Jay McTighe: Beware of the Test Prep Trap

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In this era of accountability, educators throughout the nation are under pressure. Administrators are held accountable for student achievement in their schools as gauged by standardized tests. Increasingly, teachers’ evaluations include a percentage based on the results of test scores (at least in the tested grades and subjects). In some states, a school can be “reconstituted” if standardized assessment results do not improve over time. And in many communities, the test scores for a district or a school affect real estate values within their boundaries. Not surprisingly, these factors lead teachers and administrators to pay close attention to the results of external tests and strive to improve them. One consequence of this high-stakes accountability system is the increased use of “test prep” in the classroom; i.e., where teachers spend time focusing primarily on the tested content while giving students lots of practice with the test format (primarily multiple choice).

While mindful of the pressures associated with the high-stakes of accountability testing that lead to test preparation actions, excessive test prep can narrow the curriculum, undermine meaningful learning, and negatively affect student interest and motivation. At best, test prep can yield modest, short-term gains in test scores, especially if students are unfamiliar with standardized test formats and protocols.  However, I contend that the practice itself, while well intentioned, is grounded in misconceptions that may, ultimately, undermine the learning that students need to perform well on standardized tests. Let’s explore these points further.

What is Test Prep?

The practice of test prep in the U.S. has several distinguishing characteristics. Students typically engage in exercises and worksheets that mimic the format of standardized tests. Since accountability tests are generally constructed around sets of selected-response items, test prep involves lots of practice on decontextualized, multiple-choice questions. Sometimes, test prep includes timed, on-demand, assessments to simulate test-day conditions. In states that employ computer-based testing, students are often given opportunities to practice using a laptop or tablet device. Many schools and districts have institutionalized test prep by mandating the use of interim or benchmark assessments modeled after their state tests. Not surprisingly, we have witnessed the growth of an entire cottage industry of commercial “test prep” materials to address this perceived need.

A second characteristic of test prep relates to the content that is practiced. Typically, teachers are exhorted to focus only on tested knowledge and skills. The logic is understandable; i.e., since we are being held accountable for student achievement on standards A, B, and C, then we don’t have to worry about standards X, Y, and Z since they are not tested. Yet this logic has problematic consequences for learning. For example, in English/Language Arts, most standardized tests do not assess Listening, Speaking, or extended writing even though they are listed in all E/LA standards. Accordingly, teachers rarely spend any “test prep” time on listening and speaking skills or essay writing, even though these skills are fundamental to literacy development.

A third aspect of test prep involves the explicit teaching of test taking strategies and common “trigger” words used in test prompts. Examples of trigger words include compare, critical, distinguish, differentiate, key, major, significant, solve. Here are common test-taking strategies that are taught:

  • Read the question completely before you look at the answer options.
  • Read all the choices before choosing your answer.
  • Cross out any choices that you know are wrong.
  • Answer the questions that you know first; then tackle the remaining questions.
  • Usually the correct answer is the choice with the most information.
  • Always take an educated guess if you do not know the answer.
  • In a question with an “All of the above” choice, if you see that at least two correct statements, then “All of the above” is probably the answer.
  • Be aware of the time and pace yourself. Don’t spend too much time on any one item.
  • If time is about to expire, just select an answer for as many of the items as possible, even if you haven’t had time to read the questions.

It is not uncommon to see such trigger words and test-taking tips posted on classroom walls prior to test days as reminders to students.

Of course, it makes sense to familiarize students with standardized test formats since it is a genre that they will see throughout their school lives. Similarly, there is nothing wrong with imparting test taking strategies in advance of a high stakes assessment. However, such actions can be accomplished quickly and should not divert valuable instructional time from more substantive learning.

Test Prep Practice is Rooted in Misconceptions

The logic of test prep is plausible and rooted in experience from other domains. For example, if you want to improve your performance in dribbling a basketball or piano playing, then you must practice those activities. Shouldn’t the same apply to test taking?  Perhaps, but I contend that excessive test prep practices reflect two fundamental misconceptions that deserve to be critically examined:

Misconception #1 – The best (and only) way to improve test scores is to practice the test.

