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Oregon To Let Students Use Spell Check on State Exams 235

Posted by samzenpus
from the is-there-a-proofreader-in-the-house? dept.
Starting in 2011, the Oregon Department of Education will let students spell check their work before submitting state exams. From the article: "The move is supposed to help the assessments focus less on typos and more on their writing skills. 'We are not letting a student's keyboarding skills get in the way of being able to judge their writing ability,' said state Superintendent Susan Castillo. 'As we're using technology to improve what we're doing with assessments as a nation, we believe that spell check will be one of those tools.'"

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Oregon To Let Students Use Spell Check on State Exams

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  • I can see it already...

    "But the tool is there, so why should people have to learn proper spelling? Why should people have to learn to do math by hand if they have computers available?"

    • Google Japanese Soroban. Also try some better written [amazon.com] algebra books [amazon.com] instead of the mind-crippling shit that passes as "enhanced" these days [amazon.com]. You will be able to tackle any math if your understanding of algebra is firm.
    • Of course they should learn math and spelling. But when you're taking an exam in differential calculus, you're typically allowed to use a calculator to do your long division for you, and there's nothing wrong with that, either.
      • I don't know where you went to college, but I can't even imagine a situation where you'd need a calculator for a reasonable diff eqs exam. The only thing college kids use calculators for these days anyways is to do differential equations for them.
      • by nospam007 (722110) * on Tuesday December 21, 2010 @03:53PM (#34633836)

        http://www.math.umn.edu/~rusin018/1271_Fall_2006/extra_1.pdf [umn.edu]

        "...Nine times seven, thought Shuman with deep satisfaction, is sixty-three, and I don't need
        a computer to tell me so. The computer is in my own head.

        And it was amazing the feeling of power that gave him. "

        • Mod parent up. Amazing story... I need to go back and re-read me some Azimov.
        • http://www.math.umn.edu/~rusin018/1271_Fall_2006/extra_1.pdf [umn.edu]

          "...Nine times seven, thought Joe Sixpack with deep satisfaction, is sixty-three, and I don't need
          a brain to tell me so. The brain is in my own hand.

          And it was amazing the feeling of power that gave him. "

          FTFY!

        • A bit of a swing-and-a-miss

          On the other hand, a missile with a man or two within, controlling flight by graphitics, would be lighter, more mobile, more intelligent. It would give us a lead that might well mean the margin of victory. Besides which, gentlemen, the exigencies of war compel us to remember one thing. A man is much more dispensable than a computer. Manned missiles could be launched in numbers and under circumstances that no good general would care to undertake as far as computer-directed missiles are concerned

          which gets me thinking. How much longer do we have to wait until we can wear spell-check goggles that automatically highlight wrong spellings in what we look at, or suggest correct spelling in what we type or handwrite, the way the google search box does? At what point will going in without a spellchecker be as silly as trying to drive without your glasses on?

    • by eln (21727)
      It's not whether or not people should learn how to spell, it's whether or not spelling should be a graded component of that particular exam. If exam takers would normally be docked points for spelling things incorrectly, then spell check should be forbidden. If spelling is not intended to be part of what's graded, then it makes no difference if a student uses spell check or not.

      Having said that, saying the exam doesn't at least in part test keyboarding skills, or that using spell checker somehow remove
      • back in the old days when dinosaurs roamed the earth and tests were written out by hand, people who could write faster with better penmanship had an advantage in a similar way

        It also tended to make the writer think more before expressing himself ... another art lost in the mists of time.

        Next up ... 'tweet ur ?s rt 2 the welfare office'
      • by Calydor (739835)
        Were the cavemen allowed to look up words in a dictionary to check how they were spelled? There's your answer to that question.

        Of course, I remember when I finished high school and the exam meant solely to see how well we spelled had been changed to give you twenty minutes with a dictionary after the test. I placed the dictionary at the corner of my table, leaned back and stared down the teacher for twenty minutes. And got an A. Good times.
    • Have them submit both versions that way it's easy to see how much of an impact spell-checking has on the results. Unless they're also doing a grammar check, it's not going to make the results significantly better.

