Newsela Puts Focus on Science, With Standards in Mind

Managing Editor
A recent news story about dinosaurs, above, was tapped by Newsela to provide science content.

Newsela, a company that customizes news articles to build students’ literacy skills, is making a new push into science, in the latest example of providers attempting to meet schools’ demands for standards-aligned content in that subject.

The company is partnering with the publication Scientific American to produce articles meant to be aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards, which have been taken up by a cluster of states—as well as by individual school districts.

As the use of the standards have risen, so has interest among commercial providers in finding ways to deliver material focused on science to schools.

Newsela uses articles from media outlets like Associated Press and the Washington Post, tailoring the language to different reading levels, and creating quizzes built into its online platform that allow teachers to gauge students’ progress. 

The company says more than 500,000 teachers in 70 percent of all U.S. public schools are using its platform. Newsela currently provides news articles across a variety of academic disciplines, with content that is designed to mesh with the Common Core State Standards.

The company already had plenty of science-focused stories loaded into its site—in fact, the subject was “by far” the most popular content area among users, said Matthew Gross, Newsela’s founder and CEO. And Newsela had already been using Scientific American’s content for some time.

But the creation of “Newsela for Science,” marks the company’s first effort to direct readers to science content that is aligned to the next-generation standards, he said.

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Other companies have sought to capitalize on news media to deliver educational content. Earlier this year, Curriculet announced a partnership with USA Today to allow teachers to weave digital assessments and annotations into their own texts of the newspaper’s stories, in the hope of building students’ literacy skills and civics knowledge.

Curriculet is a digital-reading platform that allows for the embedding of questions, quizzes, and notes into online content.

Gross said Newsela’s goal is give educators who are already trying to engage students in science through project-based learning and other means another way to lure young people into the study of the natural world.

Many science teachers have told Gross “the entire way I teach is through project-based learning,” he explained. Educators and policymakers have bemoaned U.S. students’ middling performance in the subject, he noted, but “if teachers can find meaningful ways to engage students in science, we’re going to succeed.”

Newsela convenes a group of science teachers who help the company select relevant articles and judge their alignment with the Next Generation Science Standards, Gross said. It follows a similar process with other content it uses.

Gross thinks that many science teachers will use Newsela to introduce students to a new topic, or to supplement lessons with reading material that helps them make sense of how what they’re covering in class plays out in the real world.

The company currently has about 40 different news partners, Gross said. He declined to comment on the specifics of how the business arrangement with Scientific American will work, though he noted that the company’s news partners are paid for the content they provide.

Newsela contends that media outlets stand to gain by partnering with the educational company, Gross said, partly because the platform helps them reach and cultivate loyalty among a next generation of readers. 

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One thought on “Newsela Puts Focus on Science, With Standards in Mind

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