While this statement seems to makes sense on the surface, Wiggins and McTighe (2001) offer the following analogy to expose this misconception:

“To begin to uncover the flaw in this reasoning, consider an analogy. Once per year, we go to the doctor for a physical exam. No one particularly relishes the thought of such an exam, but we go with the understanding that it is in our long-term interest to get an objective (yet superficial) measure of our health. The doctor performs a few tests in a short span of time (e.g. blood pressure, pulse, temperature, blood work for cholesterol, etc.). The ‘physical’ is a small sample of tests, yielding a few useful indicators of one’s health status. Its validity and value stem from the fact that the results suggest our state of health, not because the physical defines healthfulness.

Now suppose we are terribly concerned about the final numbers (weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, etc.) and that these ‘scores’ ultimately link to our personal health insurance costs. What we might do, in our panicky state prior to each annual physical, would be to ‘practice’ for the test – focus all our energy on doing well on the physical exam (as opposed to what its indicators suggest). If our doctor knew of our actions, her response would surely be: ‘Whoa! You’re confused: you have mixed up causality and correlation here. The best way to prepare for your physical exam is to live a healthful life on a regular basis –exercising, watching weight, lowering intake of fats, eating more fiber, getting sufficient sleep, avoiding tobacco, etc.’

It would be thought silly to practice the physical exam as a way to improve one’s health. But this confusion is precisely what we see in schools all over North America. Local educators, fearful of results, focus on the indicators, not their causes. The format of the test misleads us, in other words.”

Misconception #2 – Standardized test items involve primarily recall and recognition, and thus drill and practice will be the most effective method to prepare students for them.

Given the predominant use of the multiple-choice format, there may be the assumption that these items primarily test factual knowledge, basic skills and “low-level” thinking. After all, there is a “right” answer, and all a student has to do is select that answer from a set of given alternatives. What follows from this assumption is the belief that covering lots of factual information and drilling and practicing multiple-choice items will provide adequate preparation for the accountability tests. Moreover, one might conclude that there is no need for, nor benefit from, in-depth learning involving extended thinking or the use of more authentic assessments.

Grant Wiggins (2013) points out the flaw in this reasoning: “Even though the test format requires a selected response, it does not mean that the tested knowledge is necessarily simple. The [format] deceives you into thinking that since you are mimicking the format of the test, you are therefore mimicking the rigor of the test. But data show the opposite conclusively: local tests are often less rigorous than state and national tests even when they mimic the format.”

Item analyses of consortium and state test results validate Grant’s point. Indeed, the pattern is remarkably consistent – the most widely missed items on standardized tests are not those assessing simple recall of factual knowledge or basic skills as referenced at Level 1 on the Depth of Knowledge scale (Webb, 2006). Instead, they require inference and interpretation in reading, analysis and reasoning in mathematics and science. While knowledge and skills are needed, the more difficult items demand “higher-order” thinking and involve transfer at Depth of Knowledge (DOK) Levels 2 and 3. Such items often include distractors that present typical misconceptions, common errors, and flawed reasoning that will trip up test takers who only have learned by rote. Accordingly, low-level, drill and practice is not the optimal instructional method for improving test scores.

Too often, the information revealed by test prep exercises identifies whether students have chosen the “correct” answer rather than helping teachers determine if they have a conceptual understanding of the underlying concepts and skills and can apply (transfer) those.

Casualties of Test Prep                                                                                

There are opportunity costs to consider when precious classroom time and energy are devoted to test prep, and excessive test prep can have significant negative consequences. When classroom instruction and assessment fixates excessively on the multiple-choice format, meaningful learning is sacrificed and students are likely to become bored and disengaged by repeated drills on decontextualized items that lack relevance. Judy Willis, MD, a board-certified neurologist who left her medical practice to become a teacher, has written extensively on the brain and learning. She addresses the negative consequences of test prep in a recent article (Willis, 2012):

Boredom, frustration, negativity, apathy, self-doubt, and the behavioral manifestations of these brain stressors have increased in the past decade. As facts increase, as over-packed curriculum expands, and as demands for rote memorization for high-stakes testing intensify, the brains of our students have reacted to the increased stress. Stress, including that provoked by sustained or frequent boredom or frustration, detours brain processing away from the higher, rational, prefrontal cortex. In the stress state, the lower, reactive brain is in control. Retrievable memory is not formed, and behavioral responses are limited to involuntary fight/flight/freeze-seen in the classroom as acting out, zoning out, or dropping out.