      There's something to be said for learning proper spelling and grammar, but I'll be the first to admit that I'm not a terribly great speller and that without Firefox's built-in spell-check, I'd probably end up with significantly more errors. I'd like to think of it as more of a useful tool than a
      • by camperslo (704715)

        Paying attention to what an interactive spell checker is doing may help some learn. It helps if people are that motivated. Some just don't care.

        Sometimes the spell checkers just can't figure out what people are attempting to write, but Google can usually guess what is meant.

        Perhaps some of that Google code could be adapted to make a good desktop app or browser plugin spell guesser checker helper thing.

        It's sad that some employers have to require applications to be done on the spot just to show that applica

        • by Imagix (695350)

          Paying attention to what an interactive spell checker is doing may help some learn.

          Sure. Do that on your assignments and when you're writing your emails. On the test you don't learn much, it's time to apply your knowledge.

      • by DarkOx (621550)

        I think that is worth considering spelling is not at all like math or even language composition in terms of correctness and there is doubt of the need for a canonical spelling of each word.

        Firstly there are a number of studies that show when reading people really only consider the first and last letters of longer words, all the middle is then fluff that is never needed or filled in from context.

        Second, having a correct spelling at all is a pretty new concept in terms of English language history. The first

    • by CastrTroy (595695)
      When I was in highschool, we got to write english exams on the school lab computers. We could do the exam by hand, but we had the option of using computers if we felt more comfortable doing that. The fact was, even in 1997, that many students would rather type out the essay answers than have to sit there writing with a pen for 2 hours. We had all the advantages that WP5.1 would give us, including spell checking. Computers are the way most people write in 2010. What's the point of making people write stu
      • by profplump (309017)

        Mostly the point is old people can't imagine a world where the tools they consider essential are obsolete. But instead of dealing with that fact they throw up some strawman about how we can't lose this vital skill. The appropriate response is typically to ask if they had to learn to ride a horse before driving a car back in the 1900s.

    • As if this problem isn't bad enough already. I absolutely hate going down the highway seeing billboards with misspellings. It just looks so...stupid. It's amazing how technology was supposed to make us better, smarter, faster... doesn't it seem like in some ways it's making us (well, the average population) weaker, lazier, and dumber?
  • I Think.. (Score:4, Funny)

    by ameline (771895) <ian.ameline@gmail . c om> on Tuesday December 21, 2010 @03:13PM (#34633176) Homepage Journal

    Eye think eye sea what their doing hear. :-)

    • Cute. Per usual it depends on the goal.

      My AP English teacher ignored errors (writeo's he called them), and if I recall correctly the AP Exam did too. He expected spelling to be correct for our homework, but not for in-class exams where a 45 minute limit precluded looking-up words in a dictionary. Content & the thesis mattered more than perfection.

      • by RulerOf (975607)

        Content & the thesis mattered more than perfection.

        I don't know about you, but when I'm reading something and a word is misspelled, particularly if it's misspelled as a completely different word or has all the same letters as a completely different word, or something like a comma is out of place, I become almost completely derailed by the sentence.

        Spell check doesn't fix bad writing though :P

        • Spell check doesn't fix bad writing though :P

          No doubt.. I think they're looking at spellcheck as just another extension of calculators on math tests. The argument was that the rote computation didn't relate to understanding of mathematics concepts so calculators were benign.

          In my day we had penmanship exams... :D And I imagine that at some point they'll allow full word processors to allow the penmanship-challenged to submit work without fear of their papers being illegible.

          • by RulerOf (975607)

            In my day we had penmanship exams... :D

            Hahaha! I went to a Catholic school for K-6, and they graded me on penmanship. I routinely got a C :D

        • Content & the thesis mattered more than perfection.

          I don't know about you, but when I'm reading something and a word is misspelled, particularly if it's misspelled as a completely different word or has all the same letters as a completely different word, or something like a comma is out of place, I become almost completely derailed by the sentence. Spell check doesn't fix bad writing though :P

          Maybe it's just me, but every time I see the word "loose" instead of "lose," I have trouble even continuing to read without the author's writing immediately losing merit with me. I mean, people have always screwed up your/you're and there/their/they're, but with lose/loose you can't even enjoy the excuse of just mixing up homophones.

