Friday, December 24, 2010

Oregon State Tests To Allow Spell Check In 2011

Oregon State Tests To Allow Spell Check In 2011

When I read this I just shook my head - rather than teach students - make the tests easier. I can imagine the difficulty of reading and grading essays that are basically texting.

But I have to admit that I have grown too reliant on spell checkers. Even though as I write (type) the mis-spelled word, I recognize the error - but still rely on the spell checker to catch it, and depending on the program, to also correct it.

Spell checking is good news for words like "believed" - but not good for words like "quiet." I often write "quite" when I mean "quiet." It is one of those situations where the spell checker doesn't bail me out. It can render a thought incomprehensible.

I guess my point would be that ignoring spelling as an element of an essay composition and comprehension is misdirected. Making it easier doesn't translate to a quality essay. Even using a computer - the writer still has to know that the word used is the word intended.

Shouldn't at one point in a person's life he or she be held accountable to convey a comprehensible communication; and therefore, not rely on the reader to discern what the writer must (or should) have intended?


  1. I admit I'm my feelings on this are conflicted. My gut, knee-jerk reaction is "Hey, that's cheating!" But the more I think about it, the less I am able to distinguish it from any technological advance that handles tasks less cumbersomely than we used to handle them without said technology.

    I never had to take standardized tests with a computer, not even with a typewriter. If I were to take one using a computer, I think I'd expect to find the tools I've become accustomed to when using a computer. It would feel wrong not to have spell-checking available -- heck, it's available to me right now as I type this comment. The little red squiggly appears under any word my built-in dictionaries don't understand. (Interesting! It understands "squiggly"!) You may or may not think this comment is worthless or stupid or disagreeable, but at least I can be confident that you'll do so based upon its content and not my spelling. Isn't that really the point of these tests, to measure the quality of the students' thinking?

    OTOH, if I am really careless and type "their" instead of "there" (or vice-versa) -- mistakes spell-checking wouldn't catch -- I should be beneath contempt and dismissed accordingly. :-)

  2. Thanks Michael for the comment.

    I agree that you and I ought to be able to exchange opinions without them being measured by the spelling or misspelling. Content matters.

    But when the spelling is so atrocious that it becomes a distraction - spelling matters.

    In a testing environment it seems fair to require accurate spelling as part of the composition. It may not be cheating but it does indicate a lack of caring about the quality of content.

    I went to college in the 70s and used a typewriter to write my take home exams. Attempting to produce 10 - 20 pages of spelling error free but reasoned and coherent content was difficult.

    Arguably, the reader wasn't distracted by the misspelling and was able to understand my reasoning.

    But frankly, points loss were minimal. I don't think my grade point average ever suffered because of my misspelling.

    Someone that has a good grasp of the subject matter ought to be able to present that in writing without the need of a spell checker.

    The computer has already made it easier.I can write this and go back and rewrite and reformat to my heart's content.

    Lowering the standards doesn't necessarily increase the comprehension and exposition.

    But probably in the end it will make little difference. It just seems though that it is one more attempt to make testing easier rather than producing well educated students.

    Next step - multiple choice only?