Podcasts to help rethink high school

Podcasts to jumpstart community conversations about how to rethink high school and create schools where all students thrive

Podcasts offer a tremendous opportunity for busy parents and educators to listen to an episode and come together to discuss hot-button parenting and education issues, from how to help your child find their purpose to the vast racial and social inequities in our American school system.

This curated list features our top picks for podcasts that explore the problems, and solutions, facing American families and schools in their efforts to do better for our children.

Rethinking high school

The problem with high school

(Like a Sponge, 26 minutes)
Most high schools have been using the same old playbook for more than a century. Why haven’t they caught up with the times?

Start college now?

(Like a Sponge, 18 minutes)
One small Texas early college high school is doing what many high schools try but fail to do: prepare all students for college success.

Sampling the future

(Like a Sponge, 20 minutes)
How can teens sample their future? This Georgia high school has a pathway program that leads to college, careers, even stardom.


School culture makeover

(Like a Sponge, 21 minutes)
What happens when a high school realizes that their strict behavior rules are doing more harm than good? One Massachusetts charter school revamped their school culture one relationship at a time.

Banishing bias from school

(Like a Sponge, 32 minutes)
A Pennsylvania high school rebuilt its culture through an antiracist lens. A Texas teacher’s culturally responsive teaching builds on the strengths and needs of her students.

Navigating the world

(Like a Sponge, 24 minutes)
How can high schools put student aspirations first? This Rhode Island high school swept aside the old high school model to send students out to explore the world — and even sail the high seas.

Inequities in high school

Three Miles

(This American Life, 56 minutes)
A sobering look at two schools close in proximity, but worlds apart. This episode from 2015 features a public school in the country’s poorest congressional district that is three miles away from a private school with an annual tuition of $43,000. A program brings the students together. This is what happens when the students in the public school system see what they are missing.

The Campus Tour Has Been Canceled

(This American Life, 56 minutes)
During the pandemic, most colleges stopped requiring the SAT for admission. Often criticized for discriminating against underserved students, the SAT’s pause raises questions about what it means for college-aspiring students from all socioeconomic backgrounds who may find college more accessible without this test as a barrier.

Nice White Parents

(The New York Times and Serial productions, 5 episodes, 1 hour each)
An honest look at how the best intentions by white parents create or worsen so many of the ills that plague our national school system. The people who lose out? The Black and brown families who mostly don’t get spots in the few well-resourced schools that are staffed with the best teachers — and serve mostly white students.


Harper High School

(This American Life, Part 1: 54 minutes; Part 2: 52 minutes)
This two-part series is an immersive look at Harper High School in Chicago. Reporters spent five months at the school, where within one year 29 students were shot. What is it like to live, and study, in the midst of such constant and chronic violence and trauma?

Is This Working?

(This American Life, 51 minutes)
A painful look at what various school administrators do to discipline misbehaving kids. While there’s no general agreement about what teachers should do to discipline kids, there’s evidence that some of the most popular punishments actually harm kids.

The Problem We All Live With

(This American Life, Part I: 55 minutes, Part II: 55 minutes)
The problem is segregation and America’s efforts, and failures, to integrate schools. The first episode centers on an integration program in the Normandy School District, which borders Ferguson, Missouri, where 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot and killed.

The new science of learning

The power of purpose

(Like a Sponge, 19 minutes)
Just 40 percent of adults say they feel a strong sense of purpose, but research shows that a sense of purpose makes people happier, healthier, and more successful. We look at how to guide kids toward a meaningful life.

The m-word

(Like a Sponge, 28 minutes)
Essential? No doubt. Well-loved? Nope. GreatSchools’ Carol Lloyd explores why math fills so many Americans with fear and loathing, and what experts are doing to change the math story for your child.

This is only a test

(Like a Sponge, 37 minutes)
Standardized testing: Irrelevant waste of class time or essential tool to ensure kids don’t slip through the cracks? Like a Sponge looks at the many angles of this debate.