Review by Patricia Monticello Kievlan, Common Sense Education | Updated February 2020

Newsela

Great stories, just-right leveled reading; now mostly by subscription

Subjects & skills
Subjects
  • English Language Arts
  • Social Studies

Skills
  • Critical Thinking
Grades This grade range is based on learning appropriateness and doesn't take into account privacy. It's determined by Common Sense Education, not the product's publisher.
2–12
Common Sense says (See details)
Teachers say (69 Reviews)
Privacy rating (How we rate)

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Pros: A best-in-class library of high-interest, cross-curricular, adjustable nonfiction texts.

Cons: Expanded search and recommendation features could help students better connect with articles. Many previously free features and texts are now subscription only.

Bottom Line: Up-to-date, high-interest articles will meet students right at their level, and help teachers bolster students' nonfiction reading skills.

Newsela changed its pricing structure starting in the 2019-2020 school year, making a mostly free service now mostly subscription-based. If you're not a paid subscriber, you'll find drastically less content available than there was before, and some of the best features (including reporting tools and vocabulary practice activities) are only available to paid users. That said, even in its slimmed-down free version, Newsela can be valuable for teachers, since there are still reading comprehension quizzes and writing prompts and annotation features. There's just a lot less content, so Newsela is likely to be a supplement to your curriculum rather than a central component.

Meanwhile, if your school or district springs for a subscription, you've got access to a huge library of the best leveled reading materials out there, and great classroom management and assessment features. Keep an eye on Newsela's Text Sets, which offer thematically curated texts as well as lesson plans and activities that can give students a more holistic picture of a topic. These rotate regularly, including timely content like a set of texts for Native American Heritage Month. Newsela's range of reading levels invites targeted intervention and differentiation. You can assign articles to individuals as well as small groups, using the quizzes to track progress and make further suggestions. Whole-class work has just as much potential; you can select articles for targeted instruction on specific reading standards while modeling good annotation and close-reading strategies for your students. Afterward, encourage them to practice independently. 

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Newsela is an online news-as-literacy platform that features high-interest articles on everything from current events to myths and legends and from literature to science. Users can choose a free account (which just features news and current events) or paid subscriptions that include daily news story updates and subject-specific products for ELA, social studies, science, and SEL. Content is updated daily, with stories from a wide range of sources (from the Associated Press to Scientific American to the Washington Post) in English and also often in Spanish. Topics run the gamut from pop culture to roller derby and Minecraft, and they touch on subjects that encourage cross-curricular reading, such as DNA testing, global women's rights, living conditions in Syria, and travel to Mars. All articles are available in five Lexile levels, ranging (roughly) from third to 12th grade. Each leveled text features a quiz tailored to that particular article plus a writing prompt that asks students to write and respond to what they've read. 

For teachers, the paid subscriptions offer the site's most useful options, including a dashboard to manage students' assignments and view both individual and class results, tracking progress toward meeting the related Common Core State Standards and Next Generation Science Standards. Subscription packages include Newsela Essentials (formerly Newsela PRO), which features news stories, and subject-specific subscription packages for four subjects: ELA, Social Studies, Science, and SEL. The subscription-based accounts are designed for implementation by schools and districts, and they include more features for tracking student progress, customizing their reading experience, and supporting teachers' professional learning. The subscription pricing isn't available online, so contact Newsela for a quote.

Full Disclosure: Newsela's platform includes some of Common Sense Education's Digital Citizenship curriculum; however, this partnership was established long after our initial review of Newsela.  Our reviews are also editorially independent, and are in no way influenced internally or externally by this partnership.

Newsela is a standout resource for supporting students' nonfiction literacy. The inclusion of adjustable Lexile levels for every text (and quiz) is a significant feat and gives Newsela a considerable leg up against competitors that offer more static nonfiction reading instruction. Additionally, the customized quizzes and structured writing prompts paired with each leveled text are an asset to teachers and students alike. These assessment features offer a rich, flexible way for students to demonstrate what they've learned, to practice their close reading skills, and to use their writing to analyze and discuss what they've read. It's especially powerful that there's so much content available in Spanish, making this a great tool for Spanish speakers or Spanish-language students, as well as for Spanish-speaking English language learners (ELLs). The fact that ELLs can toggle between the English and Spanish versions of a text and adjust the Lexile level in either language (for many, though not all, articles) is particularly groundbreaking. Features like a comprehensive built-in dictionary, an in-line translator, or audio supports could make students' experience even richer. Also, better search (vs. filtering) functionality could help the process of finding that just-right article feel more fruitful. These additions, however, would just bolster an already impressive, robust platform. 

Teachers -- especially those already familiar with Newsela -- should be aware of some changes in the pricing model. Much of Newsela's content used to be available for free; however, in 2019, the developer shifted most of the texts and assessment features (including CCSS and NGSS alignment information) behind the paywall of subscription-based accounts. With a paid account, teachers gain more customization options plus access to students' assessment data that can help guide instruction and target instructional interventions. Without a subscription, there's a much slimmer, more static content library to choose from, and this more limited experience makes Newsela stand out less from other leveled reading tools teachers might use. Overall, Newsela is an exceptional tool for bringing current events and high-interest nonfiction texts to students -- it's just a shame that its new price tag may put it out of many students' reach.

Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

High-interest news articles are updated daily in a simple, clean design that focuses on the texts and supporting images. When students read right at (or just above) their level, they're much more likely to be engaged.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

Students can read texts at multiple levels, in English and Spanish, without compromising depth or relevance. Brief comprehension quizzes, annotation exercises, and writing prompts help them respond and demonstrate understanding.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

Adjusting reading levels and language makes for an excellent, flexible reading experience. There's lots of great info to help teachers get started, but most of the best support features are available only by subscription.


Common Sense Reviewer
Patricia Monticello Kievlan Foundation/nonprofit member

Teacher Reviews

(See all 69 reviews) (69 reviews) Write a review
Featured review by
Elizabeth B. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
Brookside School
Springville, United States
Pro Paywall Makes Tool Useless
This tool used to be great before they locked everything up. It is a little frustrating to try to find an article on the Maya or Aztecs, only to be faced with a snippet of article and a "pay to read more." I'm not talking a few articles and subjects locked up, EVERY ONE of their articles in their library is designated as "PRO." I guess its great if you can get your organization to pay for it. As for me, I'm out of luck.
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Data Safety
How safe is this product?
Users can interact with trusted users and/or students.
Unclear whether users can interact with untrusted users, including strangers and/or adults.
Unclear whether profile information is shared for social interactions.
Data Rights
What rights do I have to the data?
Unclear whether opt-in consent is requested from users at the time personal information is collected.
Unclear whether users can control their information through privacy settings.
Users can create or upload content.
Ads & Tracking
Are there advertisements or tracking?
Data are not shared for third-party advertising and/or marketing.
Traditional or contextual advertisements are displayed.
Behavioral or targeted advertising is displayed.
Continue reading about this tool's privacy practices, including data collection, sharing, and security.