Accelerator alum Newsela, the NYC-based startup that helps teach reading with news articles scaled at different skill levels, just reported a $1.2 million seed round led by NewSchools Venture Fund, with participation by Kaplan Ventures, among others.
Newsela was part of the inaugural Kaplan EdTech Accelerator that ran this summer.
Since its beta launch three months ago, the company has seen "ridiculously explosive growth," in the words of co-founder and CEO, Matthew Gross. Newsela has registered users in all 50 states and 60 countries. Gross is keeping mum on the exact user numbers but did share that "right now we have 400 teachers and 3,000 students signing up every day."
All of this was accomplished, he adds, through word of mouth on social networks like Twitter, Edmodo, and Facebook. One reason for the viral growth, Gross suggests, is the "massive hole in the marketplace when it comes to any humanities content in an adaptive platform that adjusts instruction."
Another big factor is the new Common Core Standards for English and Language Arts, which emphasizes the ability to read "complex texts outside of literature" that better reflect the fact-based readings that students will encounter during college and work. The Common Core assessments will also focus on making and supporting arguments based on evidence in the text, which Gross says requires "a huge shift in students' reading mindset" and is something that teachers struggle to teach. "Kids like to think that all that matters is their opinion."
With the funding, the company plans to expand its content offerings to include topics in high demand from teachers, such as health, arts, and the sciences. "Science teachers are frustrated because kids can't read the texts," he says.READ the entire article "EXCLUSIVE: Newsela Raises $1.2M to Help Kids Read the News," (10/09/13) by Tony Wan at EdSurge.com
"The more content we produce, the more likely students will find something that will enthrall them."