In short, it doesn’t matter how many practice tests we give; if the learners are not engaged or fail to see the purpose, their learning will not be optimized and performance on high-stakes tests will not be bolstered.

Don’t take my word; ask yourself:  Teachers – To what extent are your students motivated and genuinely engaged by test prep?  Administrators – Do your best teachers claim that test prep is their favorite or most effective teaching practice?  Parents – Do your children rave about the joys of test prep at the dinner table?

The pressures to improve accountability test scores can result in a narrowing of the curriculum. It is often the case that the tested subjects receive greater attention compared to those not tested. Indeed, we have witnessed schools and districts that have doubled up on reading and mathematics instructional time while reducing or eliminating the arts and/or health and physical education. Sadly, for many students, these are the most engaging subjects in their school day.

The use of precious classroom time for test prep can distort students’ perception of the nature of schooling. They could easily conclude that a primary mission of schools is to improve test taking savvy and raise test scores rather than to strive for meaningful learning. Moreover, a focus on multiple-choice teaching and testing can convey the fallacious idea that navigating school and life is simply a matter of choosing the “correct” answer from 4 or 5 alternatives!

Ironically, the widespread use of test preparation practices based on narrow, inauthentic assessments can unwittingly undermine the very “college and career” readiness competencies identified in national and state standards and for the development of 21st century skills. Many educators and policy makers worry that important educational goals (e.g., discussion and debate, extended writing for real audiences, research, teamwork, creative problem solving, expression in the arts, or substantive research and experimental inquiry) that are not easily and cheaply tested are likely to “fall through the cracks.” To be blunt, students will not be equipped to handle the sophisticated work expected in colleges and much of the workforce if teachers simply march through a superficial “coverage” of discrete knowledge and skills in grade-level standards and assess learning primarily through multiple-choice tests of de-contextualized items.

So, What Should be Done?                                                                          

It would be naïve, indeed irresponsible, to dismiss the reality of high-stakes accountability tests by imploring educators to ignore them or suggesting that if teachers simply “teach well and love the children” the test scores will take care of themselves. As noted, it is prudent to introduce students to the test format. However, beware of mistaking the measures for the goals. Excessive “multiple-choice” teaching and practice testing are not the best long-term strategies for developing a well-rounded, educated person or realizing significant improvements in scores on annual accountability tests.

I contend that the best way to raise test scores over the long haul is to: 1) teach the key concepts and processes contained in standards (the content that is purportedly tested) in rich and engaging ways for deep learning; 2) collect evidence of student understanding of that content via more authentic local assessments; and 3) regularly review student work on authentic tasks in Professional Learning Communities (McTighe, 2008).

To summarize, I offer the following set of Do’s and Don’ts as more effective alternatives to test prep.

DO DON’T
• Teach to the standards that are being tested. • Ignore those elements of the standards that are not assessed (e.g., listening, speaking, research, extended writing, genuine problem solving).
• Give students opportunities to become familiar with the test formats (selected- and brief-constructed response; timed writing). • Use the standardized test formats exclusively. Students need to experience a variety of assessment types, including performance tasks, extended writing, open-ended problem solving, and discussion/debate.
• Engage students in deep and meaningful learning by using engaging instructional strategies, primary sources and authentic tasks. • Engage in excessive “test prep” by only practicing de-contextualized items that mimic the test format.
• Teach for understanding and transfer by engaging students in “higher order” thinking. • Dwell on drill and practice (rote learning) focused on factual recall.
• Regularly use formative assessments to give students specific feedback on the important performances called for by the standards. • Use assessments solely for the purpose of giving grades. (Grades are not feedback, and are unlikely to improve performance.)
• Regularly review student work on authentic tasks in Professional Learning Communities and plan instructional and curricular improvements based on more genuine and informative performance data. • Rely on a once-a-year test score reports as the primary metric to determine how well students are learning or what improvements are needed.


