Case Study


The Problem

Newsela is an education technology startup that uses news articles to create literacy teaching tools for classrooms. Founded in 2013, the site is already used in tens of thousands of schools in all 50 states and countries around the world.

Newsela has engaged users. Teachers use the site to assign readings and quizzes and track their students’ progress. Students do assignments and get well-measured feedback on their reading level, and their comprehension and critical thinking skills.

Newsela also has paying customers. Schools and school districts subscribe to Newsela’s Pro product, giving them access to more tools for tracking student progress and customizing assignments.

What Newsela didn’t have, until they called Polynumeral, was a robust way to think about the relationships between those two audiences—and how those relationships affected Newsela’s social mission and business goals. They wanted to make more data-driven decisions across the company, and needed a framework better suited to their unique business. How could they measure how effectively teachers and students were using the site? And what was the relationship between users engaging and schools subscribing?

The Process

We interviewed Newsela staff extensively to learn about the company and product: What features did the site offer? How did teachers, students, and parents use the site? How do schools and districts make the decision to purchase Newsela? This was done in tandem with a deep dive into their databases—giving us an understanding of the true product and business processes, and how they were reflected in the company’s data.

Based on those interviews, and our own additional research, we designed a variety of methods for measuring teachers’ engagement with the site and its features, and schools’ movement through the decision-making process.

We then dug into their historical site and subscription data to validate our methods, finding patterns of site usage that predicted when teachers would continue to use the site and try new features. We also built models that quantified how teacher and student engaging with site related to schools purchasing licenses.

With a clear, comprehensive model of how their users and customers interacted, we were able to construct and test useful hypotheses, providing them with new insights and valuable insights about their business.

“I was extremely impressed at how quickly the Polynumeral team got up to speed on our business model and our product. Throughout the engagement they were very responsive, asked smart questions and worked very well alongside our team. Their final presentation and deliverables were immediately useful and high-impact. I would definitely work with them again.”

Dan Cogan-Drew, Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer

The Outcome

We provided Newsela with a model for quantifying the major aspects of their business. They now have a framework for measuring Key Performance Indicators, running tests to make product decisions, and improving the purchase process.  Using this model, we were also able to give them new insights into their user and customer bases.