          • by RulerOf (975607)

            with lose/loose you can't even enjoy the excuse of just mixing up homophones.

            It's not just you, but it likely depends on how you were taught English. The curriculum I was given for early English was Phonics. As a result, even though I usually spell things correctly, lose/loose is one that I find myself correcting frequently as I write.

            "Lose" with the single O and single E separated by the S phonetically stipulates a long O sound, like "dose" or "grope." The problem with "loose" is that, depending on what that E on the end is for, you get different pronunciations; it could be "lo

          • Read those words...they should be spelled lös and löz or something like that (with something like an 'Ö' representing the 'oo' sound). The ending sounds are different, but spelled the same, and the middle sounds are the same, but spelled different. And you really expect people to get that? Oops, did I just start a sentence with a conjunction? I must be a moron. Anyway, the problem isn't that people are stupid (sometimes they are), it's that English was all but made to be misspelled. The

    • by Whorhay (1319089)
      "The The Impotence of Proofreading" by Taylor Mali is an excellent example of the folly in relying on a spell checker.
  • They're our a lot better things to test then spelling. Know, with modern technology, kids can relay on computers to pick up on spelling mistakes and tests can concecrate on learning what students really NO

  • Considering that the rules apply only to exams taken by middle and high school students, by then, spelling should be less of a concern than content, structure, and adherence to the theme given for the writing. Spellcheck is a tool that they'll be using for 'real life' implementation of the skills being tested, so it seems fairly reasonable to allow them its use.
  • Honestly, math students have been using calculators on exams for years now, and that's turned out well.

    Forcing students to memorize the proper spelling of words is often ineffective, and teaching students to use the goddamn spellcheck would prevent far more errors.

    • by Unkyjar (1148699)

      No, it really hasn't turned out well.

      http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/12/04/AR2007120400730.html [washingtonpost.com]

    • by couchslug (175151)

      "Forcing students to memorize the proper spelling of words is often ineffective, and teaching students to use the goddamn spellcheck would prevent far more errors."

      That which you cannot spell, you may not be able to read.

      Employers should use literacy tests to sort wheat from chaff.

      • That which you cannot spell, you may not be able to read.

        Employers should use literacy tests to sort wheat from chaff.

        Learn how to use the goddamn tools available to you, like quote tags. You don't even need to write them yourself, you can just press the little "Quote Parent" button.

    • by eepok (545733)

      It's turned out well for those that are doing advanced math for whom there are multiple simple calculations culminating in the final data set required to complete the tested conceptual exercise.

      It's worked out quite poorly for students who actually need to learn and master multiplication, division, consistently correct addition and subtraction.

      • That's what calculators are for.

      • by MoonBuggy (611105)

        So surely one solves the problem by only allowing calculators in the more advanced courses? I know that's how it was done throughout my (relatively recent) education - no calculators in primary school, some exams that allowed them and some that didn't in high school, and pretty much no question about using them in university exams (with the caveat that most answers aren't numerical, and they won't do you any good if you can't handle the underlying mathematics on paper anyway).

    • by l2718 (514756)

      Honestly, math students have been using calculators on exams for years now, and that's turned out well.

      Having taught mathematics at the university, let me tell you: calculators have been a total disaster. You see students stare at "14/7" and reach for the calculator. Students have no feel for numbers whatsoever, and since they do all the arithmetic by calculator they have had no practice of the algebraic properties of arithmetic, and hence have also failed to learn algebra.

      What about:

      • Using Sage/Maple/
      • * Using Sage/Maple/Mathematica/Wolfram Alpha to solve algebra and calculus problems.

        A good portion of my Differential Equations class involved using how to learn Maple to solve Differential Equations. We didn't use it on tests of course, but they're valuable tools.

        In an Engineering Statistics class, we used Excel's Data Analysis toolpack on tests, because "you're all Engineering and Computer Science students, this is what you're going to be doing in the real world, so I'm testing you on your ability to do it."