Jay McTighe is an accomplished author, having co-authored 14 books, including the award-winning and best-selling
Understanding by Design series with Grant Wiggins. His books have been translated into fourteen languages. Jay has also written more than 35 articles and book chapters, and been published in leading journals, including Educational Leadership (ASCD) and Education Week. Jay has an extensive background in professional development and is a regular speaker at national, state, and district conferences and workshops. He has made presentations in 47 states within the United States, in 7 Canadian provinces, and internationally in 36 countries on six continents. 

References

McTighe, Jay.  Measuring what matters: Part 1 – The case for an assessment overhaul. In What’s Working in Schools Newsletter, December 2010. Bloomington, IN: The Hope Foundation.

McTighe, Jay.  (2013). Core Learning: Assessing What Matters Most. Midvale, UT: School Improvement Network

McTighe, J., Seif, E., and Wiggins, G.  You can teach for meaning. In Educational Leadership. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. Volume 62, Number 1, September, 2004.

McTighe, Jay. Making the most of professional learning communities. Oxford, OH: National Staff Development Council. Volume 3, Number 8, May 2008.

Webb, N. L. (2006). Identifying content for assessing student achievement. Chapter 8. In S. M. Downing & T. M. Haladyna (Eds.), Handbook of test development. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2006.

Wiggins, Grant. Radical test prep. In Granted, and… blogpost. Authentic Education, April 2013.

See: https://grantwiggins.wordpress.com/2013/04/02/radical-test-prep/

Wiggins, G. and McTighe, J. Yes, but… Misconceptions about standards-based reforms. Unpublished article. October 2001.

Willis, Judy.  Bad for the brain: Goodbye to unsustainable education models. In  Edutopia. San Rafael, CA: The George Lucas Educational Foundation. June 2012.

See: http://www.edutopia.org/blog/bad-for-brain-unsustainable-models-judy-willis-md

Willis, J., MD. Success on standardized tests without sacrificing authentic learning. In STEM Magazine, January-February 2013, 10-15.

Review and Grade Student Work Faster Than Ever

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Collect, review, and grade work right from the article
Reviewing and keeping track of all your students’ work can take forever, and too much of your day is spent peeking over students’ shoulders, gathering and sorting papers, and recording grades.
To tackle this age-old issue, we’ve souped up the PRO teacher view of all Newsela articles. This update will improve your grading workflow and save you time, so you can focus on the thing you care about most: teaching. Just visit an article you’ve assigned and everything you need will be right there.
Clearly see when work is ready for review
Every time you visit an article on Newsela, a new left-hand sidebar will show you whether work has been done for that article in your classes. A red dot indicates that there is new work ready for you to review.
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Stay on top of each student’s progress
Your days of chasing down students for work are over. Click on a class to see individual student names on the left-hand sidebar, and watch as circular assignment icons appear next to their names in real time whenever a student completes a piece of work. Automatically know which students have completed their quizzes, annotations, and Write prompts without having to refresh the page — and know exactly when your class is ready to move on to the next part of the lesson.
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Review and grade work in a snap
Once you see that a student has completed work, simply click on his or her name to review and grade it on the right-hand side of your screen. No more jumping back and forth from your Binder to articles to complete your grading — everything you need is in one place.
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With this update, staying on top of student’s work is now easier than ever. Collect, review, grade. Done, done, and done. We can’t wait to hear what you think.
Yours in reading,
Dan Cogan-Drew
Newsela Co-Founder & Chief Product Officer

Let’s Teach Empathy

Colleagues,

Teachers do a lot of things they aren’t paid to do — like teaching empathy.

We live in fraught times. The discourse among political leaders, talking heads and even some community and family members has broken down. As adult Americans, we hold strong convictions, but we sometimes don’t seek to understand others. That trickles down to our children. Teachers hear it every day: a remark or a snicker about a child with autism; an American history class debate that culminates in shouting and finger-pointing; a Friday night football game that turns ugly with deportation threats.

Strong convictions aren’t enough. Children must learn empathy. You can’t really understand the feelings or experiences of others from a slogan or sound bite. Empathy isn’t learned 140 characters at a time.

Fortunately, teachers teach it every day.

