The Ultimate Media Guide for Leaders in Education

The role of multimedia - movies, books, news, podcasts, etc. - on the field of education is vast. Education in America has been examined through various lenses throughout its history, with voices from all sides sharing their viewpoints on education systems and processes. This is a crucial part of advancing any institution, as the sharing of information leads to the development of new practices and ideals that push boundaries.

For this reason, and many others, deeply examining education through all forms of media is of the utmost importance to society. Equally important is for education influencers themselves to stay abreast of the themes and ideas being discussed across these various media forms. With this in mind, has been working on a guide to the best documentaries, books, podcasts and more that will help leaders in education stay current and, in some cases, gain insight and inspiration into how they can influence change within their education communities.

Click the media form that interests you most and explore our picks! Did we miss something you feel is even better than our choices? Email us at [email protected]!

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Top Documentaries for Leaders in Education

In recent years, numerous documentaries on education have emerged that cover a wide range of topics including segregation in schools, bullying, and testing. Although there are dozens worth checking out, we narrowed our list down to six well-crafted documentaries that are essential viewing for influencers in the education space.

Girl Rising (2013)

Directed by Richard E. Robbins, Girl Rising tells the story of nine girls from across the developing world as they struggle to gain access to education against heavy odds. This inspirational yet unsettling documentary tackles the sexism and inequality in the global educations system and features narration from Anne Hathaway, Selena Gomez and more!

The Rule (2014)

Directed by Jerome Bongiorno and Marylou Tibaldo-Bongiorno, The Rule takes a deep look at how a benedictine prep school located in inner-city Newark, New Jersey beats statistics to boast a nearly 100% college acceptance rate for at-risk teenage boys. This PBS production is a riveting look at what methods work for the monks running the historic school.

Beyond Measure (2014)

Directed by Vicki Abeles, Beyond Measure follows a group of educational thought leaders exploring the concept of a “new” type of classroom founded in expert research across psychology, child development, and education practices. For educators looking for inspirational, out of the box thinking - be sure to check this one out!

Bully (2011)

Perhaps the most widely known of the documentaries on this list, Bully, directed by Lee Hirsch is a harrowing look at five young students experiences with bullying in schools. This film is essential viewing for educators and administrators as a reminder of the struggles kids are dealing with on a daily basis.

American Promise (2013)

A documentary 13 years in the making from filmmakers Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson tracks the journey of two middle-class black families through the U.S. education system. The film directly tackles issues of race, class, and equal opportunity within the context of the education system - particularly in inner cities.

Most Likely to Succeed (2015)

Most Likely to Succeed: From acclaimed director Greg Whiteley comes Most Likely to Succeed, a no holds barred look at how “traditional” forms of education are failing students. The film examines the history of education in America as well as new transformative approaches that could revolutionize K-12 education as we know it.

Top Books on Leadership in Education

Staying up to date on the literature that discusses trends and problems within education systems is essential for anyone involved in education. Teachers and education administrators alike can benefit from continual learning in their field, it is how the best of the best hone their skills. Below are some of the many books that we at feel are essential reading for those who want to make strides to improve all aspects of the education systems in which they find themselves.

Culturize: Every Student. Every Day. Whatever It Takes.

Author Jimmy Casas discusses the importance of cultivating culture within school systems. If leaders within an educational space can create a community of learners and educators that possess innate characteristics such as compassion and honesty. Harnessing these characteristics, according to Casas, is essential to success in 21st century learning.

In reading this book, you’ll learn:

  • How to reach those who seem unreachable.
  • What to do when students disengage or drop out of school.
  • How to ensure your learners feel cared for and empowered.
  • How to create an environment where all learners are challenged and inspired to be their best.

Kids Deserve It!: Pushing Boundaries and Challenging Conventional Thinking

Authors Todd Nesloney, Adam Welcome take a deep look at how challenging conventional thinking in teaching methods and education systems and can yield incredible results in their book Kids Deserve It: Pushing Boundaries and Challenging Conventional Thinking. Empowering and entertaining students, according to Nesloney and Welcome, can be just as important as educating them. The book also discusses in-depth, why cultivating parent-school relationships is so important - and offers valuable insight into how to improve this and various other forms of communication.

“Whether you are a parent, teacher, or administrator, this powerful little collection of ideas and stories will nurture your spirit and refresh your memory about why you chose to work with kids in the first place.” -Erik Wahl, artist, author, ambassador for kids

Lead Like a PIRATE: Make School Amazing for Your Students and Staff

From authors Shelley Burgess, Beth Houf comes Lead like a Pirate a book that has the power to change how leaders in education handle daily operations and interactions. The authors introduce the concept of pirate leadership, the idea that there are certain traits necessary to effectively “captain” a school or a district - and that these characteristics have actionable results.

