Hello, new school year. Goodbye, textbooks.
To our valued educators,
I’ve never begun a school year this optimistic. Here’s why.
The Age of the Textbook—a medium that eats up budgets, weighs down backpacks and leaves students bored and lost—is coming to an end. As schools nationwide say goodbye, millions of educators are going online to find The Next Way of delivering information.
Almost a million of you, along with eight million students, have turned to Newsela for content that in many ways is the opposite of static, dry textbooks: news. Thousands of articles, at five levels, and loads of tools to help your students engage with the written word and help you understand their progress.
But it’s not enough.
This fall, we are launching The Library. We’re taking the nonfiction that teachers already use the most, and we’re putting them online the Newsela way: primary source documents, biographies, speeches, historical news, and other seminal texts. All at five levels, all with quizzes, annotations, and open-ended questions. You can find all of these great works paired with news, because the Constitution, the Gettysburg Address, and the biography of Rosa Parks take on new meaning when they’re connected to current issues that hit home.
What’s also disappearing with the era of the textbook? Teachers not knowing whether their kids understand what they’re reading, or if they read it at all. Dave Crumbine, a friend and master ELA teacher at KIPP Academy in Houston, told me one of his greatest challenges in teaching is this: “Kids start reading, they don’t understand what they’re reading, but they keep on going anyway.” So many kids—even when comprehension isn’t there—just keep plugging along, either denying or not knowing that something’s the matter. And it happens in silence, slipping by teachers without a trace.
That’s another problem that Newsela set out to solve. And along with hundreds of thousands of committed educators like you, we’re making progress.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in your PRO Binder. It tells you what your students read, whether they understood it and how they’re doing over time so you can adjust your instruction. Welcome to daily formative assessments that you can use immediately to ensure that no student falls through the cracks. And keep an eye out for a raft of new PRO Binder tools we’ll be releasing later this year to make your daily formative assessments even more powerful.
Better, but still not enough.
A laptop for every student and teacher. That’s the goal. Schools of all stripes—wealthy and Title I, primary and secondary—are adopting technology not to replace what teachers do, but to help them do it better. Still, too many districts aren’t keeping pace, and their students are falling behind. If your district or school leaders haven’t shared plans for going 1-to-1, I urge you to ask them why. Let them know that you’ve seen the future, you know what you need, and it’s not another textbook.
We’re on the brink of something amazing happening in American education. I can feel it. I look forward to continuing on the journey with you.
Newsela Founder and CEO