        * driving a car in gym class instead of running?

        I actually drive to the Gym, but feel a little silly for doing so. I switch off

      • by melikamp (631205)

        Why is that bad? If the computers are ubiquitous and students know how to use them correctly to do arithmetic, then what is really the point of learning the arithmetic? Unless you are a math major, and then the journey is its own reward. The human brain is notoriously inefficient—for both speed and accuracy—at doing this kind of thinking. What is wrong with teaching people the basics of algebra and symbolic manipulation, and leaving arithmetic to computers?

        Of course, it is sad (as a math teach

        • by MoonBuggy (611105)

          I agree with you to an extent, and I'm sure there are some people who's only hope is a calculator, but (as I mentioned above) I'd say that withholding them in lower level courses does force the development of at least a basic level of mathematical competence in the middle ability range. People might be bad at fast and accurate calculation, but in my experience we're pretty good at ballpark figures and sanity checking - if anything those skills are more important as we rely more on computers; when there's a

    • When I was in grade school, calculators weren't allowed until 7th grade (strictly banned from elementary school). Even then, they had to be simple calculators that couldn't solve complex problems (graphing calculators were strictly disallowed until high school). Approaching it like this forced the students to learn to do new kinds of problems by hand. The expectation was that by the time tools were given, students should already know how to accomplish the same things their calculators do for them.

      I don't kn

  • Lack of proofreading is still evident, such as typos that still manage to form valid but obviously incorrect words, etc.
  • I remember a time where I was forbidden calculators in class at ANY time, not just during exams.
    • Re:Now I feel old (Score:4, Interesting)

      by hierofalcon (1233282) on Tuesday December 21, 2010 @03:32PM (#34633476)

      Calculators were forbidden in high school chemistry till we could show the teacher that we could use a slide rule properly. Then we could use calculators. If I remember correctly, this was the first class where calculators were allowed / suggested at all.

    • I don't have a problem with allowing calculators... once the student has demonstrated that he can function without one. The same goes for spell-checkers. I'm happy that Firefox has it, and it helps me, but I can spell better than most people without one. These are tools, not crutches, or at least that's how their supposed to be used.

      In an education environment where keyboarding and using PowerPoint are considered "computer science", we can only expect other similar nonsense.

      Our schools (including higher

  • This is just lowering the bar so that dumb people feel smart!
    This does 2 things:
    -Makes US High School Diplomas worthless (Hey, if the illiterate can get through HS, why would I want to hire one with a HS Diploma?)
    -Gives a false sense of confidence when they go to college.(Results: more drop outs)

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by egamma (572162)

      This is just lowering the bar so that dumb people feel smart! This does 2 things: -Makes US High School Diplomas worthless (Hey, if the illiterate can get through HS, why would I want to hire one with a HS Diploma?) -Gives a false sense of confidence when they go to college.(Results: more drop outs)

      I fail to see how illiterate people would benefit from a spelling checker. It's not a text to speech program--they would still have to string words together to form ideas, and write a semblance of the word for the spelling checker to offer the correct spelling.

      And if the colleges allow spelling checkers--and any class that lets you type your paper in your dorm room does--then college performance won't be impacted.

    • It's more about lowering the value of a university diploma instead of the value of a high school diploma in my opinion. Lower standards mean more people can get one and the more people with a university diploma means you can offer a lower wage.

      I've got a co-worker who constantly spells pretty as pritty, through as threw among other things. I make plenty of mistakes but that's just awful. He has a CS degree and I just think even if he knows his shit how can he expect to ever work his way up in a company w
  • I don't think I've ever heard a good justification for lowering standards.

  • by Xacid (560407) on Tuesday December 21, 2010 @03:32PM (#34633494) Journal

    Like that'll stop them from the usual:

    there/their
    your/you're

    and pretty much everything else listed here: http://theoatmeal.com/comics/misspelling [theoatmeal.com]

    I'm a heavy user of spell check, but in no way do I think we should rely solely on that. I have friends who still think it's spelled "congradulations" and that's not a typo. That's just tragic.

