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Note: This post is part of our "Netflix Academy: The best educational videos available for streaming" series. Be sure to check out our previous Netflix Academy posts on dinosaurs and the American founders.

We’re three weeks into our series on educational videos available to stream from Netflix or Amazon. Already one thing is clear: Content on science is a whole lot easier to find than good stuff on history, at least for the elementary school students who are my focus.

So it is with streaming videos on aquatic life (no pun intended!), with a lot of great choices for families.

Best videos on aquatic life available for streaming

1. Oceans

DisneyNature's Oceans

Dive into Oceans from Disneynature, the studio that brought you Earth, for a spectacular story about remarkable creatures under the sea. Stunning images await as you journey into the depths of a wonderland filled with mystery, beauty, and power.

Length: 85 minutes

Rating: G



On Tuesday night, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan was a featured guest on The Colbert Report. While some of us were expecting a little more oomph from Duncan’s responses, Stephen Colbert luckily kept us laughing with these education-themed zingers:

  • In honor of Constitution Day, Colbert started off with a little quiz of Duncan’s founding document knowledge: “Which of the following is not mentioned in the Constitution? The Department of Education or…it was the first one. Why do we have a Department of Education?”
  • Delving into Obama’s goals for education, Colbert quipped, “What is Race to the Top? And why does everything have to be about race with this guy?”…“As we race to the top, are we still leaving no child behind? Or do we have to cut them loose because they can’t race?”
  • Shifting gears to the Common Core State Standards, Colbert enquired about some of the potential instructional changes, namely students reading manuals and memos in lieu of literature. When Duncan was slow to take the bait, Colbert joked, “That was like pulling teeth without an instruction manual.”
  • When Duncan argued we need to
  • ...

Crayons versus Tablets?

In this week’s podcast, Michelle defends Toni Morrison, Mike laughs social-emotional learning out of the room, and both consider the possibilities of the “tablet revolution.” Dara takes us all on a field trip.

Amber's Research Minute

The Educational Value of Field Trips,” by Jay P. Greene, Brian Kisida, and Daniel H. Bowen, Education Next 14 (1).

This study reports on the first large-scale, randomized-control trial measuring the educational value of field trips. In 2011, the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art opened in Arkansas and, because of the high demand for tours, the authors were able to randomly select student groups to go. They matched participating groups with control groups based on similar grade level and demographics. In total, almost 11,000 students in grades K–12 at 123 schools were involved. About half of the students took a field trip to the art museum. They received a one-hour tour in which they viewed and discussed about five paintings. (Some had additional time in the museum.) Several weeks later, the authors gave a quiz to both the participating and control groups. Even after such a modest exposure to art, the results were pretty staggering: First, participating students were able to recall a great deal of information from their tour, showing that exposure to art and culture can be an important tool to relay content information to students. Second, participants demonstrated a greater ability to think critically about art—the authors showed students a painting they had never seen before and asked them to write about it. Third, they showed...

Education Next

It’s not exactly news that America’s education system is mediocre and expensive in international comparison. What’s less well known is that our schools’ ineffectiveness and inefficiency could have big implications for the country’s economic growth in decades to come. In a new book from the Brookings Institution Press, three of the world’s leading education scholars explain that nothing short of America’s prosperity is at risk due to our educational underperformance.

In today’s Education Next book club, Mike Petrilli speaks with all three authors—Eric Hanushek, Paul E. Peterson, and Ludger Woessmann—about the evidence they bring to bear in Endangering Prosperity: A Global View of the American School.

Additional installments of the Ed Next Book Club podcast can be heard here.

This post originally appeared on the Education Next blog. Check out the Education Gadfly Weekly for a short review of the book....

Note: This post is part of our Netflix Academy series. See background, and links to other educational videos worth streaming, here.

Constitution Day is Tuesday, which is an excellent opportunity to teach children about our nation’s founding (a subject required for study by the Common Core state standards).

That gave me an excuse to dig into the Netflix and Amazon archives to find videos that might be available that could help elementary school children learn about our founders, the Revolutionary War, and the big ideas of the Bill of Rights and the Constitution.

Unfortunately, there’s not much. Most of what’s online is a better fit for older students—probably middle schoolers—such as several of Ken Burns’ excellent documentaries.

But thanks to the wonderful animated shows Liberty’s Kids and the classic Schoolhouse Rock!, all is not lost.

As always, if I’ve missed something good that’s on Netflix or Amazon Prime, please let me know in the comments section below.

Best videos on George Washington and the American founders available for streaming

1. Liberty's Kids

Liberty's Kids


Sue, baby, sue!

Mike tries to goad an unflappable Michael Brickman into a fight on New York’s mayoral election, whether school choice is the only path to reform, and whether Arne Duncan is bullying California. Dara does the math on math teachers from TFA and Teaching Fellows.

Amber's Research Minute

The Effectiveness of Secondary Math Teachers from Teach for America and the Teaching Fellows Programs by Melissa A. Clark, et al., (Washington, D.C.: Institute of Education Sciences, September 2013).

I liked Preston Smith from the very start.

We talked about sports and music, teased each other like high school friends, and bonded over stories of our young kids and smart, loving wives. We also shared a hardscrabble past and a set of small shoulder chips that produced in both of us a forward-leaning posture and an abiding passion for education reform.

But there’s so much more to Preston, the CEO and co-founder of Rocketship Education, maybe the hottest CMO in America. He made it out of a tough neighborhood, attended and excelled at a top-flight university, joined Teach For America, won awards for his extraordinary teaching, served as a founding principal in his early twenties, and then started the first Rocketship school—turning both into the highest performing schools in San Jose, CA.

He worked his way up through the organization, and when CEO John Danner resigned in early 2013, Preston, at only 33, took the organization’s helm and was charged with overseeing both its existing eight schools and audacious national growth plans.

I was lucky enough to be part of a two-year...

If you missed “A Back-To-School Conversation About Education” on NPR’s The Diane Rehm Show with education secretary Arne Duncan and a panel of experts (including our own Mike Petrilli), here are the key takeaways:

  • Arne Duncan slams U.S. News and World Report’s ranking of U.S. colleges and talks up the Administration’s alternative;
  • Our Twitter klout score is nothing compared to Arne Duncan’s, something I was reminded of when guest host Susan Page asked about Duncan’s Tweet-heard-round-the-world on letting high school kids sleep later;
  • It’s possible Duncan overslept himself, since he was “not familiar” with the DOJ’s lawsuit against the Louisiana voucher program (yeah, right);
  • It’s bipartisan love when Duncan gives a shout out to Mike’s work on diversity in education and Mike is said to be more positive on Duncan than the liberal panelist (Richard Rothstein)
  • Mike gives his view on Common Core: the Feds should stay out, it’s state-led, and content is back, baby!

Listen to the recording here....

Behind the rise of Bill de Blasio in the race for New York City Mayor is his proposal to raise taxes (mainly on the rich) to pay for universal pre-K throughout the city. More schools for toddlers is always a winning campaign promise and, as de Blasio is right to assert, states and cities need to do better at preparing their youngest and most at-risk children to succeed in school. Pre-K today in New York, as in most places, is a fragmented potpourri of private and public programs—some very good, others not so much. For every Abbott Preschool Program, there is a Head Start center that does little to help children once they matriculate into elementary school. (I was once a student teacher at a Head Start site in New Orleans and saw both sides of the coin.)

Bill de Blasio photo from Wikipedia

If the goal of de Blasio is to close the achievement gap, stymieing the gap in a child’s formative years is much more rational strategy than waiting to combat the gap once it exists. For...