Newsela is a leveled reading program for students in grades 3 through high school students. It begins with news stories that are rewritten to correspond to different levels of reading complexity. The product first became available in beta in June 2013. As of March 2014, the team also offers "Pro" versions of the product with annual fees that are approximately at $18 per student.
The idea behind Newsela has been something of a holy grail for literacy programs: Create a way to present leveled texts, appropriate for a wide variety of learners. Newsela starts by selecting news stories published by McClatchy-Tribune papers that are likely to have some interest or relevance to students. (McClatchy-Tribune is a partner. News sources include the Seattle Times, Orlando Sentinel, the Associated Press, the LA Times, and the Chicago Tribune.) Newsela has hired journalists to rewrite those stories at different grade levels. Each story is published at four different lexile reading levels as well as in its original form, for a total of five different reading levels.
Students take short quizzes, aligned with Common Core standards and associated with the different lexile levels to assess their comprehension. If they struggle with the quiz, they can read the story at a lower lexile level (or similarly at a more complex level if they ace the quizzes). Because all students get a chance to absorb the same material, however, teachers can lead class discussions on the article topics with all students, no matter what their reading level. Because the articles are drawn from current news feeds, the topics are relevant and timely.
Newsela includes a dashboard of analytics so that teachers can track student progress.
The free version of Newsela (which schools can use) enables students to read current events articles every day at the different lexile levels and track their progress through quizzes.
Newsela Pro (which has an annual fees of about $18 per student, $2,000 for a grade or $6,000 for a school) enables teachers to track individual and class-wide progress, assign specific articles, run progress reports and track against Common Core reading and writing standards.
The product is being developed by a company called Whipsmart Learning, which is led by two Teach for America alums: Matthew Gross, founder and CEO, was previously director of the Regents Research Fund in New York and a VP at Pencil. Whipsmart's chief product officer, Dan Cogan-Drew, was most recently the Director of Digital Learning at Achievement First Public Charter Schools in Connecticut.