Taft to use software that changes reading levels of newspaper articles
by BRIAN NADIG
The Taft High School Local School Council at its Sept. 22 special meeting approved a $12,000 purchase of Newsela, software that changes the reading level of news articles and other nonfiction reading material.
"About 30 teachers are advocating for it now," Taft principal Mark Grishaber told the council. He added that he expects by spring one third of the school’s 230 teachers would be using the software, whose license allows unlimited use by a school for one year.
The software changes written articles to fit five different reading levels, in some instances shortening words or sentences, Grishaber said. It allows teachers to use the same article in a class in which the reading level of its students could vary widely, he said.
"I like the idea of all the students being able to use the same material," LSC chairwoman Kathy Fern said. "At the end of the year, we can re-evaluate (its effectiveness)."
The annual cost of the software comes out to about $3 per student at Taft, whose enrollment is at about 4,000, according to Grishaber. He said that the council could have waited to approve the purchase at its next regular meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 13, but that he did not want to lose 3 weeks of instruction in which teachers could be taking advantage of the software’s benefits.
Newsela has a variety of partners, including newspapers, the History Channel and the Smithsonian, in an effort to provide current content.
Meanwhile, Grishaber said after the meeting that about 95 percent of Taft’s students are logging into remote learning on a daily basis but that it’s too early to determine their engagement level.