That’s why we’ve launched the A Mile In Our Shoes reading initiative in partnership with Teaching Tolerance and Donors Choose. A Mile In Our Shoes promotes empathy through reading. Through a collection of hand-picked Text Sets, students can read about different perspectives and lived experiences: rural communities and refugees, Native Americans and immigrants, veterans and Muslims, groundbreaking women and courageous people with disabilities, and much more.

Teaching empathy means having tough conversations that sometimes shine a light on parts of ourselves we’re not so proud of, which can make students defensive or angry. So we’ve partnered with Teaching Tolerance and other trailblazing organizations to provide professional development resources. We’re here to help you have safe, thoughtful conversations that your students will carry with them for the rest of their lives.

And to give you and your kids a little extra motivation, we’re holding a national reading drive with Donors Choose, as well as a growing list of NBA teams including the Golden State Warriors Community Foundation, to provide prizes and incentives for schools and students who read the most.

Empathy isn’t a skill you’ll see on a standardized test. Yet the ability to walk in another person’s shoes is one of the most important skills our children will learn from you.

Thank you, teachers. We’re walking right by your side.

Sincerely,

Matthew Gross
Founder & CEO

Your Reimagined Binder

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January is a second start to the school year — a time to reinforce the routines you’ve found most valuable and a time to commit to new habits that will put your students on the road to success. Each day, more educators are adding Newsela PRO and its suite of formative assessment tools to their daily classroom routines.

Over the last six months, we asked teachers like you how we could make the PRO Binder even more effective. You spoke up and we listened. Now, we’re thrilled to announce that the Binder is better than ever — just in time for a new beginning.

Time-saving navigation

Assessment results and other insights are automatically organized in your PRO Binder. Quickly jump between assessments, annotations, Write responses, and student insights with the Binder’s new simplified tabs and improved navigation. See performance by assignment and by student, and easily distinguish work done in class from independent reading. Spend less time grading, and more time teaching.

New student-level insights

Quiz scores are only part of the puzzle, so we added valuable new student-level insights, like standards mastery, reading level, time on article, and more to help you better understand how each student is progressing over time. With item analysis, you can now check for classwide understanding at a glance and know where you should direct your attention next. Break things down student by student, standard by standard, and question by question.

Support resources and feedback

We’re here to help you make the most out of these changes and add Newsela PRO to your 2017 routine. To get up to speed on your new PRO Binder, see our ever expanding set of Binder support resources, or register for one of our free Binder demos led by educator specialists. We rely on your suggestions to keep making our products better, so please send your feedback to community@newsela.com.

With these updates to the Binder, Newsela PRO continues to save you time and put critical insights at your fingertips. You can then use these insights to plan the activities, lessons, and assignments that will enable every student to do their best work.

Your work is never done, so neither is ours. Stay tuned for even more upgrades on the way.

Yours in reading,

Dan Cogan-Drew
Newsela Co-Founder & Chief Product Officer

The Newsela Guide to NCSS: Part 2

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The NCSS workshops and sessions this year promise to be truly inspiring. These resources will empower you to bring ideas and suggestions from the workshops into your classroom.

Dive into Docs – These primary sources and famous speeches will help you craft the perfect DBQ or historical inquiry unit.

Historical Thinking Skills – Primary sources and history essays are accompanied by write prompts for social studies designed to support critical analysis of perspective, authorship, significance, and argumentation.  

Students Debate/Students Legislate – Use these articles to structure meaty debate, mock legislative proposals, or mobilize direct action in your classroom.

Election 2016: Provide extensions with Historical Parallels, How Elections Work, Speeches, Trump’s Presidency and more.

Civically Engage Students: Use these articles about students making a difference to inspire your own students to stand up for what they believe in. Or, use these articles to illustrate different forms of government.

Economics Matter: These engaging articles on trade and economics illustrate the power of the economy on everyday life.

Holidays in History: Use primary sources, historical news, and engaging articles to teach the holidays. We had you covered for Halloween and Thanksgiving. Check back soon for the December holidays!

Ancient Civilizations & Archeology: Bring ancient societies to life with exciting articles about uncovering ancient mysteries, and the science and technology of archeology.

