Author Amanda Ripley readily admits that as an investigative reporter for Time, The Atlantic and other publications, she avoided covering education for years, considering it too “soft.” Fast forward six years and the author of The Smartest Kids in the World has become a leading voice on the American education system, its problems — and ways to fix them.
While covering Michelle Rhee, the controversial superintendent of schools in Washington, D.C., Ripley started to feel the urgency many teachers expressed.
She soon embarked on a year-long investigation, following three American exchange students to Poland, Finland and South Korea from 2010 to 2011. Each country has a different approach to education — from the pressure-cooker model to the utopian one — and all three have made marked progress in their students’ overall performance. NationSwell spoke with Ripley recently after she headlined a panel at the fifth annual Women in the World conference in New York City. Here are six things we learned about recharging our education system.