Newsela has content for students across grades 2 through 12. As such, we organize content on our platform into grade bands to help teachers determine what content meets the needs of their classroom and to help ensure students searching for content do not find content that might be developmentally inappropriate for their grade level. Maturity-banding also helps teachers search more specifically for content that’s just right for their students. There are four article maturity levels: lower elementary, upper elementary, middle school, and high school.
Here’s how we decide what content goes into each maturity bucket:
Lower Elementary (LE) articles:
Available at a range of reading levels between 2-6. These are articles best suited for grades 2-4, with one or more visual supports for comprehension. They are chosen for younger readers and do not require extensive background knowledge.
Sensitive subject matter is never included in content that is marked as Lower Elementary.
Grounded on a single, simple concept, allow students to draw simple, clear connections (sequence, cause and effect, or problem/solution).
Offer opportunities to ask questions that relate back to readers’ lives and often have social-emotional implications (how would you feel, what would you do).
Focus on subjects that are accessible and engaging to young readers (appropriate match for what they are learning/will be learning in school, as well as what they are interested in and care about).
Upper Elementary (UE) articles:
Available at a range of reading levels between grades 2 and 12. These articles are best suited for readers in grades 4-6.
Typically include a single main idea and sometimes require background knowledge.
Scary or sensitive subject matter is never included in content deemed appropriate for Lower Elementary classrooms. Scary or sensitive details that are not essential to the comprehension of the article are removed.
Stories present one main idea and supporting ideas for readers to easily draw connections between.
Provide enough evidence to support the main idea. The evidence is not complex, i.e. not statistics, high percentages/ratios.
Focused on elementary-friendly concepts including: major events, animals, science studies or pop culture they can relate to (Coco movie, Fortnite, Facebook Messenger Kids, Echo Dot).
Add enough context to understand the article, but not teach all of the background information anyone would need to know.
Middle School (MS) articles:
Available at a range of reading levels between grades 2 and 12. Articles best suited for grades 6-8. These articles may require background knowledge and are intended to facilitate awareness of global events and issues.
Stories introduce students to issues of growing complexity and contentiousness.
Stories incorporate increased awareness of global current events/global issues (i.e. climate change, gender inequality) without becoming deeply political or complex.
Stories show how or why something is controversial, and explain why people disagree about an idea or course of action.
Stories introduce more complex scientific concepts, show how an experiment or investigation was conducted using the scientific method.
High School (HS) articles:
Available at a range of reading levels between grades 2 and 12. Articles in this group typically require background knowledge and maturity and are often too complex for younger students. However, we do believe that teachers and caretakers know their students best, so they still are able to assign any maturity of article to any student of their choosing.
More background information about issues that in middle school would require more context.
Stories can be very political, and complicated/nuanced. They can also have more jargon/technical language.
Pro/cons can be more controversial and nuanced.
Opinions can be about complex things happening in the world.
Sensitive topics can be included: sensitive breaking news stories, overviews of certain health issues, gun violence and sexual assault.
How Students Access Content Just-Right For Them
In order to know what content is right for students, we must first know what grade a student is in. We get this information from a student’s class grade. If a student is not affiliated with a class, or if their class does not have a grade, Newsela will default to them being an elementary school student.
How to Find Content in the Correct Maturity Levels from Search
Selecting maturity levels with the “Maturity Level” filter will limit your results to articles intended for the specified grade band. These maturity levels are a range and sometimes, content is marked for multiple maturity levels.
For example, some content might be for upper elementary, middle school and high school maturity levels. Teacher and caregiver accounts are always able to view all content they have an active license for regardless of the maturity level of the content.
If Elementary students are searching for articles to read, the results will take into account the class grade the student is associated with and the search results will present only content that is at that maturity level and below. For example, if a student in a 5th grade class is searching for “Abraham Lincoln,” they will be presented with Upper Elementary or Lower Elementary stories. Articles that do not contain one or both of these maturities will not be displayed.
For students in Middle School classrooms, content outside the maturity band (either Lower Elementary or High School) might still appear, but it will show up toward the very bottom of the search results.
Accessing Content in the Proper Maturity Setting from Browsing the Newsela Home Page
Students in classrooms that are identified as “Elementary” will only be able to view and explore articles on the homepage that are labeled as lower elementary, upper elementary and middle school. Students that are not in classrooms or are in classrooms without grades will also default to Elementary usage.
If students do navigate to content they should not be able to see, a note will block the content and tell teachers to assign it using Newsela. You can find more information on Assignments here.
How Assigning Content Interacts with Article Maturity Settings
Newsela believes teachers know what is best for their classrooms and students. That is why students of all grades and classroom types can see whatever content their teachers assign them on Newsela. If their teacher assigns them content that’s above their maturity level, they can access that content.
Maturity bands are different from sensitive content warnings. Maturity bands are added to every story we publish on Newsela whereas not all stories get sensitive content warnings. Sensitive content is typically, but not always, MS-HS or HS-only.