Bring non-dominant narratives into the spotlight in your classroom:

Join Newsela for a session in Exhibit Hall Classroom A:

Friday

10:00-11:00am

Tackling Tough Topics

Presenters: Erin Green and Emily Lepkowski

A Newsela Certified Educator will walk you through strategies to tackle real world tough topics via Newsela articles. By having these discussions in the classroom, students will learn to advocate for both themselves and their classmates.  

11:15-12:15pm

Bridging Connections: Past and Present

Presenters: Erin Green and Nicole Boyle

A Newsela Educator Specialist, in partnership with a Newsela Certified Educator, will share activities that allow students to engage with a primary source and connect it to contemporary events. By pairing texts, students will be able to compare and contrast ideas, empowering them to discuss their world.

1:00-2:00pm

Newsela PRO in the Classroom

Presenters: Kelly Marzocchi and Andy Sullivan

A Newsela Educator Specialist, in partnership with a Newsela Certified Educator, will demonstrate how Newsela PRO makes it easy for you to see each student’s areas of mastery and growth allowing you to easily individualize instruction for every student that you teach.

Saturday

10:30-11:30am

Reading across the Curriculum

Presenters: Lisa Butler and Emily Lepkowski

A Newsela Educator Specialist, in partnership with a Newsela Certified Educator, will share close reading strategies that can be used with students at any reading level. These strategies help students interact with the text to aid them in both classroom discussions and mastering reading skills.

1:30-2:30pm

Bridging Connections: Primary Sources and Current Events

Presenters: Lisa Butler and Nicole Boyle

A Newsela Educator Specialist, in partnership with a Newsela Certified Educator, will share ways in which students can engage in cross-textual analysis using Newsela Library articles and current events in Newsela’s collection.

2:40-3:40pm

Continuing the Conversation: Election 2016

Presenters: Patrick Harris and Andy Sullivan

A Newsela Educator Specialist, in partnership with a Newsela Certified Educator, will share strategies for exploring the results of November’s Presidential Election. Students will monitor developments in the changing political landscape and make connections to global events.

The Newsela Guide to NCSS: Part 1

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Excited for the stellar line-up for NCSS 2016 speakers? So are we. We’ve gathered some of our favorite Text Sets that relate to the speakers’ backgrounds so you can easily bring what you learned at NCSS back to your classroom. Stay tuned tomorrow for Part 2, where we’ll feature more extensions For NCSS workshops and sessions.

Friday, December 2

Kris Perry

8:45 – 9:45

Bring it to your classroom:

Laurie Halse Anderson

10:00 – 11:00

Bring it to your classroom:

Audrey Osler

11:00 – 12:00

Bring it to your classroom:

Kenneth C. Davis

11:15 – 12:15

Bring it to your classroom:

Jeffrey Rosen

1:00 – 2:00

Bring it to your classroom:

Representative John Lewis

2:15 – 3:30

Bring it to your classroom:

Mary Beth Tinker

3:45 – 4:45

Bring it to your classroom:

Saturday, December 3

Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz

9:15 – 10:15

Bring it to your classroom:

David L. Hudson

9:15 – 10:15

Bring it to your classroom:

Gene Policinski

9:15 – 10:15

Bring it to your classroom:

Krissah Thompson

10:30 – 11:30

Bring it to your classroom:

Warren Zanes

10:30 – 11:30

Bring it to your classroom:

Bryan Stevenson

11:45 – 12:45

Bring it to your classroom:

John King

1:00 – 1:30

Bring it to your classroom:

Terrence Roberts

1:30 – 2:30

Bring it to your classroom:

Daniel Feller

2:40 – 3:40

Bring it to your classroom:

Sunday, December 4

Ralph Nader

8:00 – 9:00

Bring it to your classroom:

Ruth Marcus

10:15 – 11:15

Bring it to your classroom:

Ray Suarez

10:15 – 11:15

Bring it to your classroom:

Michael Gerson

10:15 – 11:15

Bring it to your classroom:

Celebrate Native American Heritage Month with Newsela

In recognition of Native American Heritage Month, we’ve compiled a number of articles focused on American Indian, Native Alaskan and Native Hawaiian communities, history, and culture. Native Americans live in all 50 states, speak several hundred languages, and represent around 1 percent of the total U.S. population today.