Learn what it takes to be a PIRATE leader:

  • Passion--both professional and personal
  • A willingness to Immerse yourself in your work
  • Good Rapport with your staff, students and community
  • The courage to Ask questions and analyze what is and isn't working
  • The determination to seek positive Transformation
  • And the kind of Enthusiasm that gets others excited about education

Leverage Leadership

The wisdom of Leverage Leadership 2.0 by Paul Bambrick-Santoyo is rooted in thousands of observations of educational leaders from around the world. Each of the tips, theories, and trainings of Leverage Leadership 2.0 are based on actual case studies where leaders in education have found success. Using the framework see it, name it, do it the book features explicit details on how to make actionable change within schools and focuses on real-world implementation.

One of the more interesting points Leverage Leadership makes is that “Expert discussion and real-life success stories prove that effective leadership is not about innate charisma, charm, or personality--it's about how a leader uses their time.”

A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change

A new culture is a book founded in the belief that educational systems must be open to adapting with the times in order to be successful in their ultimate goal: to position students for prosperous lives. By understanding why how changes in the world affect education, authors Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown attempt to examine how teachers and administrators in education can harness these changes rather than resist them.

"A New Culture of Learning may provide for the digital media and learning movement what Thomas Paine's Common Sense did for the colonists during the American Revolution- a straightforward, direct explanation of what we are fighting for and what we are fighting against." - Henry Jenkins, Provost's Professor, USC

Savage Inequalities

Though the novel was written by Jonathan Kozol in 1991, the topics and themes at the center of savage inequalities are still highly prevalent today. In taking a deep look at the public school systems in East St. Louis, Chicago, New York City, Camden, Cincinnati, and Washington D.C., Kozol utilizes a wide sample of observations to compile insights on the state of education in America. His argument that racial segregation was still alive and well in 1991 is, arguably, still very true to this day.

"An impassioned book, laced with anger and indignation, about how our public education system scorns so many of our children." -- New York Times Book Review

The Life and Death of the American School System: How Testing and Choice are Undermining Education

This novel by Diane Ravitch should not only be essential reading for those directly influencing education across america, but for parents of any child in the public education system as well. The author, Diane Ravitch, is the former assistant secretary of education and renowned expert on curriculum and policy. Not only does she discuss at length the history and current state of the American education system, but also offers clear and actionable “prescriptions” for improving school is America, including:

  • Leave decisions about schools to educators, not politicians or businessmen
  • devise a truly national curriculum that sets out what children in every grade should be learning
  • expect charter schools to educate the kids who need help the most, not to compete with public schools

...and many more

Top Magazines and News Sources for Leaders in Education

Principal Leadership

Principal Leadership magazine, published monthly September through May, focuses on school leaders’ real needs, offering them practical, hands-on strategies for improving their schools in a constantly evolving educational environment.

School Administrator

School Administrator is AASA's award-winning monthly magazine. It provides big-picture perspectives and collegial advice on a broad range of topics specific to K-12 education and the leadership of public school districts.

Planning and Changing Journal

Planning and Changing, created by the Illinois State University School of Education, provides a forum for the presentation of issues and studies that inform current educational policy and practice.

Education Next

Education Next is a comprehensive web journal, blog, and database that keeps readers up to date on all matters related to the world of education. Education Next publishes daily, high quality content.

New York Times Education

From the world renowned editors and journalists at the New York Times, the Education section of the Times' online paper is a continual source of breaking news and thoughtful pieces on the current state of education.

NEA Today

NEA Today is the official publication from the National Education Association. It features both news and features on everything from security in schools to student mental health.

Education Week

Education Week, often called EdWeek, is an online news portal that features a wide range of articles and discussions primarily focoused on higher policy that is influencing schools nation-wide.

The Guardian Education

The Guardian Education section of their online news portal features education articles from around the world but highlights the goings-on of the United Kingdom in particular detail.

Education Dive

Education Dive is a great portal that breaks down its news into topics such as higher education, educational technology, curriculum, and policy. The site also regularly features fascinating interviews with education influencers

Top Podcasts for Leaders in Education

Podcasts have emerged as America's favorite platform for short-form audio entertainment. It seems there is a podcast for every interest - true crime fanatics, sports fans, movie buffs, the list goes on and on. For those who want to learn more about the education system or gain tips for managing their classroom, there are a number of excellent podcasts that discuss topics relevant to education. Here are just a few of our favorites:

    • The Cult of Pedagogy: Hosted by Jennifer Gonzalez, The Cult of Pedagogy tackles teaching strategies, classroom management, education reform, educational technology, and many other topics relevant to education influencers.
    • Educate: Host Stephen Smith tells stories about education, opportunity, and how people learn.
    • EdSurge On Air: Produced by EdSurge, this podcast discusses weekly news, interviews, and lively debates about the field of education technology.
    • Mind-U Although not specifically for educators, Mind-U is a great podcast for anyone who loves to learn. The podcast educates its listeners about various topics they might have not been aware of - and stimulates continual learning.
    • Every Classroom Matters: Every Classroom Matters, from BAm Radio and Host Vicki Davis, is a podcast that features a wide range of interviews and discussions with education influencers from all areas of the field.
    • Talks with Teachers: Talks with Teachers, like the name might suggest, is a podcast geared towards educators. The podcasts features interviews with influential teachers and is desgined to inspire other people in education to enact change in their schools.