Fifteen education documentaries that need to be made

“I'd love to see some in-depth movie on the effects of high-stakes testing on teaching and learning. What's the evidence that high-stakes testing is good or bad for actual learning?" said one reader.

Although last year’s feature-length documentary Waiting for ‘Superman’ called attention to the plight of students in struggling schools, critics of the film noted that it focused on a very narrow set of causes and solutions to the problem, framing it solely from the perspective of those whom education historian Diane Ravitch calls “corporate school reformers” rather than educators on the front lines of the issue.

Since the film’s release, many educators have called for a more balanced film that delves into the challenges of U.S. public education from other points of view as well.

We recently asked readers: “If you could choose a topic to be the focus of a movie/documentary about education, what would it be and why?”

After receiving an overwhelming response, suggesting there’s incredible demand for other documentaries about U.S. public education, we’ve chosen the top 15 ideas proposed by readers—based on the number of responses each topic garnered, the pertinence of the subject, and the creativity of the response.

What do you think of these topics? Share your thoughts, and your own ideas for documentaries you’d like to see made, in the comments section below.

15. STEM education for teachers

“I am getting more and more concerned that many of our nation’s STEM teachers are not truly qualified to teach STEM-related subjects. Therefore, I would produce an in-depth documentary on what our present practices are and how to improve upon them in preparing STEM teachers, especially [in grades] 7-12. I would choose to make a documentary on how our nation’s schools of education prepare our public school STEM teachers. The reason that I would do this is: our nation has a dire shortage of STEM teachers; our nation’s STEM teachers have very little, if any, real-world experience prior to teaching their respective STEM content area; and to see how industry can step in and collaborate with our nation’s schools of education. What are the typical schools of education content area entrance requirements? Are our schools of education full of hard-science and/or engineering school dropouts?” —Paul M. Rutherford, Ph.D., physics educator, Project Lead The Way, Engineering Design & Development Instructor

14. Hybrid learning

“I would be very interested in learning of any school (U.S. or not) that offers hybrid instruction (any grade cluster), preferably where one semester is traditional (synchronous: students and teachers go to a building) and the other semester is asynchronous (online); then comparing achievement, [time] on task, ethics, rigor, relevance, long-term knowledge acquisition, etc. The industry is continually debating the pros and cons of these delivery methods, along with some traditional-online hybrids. Can a school be found that does both, for the purpose of analysis?”Vincent J. Hawkins, Ph.D., assistant superintendent, Springfield School District, Vt.

[Editor’s note: For a research report that looks at this very subject, see our recent story “Report cites 40 diverse examples of blended learning.”]

13. The effects, and implementation, of 21st-century technology

“High school curriculum, how boring and irrelevant it is at many schools; electronic and interactive textbooks—how we need to move away from the printed, outdated, heavy textbooks and how publishers need to work with schools. Are iPad/tablet devices the tipping point for schools? [I’d also like to see a documentary about the] inequality of internet access and digital media across the country—[especially in] rural, low-income areas.” —Lynda Congleton, technology integration specialist, Lee County School District, Ky.

I’d love to see a documentary that follows a school (or several schools) shifting from zero technology to becoming a wired/technology-infused system. There would be high drama in determining what technology would be used and how. Watching educators go through professional development on how to use technology would offer some inspiration as well as comedy, I’d guess. Students would have a key role, as they would likely transition pretty easily into using technology but would likely provide some challenges. For example, working in a tutoring center a few years ago, I consistently ‘caught’ some teenage boys trying to hack the security system so they could access some, uh, ‘inappropriate’ content.” —Susan Graham, director of school relations, AcademicMerit LLC, Portland, Maine

Meris Stansbury

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