I’m about halfway through The Smartest Kids in the World. Ripley is a good writer and sets the stage for her conclusions by telling the story of the three kids she followed as they completed an exchange program in Korea, Finland and Poland.
Here are some nuggets worth sharing.
About PISA:

Smart tests usually had to be graded by humans, at least in part, which is what made them expensive and rare.” (p.22)

About the Korean education system:

“In Korea, school never stopped.” (p.57)

“If kids did poorly in the United States, there was always a caveat: The test was unfair. Or, That’s okay! Not everyone can be good at math. In Korea, the lesson was cleaner: You didn’t work hard enough, and you had to work harder next time.” (p.57)

Competition had become an end unto itself, not the learning it was supposed to motivate.” (p.60)

“All the while, they (Korean parents and students) complained that the fixation on rankings and test scores was crushing their spirit, depriving them not just of sleep but of sanity.” (p.61)

“This faith in education and people had catapulted Korea into the developed world.” (p.64)

About the United States:

“By the time our (US) kids graduated from high school, less than half were prepared for freshman-year college math.” (p.71)

“American teachers taught with textbooks that were written to appease thousands of districts and many states all at once…That meant that American textbooks tended to be far too long — covering (and repeating) way too many topics in too little depth.” (p.74)

I’m hoping she gives us a neat conclusion — but it’s obviously a complex problem and her lessons might be embedded throughout. I’ll keep you posted.