USA Today, Curriculet Partner to Build Literacy Through News Stories

Senior Editor

Austin, Texas

In the latest marriage of the education and media industries, 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, with the stated goal of building students’ literacy skills and civics knowledge.

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

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USA Today is one of the biggest names in journalism—a newspaper with 1.8 million daily print subscribers and 6.6 million combined print and online readers. 

The digital-reading company and the news organization will have a “shared business partnership,” with both sides drawing revenue when buyers in K-12 systems choose to use the program, said Jason Singer, the CEO of Curriculet, in an interview. (I spoke with Singer about the announcement of the deal at the South by Southwest EDU conference here, where he appeared on a panel that I moderated on the evolution of digital reading and its benefits and drawbacks.)

The news-based program will be free to users for the first 45 days. Then, beginning this fall, a 52-week subscription will cost $4.99 per student.

Students and teachers who annotate materials through Curriculet today currently draw mostly from a library of books and public-domain content. The new deal makes sense to the company, Singer said, because it adds to those resources, and because Curriculet has heard a strong demand from educators for materials that are “relevant and timely.”

The agreement will mean that “if it’s in the news today, tomorrow it will be on Curriculet,” said Singer, with tomorrow meaning within 24 hours.

The idea of partnering with a big-name news organization with a reputation for objectivity, rather than one with an ideological slant, also appealed to Curriculet, he added. USA Today is a brand that can appeal to “every district in America,” Singer said.

The program will allow for annotations and assessments tailored to the different skills of elementary, middle, and high school students. Curriculet’s platform will also allow students to pair USA Today-generated articles with materials from other sources. Singer used the example of students using news stories about yesterday’s events commemorating the 1965 march in Selma, Ala., with other contemporary resources, or books and documents from the Civil Rights era.

USA Today is not the first news organization to make a commercial arrangement with a member of the education industry. The New York Times recently announced plans to work with an investment firm, the CIG Education Group, on a commercial venture to offer courses and programs for high school and college students, as well as continuing education.

Another renowned news-gatherer, the Washington Post, was for years the owner of Kaplan, a provider of test-prep, college courses, and other services. But when the Post was sold in 2013 to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Kaplan became part of the Graham Holdings Co.

John McGee, the vice-president of national education sales for USA Today, touted the arrangement with Curriculet as a way to increase students’ grasp of civics, as well as the current events that his organization covers.

“National and international events are increasingly becoming the center of public conversation, so it’s important that this generation has a strong grasp of current events, civics, and geography,” McGee said in a statement. “Paired with Curriculet’s focus on close reading, we know this partnership will be a crucial contribution to education.”

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