5 Education Documentaries That Could Change Your Life

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Shorter Version


Est. Reading Time: 2 Minutes

Netflix, Hulu, and other streaming services have made access to movies and TV incredibly easy, and watching a documentary is a convenient and informative way to learn about a topic. With so many choices, however, it can be challenging to find quality, non-biased documentaries. No one wants to spend two hours watching something that wasn’t worthwhile, right? Not to worry – we did the work for you!

The picks

Whether you are interested in the history of education, inequality and segregation within education, gaining insight on pursuing post-secondary education for yourself, or learning the education dos and don’ts for your children, documentaries can provide a vast amount of information on matters within teaching, learning, and education as a whole.

Sit back and enjoy the following education documentaries featuring current, informative, and important matters in education today:

1. Teach Us All

Year: 2017

Length: 1 hour 20 minutes


From IMDb:

“On the eve of the 60th anniversary of the 1957 Little Rock school desegregation crisis, educational inequality remains among the most urgent civil rights issues of our time. With its school district hanging in the balance following a state takeover in January 2015, Little Rock today presents a microcosm of the inequities and challenges manifesting in classrooms all across America. Through case studies in Little Rock, New York City, and Los Angeles, Teach Us All seeks to bring the critical lessons of history to bear on the current state of U.S. education and investigate: 60 years later, how far have we come-or not come-and how do we catalyze action from here?”


2. College, Inc.

Year: 2010

Length: 56 minutes


From pbs.org:

“An investigation into for-profit colleges and universities that raises concerns about aggressive job placement promises, questionable enrollment and recruiting practices, and disproportionate debt loads. Soon after the documentary aired in 2010, Congress held hearings to investigate. One of the institutions featured in the documentary, Corinthian Colleges, closed in 2015 after the Department of Education fined it nearly $30 million for “misrepresentation of job placement rates to current and prospective students.”



3. The Bad Kids

Year: 2016

Length: 1 hour 41 minutes


From TheBadKidsMovie.com:

“The Bad Kids is an observational documentary that chronicles one extraordinary principal’s mission to realize the potential of these students whom the system has deemed lost causes.  Employing a verité approach during a year at the school, our film follows Principal Vonda Viland as she coaches three at-risk teens––a new father who can’t support his family, a young woman grappling with sexual abuse, and an angry young man from an unstable home––through the traumas and obstacles that rob them of their spirit and threaten their goal of a high school diploma.”


4. Waiting for ‘Superman’

Year: 2010

Length: 1 hour 51 minutes


From IMDb:

“Filmmaker Davis Guggenheim reminds us that education “statistics” have names: Anthony, Francisco, Bianca, Daisy, and Emily, whose stories make up the engrossing foundation of WAITING FOR SUPERMAN. As he follows a handful of promising kids through a system that inhibits, rather than encourages, academic growth, Guggenheim undertakes an exhaustive review of public education, surveying “drop-out factories” and “academic sinkholes,” methodically dissecting the system and its seemingly intractable problems.”


5. American Promise

Year: 2013

Length: 2 hours 15 minutes


From amdoc.org:

“American Promise spans 13 years as Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson, middle-class African-American parents in Brooklyn, N.Y., turn their cameras on their son, Idris, and his best friend, Seun, who make their way through Dalton, one of the most prestigious private schools in the country. Chronicling the boys’ divergent paths from kindergarten through high school graduation, this provocative, intimate documentary presents complicated truths about America’s struggle to come of age on issues of race, class and opportunity.”



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Actionable Steps


Grab the popcorn

Sit back and enjoy! There’s nothing like a great Netflix binge on a topic you’re passionate about.


Keep learning

After you’ve watched the documentaries recommended in this article, stay sharp and continue learning by exploring the links in the last actionable step. There are tons of other great education documentaries available – no digging necessary!


Take notes

These documentaries are packed with fascinating information. Grab a pen and paper or your laptop to take notes as you watch.


Reflect and ask questions

Review your notes and do some reflection. Think about areas that you have questions about, and conduct some research of your own to answer them.


Read the longer version

You can learn more about must-watch education documentaries by reading the following articles, reviewed to be the best by our professionals: “The Best Documentaries About Education”- Ranker. “9 Education Documentaries on Netflix to Stream in 2019”- Rasmussen College. “90+ Education Documentaries to Challenge and Inspire”- Etale.org.

Still need help? Ask the coaches!

About the Author

Dr. Alyssa Harmon-Salter

Dr. Alyssa Harmon-Salter

Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership

Alyssa holds an Ed. D. in Educational Leadership from Northern Arizona University. For the last 7 years, she has coached hundreds of college students on how to be successful academically and in prepping for a job.
Full Bio | LinkedIn

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