Website review by Jennifer Sitkin, Common Sense Education | Updated October 2014


Independent website fact-checks political statements

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9–12 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.
Subjects & Skills
Social Studies, Character & SEL, Critical Thinking
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Pros: An easy way to track who's telling the truth in American politics; promotes inquiry, critical thinking, and discussion.

Cons: Liberals and conservatives question whether the site is impartial; complex issues don't always get the nuanced exploration they deserve.

Bottom Line: A tool to help students become independent thinkers and question what is said by those in positions of power.

Depending on the course or learning objective, teachers can create assignments that require students to explore the site in a targeted, intentional way. The Obama-Meter provides an evaluation of President Obama’s presidency that can inform students’ opinions on the success of his presidency; kids can use this tool as a starting point for exploring the relationship between what candidates promise in a campaign and what they ultimately deliver in office. Kids can discuss what those differences are and why they might exist. Students can search a specific issue, learn what candidates are saying about it, and discover whether their statements are true or false. As an extension activity, teachers may want students to watch the news and conduct research to rate the accuracy of what they hear. The site can be especially useful during an election cycle to help students determine which candidate to support; it offers an at-a-glance look at the overall truthfulness of all candidates, and some might find it extremely helpful.

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Politifact is a tool that helps people find out who's telling the truth in American politics. The site is run by the Tampa Bay Times, an independent newspaper, and it fact-checks statements made by elected officials, candidates, and pundits. The content is updated daily, and each fact-check is rated from True to Pants on Fire. Info text on the site explains the ratings, and there are links to relevant sources that support each rating. The site also tracks campaign promises made by President Obama and other elected officials, and identifies politicians who have flipped on a variety of issues. Users can search politicians' stances by issue, by rating, or by people. Along with the ratings, there are timely articles that cover key political topics both domestic and abroad.

Politifact can play an important role in encouraging students to question statements made by people in positions of power and influence. The site can be a good fit for a government course or for any course exploring current events. The Truth-O-Meter ratings should pique student interest and (hopefully) increase buy-in as kids explore particular critical issues and the political process in general. The site's methodology for evaluating political statements and campaign promises can act as a model for students to conduct their own research on what they hear or read in the media. Overall, the content on the site is written for adult consumption, and students will need teacher direction to provide context and help them hone their own lie-detection skills.

Overall Rating

Engagement Would it motivate students and hold their interest? Is it visually appealing? Would it inspire teachers to try something new or change their instruction?

The Truth-O-Meter ratings (True to Pants on Fire) should capture students’ attention. A good match for classrooms studying politics, elections, and the media's role in the political process.

Pedagogy Does the tool help teachers promote a more student-centered experience? Will students gain conceptual understanding or think critically? Does it deepen teachers’ pedagogical thinking?

Teachers will need to provide background information and develop lessons for classroom use. The Truth-O-Meter encourages students to question the accuracy of political statements.

Support Can students and teachers get assistance when they need it? Is it created with people of different abilities and backgrounds in mind? Is learning reinforced and extended beyond the digital experience?

It's visually appealing and easy to navigate, though not designed for the classroom. Straightforward text explains how the rating system works, and the developers encourage suggestions and comments.

Common Sense reviewer
Jennifer Sitkin Classroom teacher

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