From environmental justice and energy policy to debates about economic development, and from the reservations of North Dakota to the centers of our largest cities, Native Americans are at the forefront of many contemporary issues. At Newsela, we encourage students and teachers to discuss and engage with these issues, and we’re excited to celebrate the cultural, linguistic, and geographic diversity of these communities and their contributions to our society.

Above: The regions displayed in the map correspond to the way historians tend to classify American Indian tribes and their locations prior to colonization. Though these borders are not exact, they represent how geography is deeply connected to indigenous cultures. We’ve also included Native Hawaiian and Native Alaskan communities. Although they do not self-identify as American Indians, we want to include all communities with indigenous roots in the present-day U.S.

#OurVoiceOurChoice Contest Winners

Educators from all over the country showed us how they bring civics to their classrooms with Newsela’s #OurVoiceOurChoice photo contest. Our staff had a tough time choosing winners among entries that showed such creativity and enthusiasm, but after polling the company, these submissions came out on top:

Danielle, New York

Audra, California

Lynn, Tennessee

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Thanks to everyone who entered!

View Students Vote 2016 Results

Back to Newsela

We’re Here to Help You Process the Election.

Colleagues,

A bruising election campaign is over. For some, Trump’s win represented long-needed change. For others, a risky direction for America. I think about the election from the perspective of a parent and educator: it revealed sharp divides in our communities, and even in our own classrooms. (My 10-year-old Theo, a Hillary supporter, woke up to the dread that he would have to face down his classmate and close friend Luke, a Trump supporter.)

Disagreement, uncertainty and change are catalysts for the most powerful and rich classroom experiences. The coming days and weeks represent a once-in-a-generation opportunity for teachers to leverage the changing political landscape.

You’ll undoubtedly have opportunities to discuss some of the most important issues of our time with your students like climate change, civil rights, immigration, the economy, Supreme Court nominations and the United States’ role on the world stage. When done well, the articles that students read, as well as the discussions they have, will be remembered for a lifetime.

To help you teach these topics and facilitate these discussions, we’re making Newsela’s PRO Teacher Resources free to all teachers through Inauguration Day, January 20th. PRO Teacher Resources are a collection of activities, mini-lessons, and content connections, right on the article page below the image. They are designed to help educators bring Newsela’s content into the classroom through cross-curricular instruction. Alongside upcoming election articles, we will be creating resources and strategies for facilitating meaningful classroom discussion. You can see some of these resources on today’s article about Trump’s victory.

We’ll continue to cover the election and White House transition through news articles, enhanced with primary source documents from our Library like the Constitution, speeches, biographies, Text Sets and more. And we’ll publish as many PRO Teacher Resources as we can along the way.

On a closing note, some pundits explain Trump’s surprise victory as a reaction to the feeling that the American dream feels out of reach for many. I’ve always believed in the power of education as a Great Equalizer. That’s the reason why so many of us became educators in the first place. Keep teaching.

Best,

Matthew Gross
Founder & CEO

Students Vote 2016 National Results

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For the past two weeks, students across the country – and around the world – had an unprecedented opportunity to make their voices heard with Newsela’s Students Vote 2016. The polls have closed and the ballots have been tallied, and we’re ready to reveal the results.

Hillary Clinton won decisively, with 57% of students for Clinton vs. 32% for Donald Trump. Clinton won most swing states, but Trump maintained his hold on Ohio. Among our student voters, Clinton took some Republican strongholds such as Texas, Georgia, and even South Carolina. And while younger students overwhelmingly chose Clinton, it was a much closer race for high school students.

Here are a few highlights from Students Vote 2016:

  • Over 1 million students read at least 1 election-related article this year. This one was viewed the most.
  • Nearly 400,000 students cast their ballots on Newsela. The cities with the most votes were Chicago, IL; Portland, OR; and San Jose, CA.
  • Over 16,000 schools in all 50 states participated in Students Vote 2016.

If your class voted, you can view how they voted here, and compare their votes to the national results.

See full results on how the next generation voted below.

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Results: National and International

Results: State by State