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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

Tony Wagner

Retail Price: $16.95
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Format: Paperback, 344pp.
ISBN: 9780465002306
Publisher: Basic Books
Pub. Date: April 6, 2010

Average Customer Review:
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Description and Reviews
From The Publisher:

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 knowledge economy. Our teens leave school equipped to work only in the kinds of jobs that are fast disappearing from the American economy. Meanwhile, young adults in India and China are competing with our students for the most sought-after careers around the world.

Education expert Tony Wagner has conducted scores of interviews with business leaders and observed hundreds of classes in some of the nation’s most highly regarded public schools. He discovered a profound disconnect between what potential employers are looking for in young people today (critical thinking skills, creativity, and effective communication) and what our schools are providing (passive learning environments and uninspired lesson plans that focus on test preparation and reward memorization).

He explains how every American can work to overhaul our education system, and he shows us examples of dramatically different schools that teach all students new skills. In addition, through interviews with college graduates and people who work with them, Wagner discovers how teachers, parents, and employers can motivate the “net” generation to excellence.

An education manifesto for the twenty-first century, The Global Achievement Gap is provocative and inspiring. It is essential reading for parents, educators, business leaders, policy-makers, and anyone interested in seeing our young people succeed as employees and citizens.


The Global Achievement Gap is a must read for all policymakers as the Congress continues its debate on how best to reform the No Child Left Behind law…It’s time to stop harping on what’s wrong with our schools, and instead provide them with the tools that they need to produce competitive, connective, technologically proficient, hopeful young men and women ready to take on the challenges of a global economy and succeed.”
—U.S. Senator Daniel K. Inouye

“Tony Wagner takes us deep inside the black box of school curriculum in a way few authors have done. What do we mean by rigor? By 21st century skills? Wagner shows us concretely what thinking skills really are, how current approaches to ‘raising standards’ cannot get us there, and what will. Everyone concerned with American education should read this book.”
—Linda Darling-Hammond, Charles E. Ducommun Professor of Education, Stanford University

“Tony Wagner has managed to penetrate the jargon and over-simplified responses to the pervasive underachievement that exists among our students. He has charted an important new direction and given us a way to get there. This book deserves to be powerfully influential.”
—Mel Levine

“Tony Wagner argues persuasively that old ways of teaching are completely unsuited to new ways of working. The Global Achievement Gap should be grabbed by business leaders to guide a much-needed conversation with educators.”
—Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Harvard Business School Professor and author of America the Principled and Confidence

“In The Global Achievement Gap, Tony Wagner offers a thoughtful analysis of where we are in American public education (behind the times), and what we need to do to adapt to the future that is upon us. Drawing upon years of accumulated wisdom as a teacher, principal, trainer, and well-traveled observer of schools, Wagner builds a persuasive case for change in the way we approach schooling, grounded in the question, what does it mean to be an educated person in the 21st century?”
—Dr. Richard C. Atkinson, President Emeritus, University of California

The Global Achievement Gap is thoughtful and inspirational. It describes how, in these changing times, schools too must change if the US is to remain a strong economic and intellectual leader in the world, and it offers creative solutions and examples of success. This book will capture your head, your heart and, I hope, your future actions. This is a VERY important book for anyone who cares about preparing young people for success in a rapidly changing global society. Every school board member, administrator, teacher and parent in the nation should read this book.”
—Anne L. Bryant, Executive Director, National School Boards Association

“Tony Wagner is not just talking about our schools here—he is talking about the future our nation. The Global Achievement Gap cuts through the complexity and partisan posing so often associated with this genre. It is a powerful call to action, and a roadmap of how to fundamentally rethink the education of our children. If we ignore it, we do so at great peril.”—Keith R. McFarland, author of #1 Wall Street Journal and New York Times Bestseller, The Breakthrough Company: How Everyday Companies Become Extraordinary Performers

“Kudos to Tony Wagner….Many people have been cursing the darkness of our education system, but by breaking down the many dilemmas that students, teachers and parents face as well as examining different approaches that have been successful, Wagner lights a candle for those who want to help, but don't know where to start. Whether we can transition through these exciting and perilous times will depend upon the culture we leave our young people. Tony Wagner has provided a map.”
—John Abele, Founding Chairman, Boston Scientific, Board Chair, FIRST

“This important book is a wake-up call for America. For over fifty years, our schools have stayed the same, while the world has changed dramatically. Students memorize academic content, and study for standardized tests, but they never learn how to think, solve problems, or be creative. Wagner’s stories about the few remarkable schools that are transforming classroom instruction and pointing the way to the future are compelling. Every parent, teacher, politician, and executive should read this book.”
—Keith Sawyer, author of Group Genius

“In this persuasive book, Tony Wagner delineates what skills are needed in a globalized era, why most American schools can’t nurture them, and how today’s schools could be transformed to cultivate tomorrow’s skills.”
—Howard Gardner, author of Five Minds for the Future

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About the Author

Tony Wagner is co-director of the Change Leadership Group (CLG) at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He consults to schools, districts, and foundations and served as Senior Advisor to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. He has appeared on The Today Show, NPR, McNeil/Lehrer News Hour and writes for Education Week. A former high school teacher and principal, he is the author of Change Leadership, Making the Grade, and How Schools Change. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Table of Contents

1The New World of Work and the Seven Survival Skills1
2The Old World of School43
3Testing, 1 2 378
4Reinventing the Education Profession126
5Motivating Today's Students - and Tomorrow's Workers167
6Closing the Gap: Schools That Work207
Conclusion: A Few Answers - and More Questions255

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