Student opinion raises questions about Newsela/AR tradeoff

Jasper Locke

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There is no question that reading varied content is essential to developing the intellectual mind. It is a student’s responsibility to take part in enriching activities outside classroom obligations to better their language and reading comprehension. Despite this being common knowledge among the student body, throughout the years many have struggled with the assigned accelerated reading program, or AR, so much that in many standard classes the program has been almost entirely phased out. Currently, English teachers may choose to substitute the AR assignments with content on a website called Newsela. This website is a resource teachers can utilize in their classrooms by assigning students to read articles and take short quizzes over each article they read for a grade.

485 students voluntarily answered questions about their experiences with reading assignments in a school-wide survey last month. These questions involved inquiries into students’ reading habits, preferences, and class requirements.

When surveyed, 54% of students responded they preferred only being assigned Newsela articles for grades, whereas 33% wanted only AR assignments. An additional 12.8% replied with a desire to be assigned a mixture of AR and Newsela assignments.

When asked what their biggest frustration with AR was, 234 out of 485 students reported the feeling of being overwhelmed by reading an entire book caused their inability to complete assignments. Another 233 replied that they did not have enough time in class to complete AR reading. 200 students also gave feedback indicating that there are not enough choices in quizzes or books for satisfaction.

On the contrary, the main grievance students reported to have with Newsela is a lack of articles that interest them. The majority of students surveyed were most interested in articles about animals, music, current events, or myths and legends. Another significant complaint in the survey that the Newsela site quizzes are too confusing or are too difficult.

Overall, based on their responses, students seem to be dissatisfied with both Newsela and accelerated reading; the biggest complaints being a lack of interesting content or a lack of time to complete assignments on both sides.

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