If you are interested in the education of your children, then you need to read this book!

The first half tells us what is wrong with our education system; I skipped a lot of that because I see the problems and want to be part of the solution.

The second half gives recommendations and schools making changes and what they do to be successful and give kids a successful education.

The Global Achievement Gap talks about how other countries are years ahead of ours in education, math, science, etc. becau...more
Great overview of the problems facing the US school system and its students. I particularly enjoyed the way he tied back the need for liberal arts skills in a complex world, which is so often under attack by politicians and pundits worrying about the science and engineering gap.

I suppose it's not his job to moralize too much about "kids these days," but the part that I felt floundered a bit was his somewhat uncritical acceptance of today's overstimulated, tech-driven teen culture and the perils...more
Stuart Nachbar
Survival Skills over Standardized Testing

I likened Tony Wagner’s The Global Achievement Gap more to Thomas Friedman’s The World is Flat than any other academic treatise on the quality of secondary education in America. If I had the money, I would buy a copy of this book for every governor, congressman and senator; this book presents a fair better direction for education politics than the current thoughts from Washington.

Based on his professional experiences as a teacher and academic, as well as...more
This book is about education and why and how it needs to change to prepare, specifically, high school students for college, for work and for life.
I gave this book 5 stars because it changed my thinking on the subject. I have kids, I have worked within the school systems and I am highly opinionated about what should be taught and how. This book made me re-examine my opinions and change some of them. And any book that makes me do that is a great book IMO.
The author discusses the fact that the worl...more
A enjoyable read. He makes his case for a radical transformation of what we teach, how we teach and how we assess and hold institutions accountable for preparing our students for the realities of the 21st century.

A couple of excerpts:

What college teacher said students were unprepared to do:
• 70 percent say students do not comprehend complex reading materials
• 66 percent say students cannot think analytically
• 65 percent say students lack appropriate work and study habits
• 62 percent say students...more
Very interesting reading for those interested in education reform. Wagner talked with many corporate employers to find out what skills they wanted their new employees to possess. Surprise, surprise, it's not necessarily what the schools teach, even the best ones. The emphasis on content and testing is not what's needed. Wagner then presents his Seven Survival Skills that today's students need in order to be successful in college and in life. These skills will help students to adapt in an ever-ch...more
Ken Rideout
Two major premises of Wagner's book I don't really agree with:

1. Corporate & business types know what is best for K-12 education.
2. The current internet-enabled generation is fundamentally different from all previous generations.

Also, Wagner has a clear lack of understanding of math & science and is on very shaky ground whenever discussing these subjects. He makes claims such as the periodic table is "constantly changing" (it is not) and says something like, "No one has explained to me t...more
This is a very interesting read. I certainly agree with the need to cultivate in our children the "seven survival skills" described by Wagner: critical thinking, collaboration, adaptability, initiative, effective oral and written communication, research and analysis, and curiosity and imagination - along with our need to encourage students to be more invested and accountable in their education. Chapter 5 on Motivating Students and New Workers seemed to be the weakest in an otherwise forceful boo...more
Tom Krawczewicz
Take away(s):

1. Ask the right questions
2. Have the students learn to ask the questions

leadership: influence vs. authority

communication skills are big

ask why. Why do you say/believe/think that?

Accessing and analyzing information

math lesson (p. 65 and 66):
- a problem they have not seen before
- use prior knowledge and group...
- come up with TWO (2) possible solutions
- randomly pick one member of group to present each solution to class

(92) does advanced math train us to be better problem solvers...more
John Young
A few weeks ago, I heard Tony Wagner speak in New York. I was so impressed with what he said about skills students need exiting school today that I wanted to learn more. Published in 2008, Wagner's work has influenced policy making decisions across our country's schools. He contends that, while there many criticize public schools, the criticism is misguided. He argues that schools have not failed; rather, schools have become obsolete. This is a major shift in a time when "accountability and sanc...more
Not a perfectly objective book, making plenty of references to Wagner's consulting efforts in the same vein. Nevertheless, this is a critically important book for anyone who wants to better understand what is required to improve what goes on in US classrooms and how to improve the organization of teachers and administrators around that object. An important related paper was completed in 2007 by McKinsey & Company reviewing the performance of US students in the international PISA exam Wagner...more
Janice Krinsky
The well-written and thoughtful book by leading educator Tony Wagner provides a compelling argument for overhauling our educational system in the United States. Dissatisfied with the traditional teacher training he received at Harvard University, he set out to discover what skills are needed by today's students to succeed in college and careers. He spent years engaging CEOS and other corporate and company leaders and owners and college professors in discussions about the skills most important to...more
This was a great book! It made me think about a lot of important things and inspired me to want to go out and make a difference! It reminded me a lot of the movie “Waiting for Superman,” but it had more specific ideas for improving education and the culture of education in our country now. It reminded me so much of the work I was doing in DC – to inspire educators to be leaders and to encourage a culture change at the Department of Education. This is such interesting and important stuff! Educati...more
Mar 16, 2009 Dolly rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Educators, School Administrators and Parents
Shelves: 2009, nonfiction
This is a very good book that really challenges our perception of what secondary school should offer to our children and how best to prepare them for college and the workplace. It offers strong criticism of the "No Child Left Behind" Act and insists that the curriculum that's been taught for the last 50 years is no longer adequate in today's fast-paced technologically saturated world.

The seven survival skills that need to be taught (according to the author) include the following:
1. Critical Thi...more
Wagner argues that our school systems were designed for the needs of students 100 years ago. That No Child Left Behind has encouraged schools and teachers to emphasize content over everything including learning, curiosity and skills. This is ridiculous in a world with the internet. Children don't need to memorize facts, they need to know how to interpret and evaluate vast quantities of facts. The ability to ask and answer questions is far better than "knowing something."

Wagner presents seven "su...more
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  • 21st Century Skills: Learning for Life in Our Times
  • The Flat World and Education: How America's Commitment to Equity Will Determine Our Future
  • Catching Up or Leading the Way: American Education in the Age of Globalization
  • Curriculum 21: Essential Education for a Changing World
  • Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns
  • A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change
  • Tested: One American School Struggles to Make the Grade
  • Why Don't Students Like School?: A Cognitive Scientist Answers Questions About How the Mind Works and What It Means for the Classroom
  • Making Thinking Visible
  • Doing School: How We Are Creating a Generation of Stressed-Out, Materialistic, and Miseducated Students
  • Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms
  • The Unschooled Mind: How Children Think And How Schools Should Teach
  • Teaching as Leadership: The Highly Effective Teacher's Guide to Closing the Achievement Gap
  • The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education
  • Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives
  • Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland?
  • Work Hard. Be Nice.: How Two Inspired Teachers Created the Most Promising Schools in America
  • Focus: Elevating the Essentials to Radically Improve Student Learning
Tony Wagner recently accepted a position as the first Innovation Education Fellow at the Technology & Entrepreneurship Center at Harvard. Prior to this, he was the founder and co-director of the Change Leadership Group at the Harvard Graduate School of Education for more than a decade.

Tony consults widely to schools, districts, and foundations around the country and internationally. His previo...more
More about Tony Wagner...
Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World Change Leadership: A Practical Guide to Transforming Our Schools Making the Grade: Reinventing America's Schools How Schools Change: Lessons from Three Communities Revisited The Global Achievement Gap: Why Even Our Best Schools Don't Teach the New Survival Skills Our Children Need�and What We Can Do About It

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