  • I am totally discussed by this. They defiantly should not allow spell-checkers. Allot of people use spell-check as a crutch rather than a tool.

    I see all three of those mistakes frequently and I can guarantee it's because of spell-checkers. It's just another step on the road towards our schools completely abandoning their jobs and turning out graduates who are even more useless in the workforce. Do I use a spell-checker? Yes. I tend to get confused between "-ant" and "-ent" on some words and other simi

  • Not taking the effort to spell correctly or use proper grammar is a sign that you don't think your audience is worth it (assuming it's not merely a sign of ignorance). Why should arrogance be rewarded?
  • Spell checkers are a part of the technology for a reason. If you use the technology you get to use the spell check too just like grown ups because keyboards are still a crap way to input text and users deserve a pass on typos. There are other means to check spelling if it really is a problem, but the English language has got along just fine with alternative spellings. Perhaps if it were a grammar checker that would be different.
    • by Spad (470073)

      There are lots of grammar checkers and they're almost universally terrible because English is a horrible language to work with as a computer. We ignore half of our own grammatical rules and an awful lot of things that you write or say are dependent entirely on context for their meaning.

      How about we take the traditional approach and make everyone do everything the hard way while they're at school? Once they're in the real world they can use all the cheats and short-cuts they want, but they should at least kn

      • by Imagix (695350)
        There was an article in the Communications of the ACM magazine a while back where they did a study about using spelling and grammar checkers. They had two groups of people, one with checkers, one without. Within those groups they were split into high-functioning spellers and grammarers (OK, not really a word...), and low-functioning. They found that the low-functioning group performed better with checkers, but the high-functioning group got worse.
  • This will "defiantly" fix the problem.

  • by spiffmastercow (1001386) on Tuesday December 21, 2010 @03:57PM (#34633906)
    Wasting cycles on spelling is asinine. If they're truly illiterate, they probably won't do well on the test anyway. It's not like our spelling rules REALLY make sense, nor were they enforced until the last century or two.
  • It's time to stop living in the past and realize that our brain power can be put to better use than idiotic grammar rules. I don't think even pessimistic people can say we'll still need to even use our brains in another 100 years as computers will be able to update our facebook profiles for us.
  • Just weight the grading system appropriately. Proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation is PART of writing. Make sure those who are able to construct sentences, spell, and punctuate at or above their level get sufficient credit for the multiple years of effort, but don't let minor errors stand in the way of a high grade on content.

    60% Content (Response to question, validity of argument, validity of examples, complexity of argument)
    20% Structure (Uses sentences and paragraphs to organize response. Uses topic

    • I think your grading criteria need a little nudging. We should grade based upon what the intent of the exercise is -- in this case, the ability to convey and support an idea. This includes the elements of style (spelling, punctuation, grammar, etc.).

      For example, if you took a written exam and made 15 punctuation errors, you should be ineligible to receive an 'A' (95%). That level of error suggests the writer does not understand how to use punctuation, which is a large barrier to ensuring your readers un
  • why not let them use dragon?

  • by Venik (915777) on Tuesday December 21, 2010 @04:36PM (#34634482)
    Really, who cares how they spell things in Oregon? Personally, I find all this talk about improving our education system quite unpatriotic. How would the US survive if its population became well-educated? Who would fight wars? Who would overpay taxes? Who would bother to vote? Who would watch TV, do Christmas shopping, eat fast food, or shop at Walmart? Oregon can't sustain our entire economy, you know. We all need to pitch in. Good education is a privilege, not a right.
  • wa hapnz wen shtoodinz speeleeng i zoh ba da du splell chexor don wurc rie?

    • by demonbug (309515)

      wa hapnz wen shtoodinz speeleeng i zoh ba da du splell chexor don wurc rie?

      way happens went shoo-ins spieling I zoo bad ad du spell chador don work rye?

      4/15 ain't bad! Of course, that made it less readable than the original... but I grade on content, not meaning.

  • Good lord, looking at this make me think they deliberately tortured me in English classes between 9'th and 12'th grade.

    - Two term papers each grade. Worth 20 or 30 percent of your final grade (could not remember which).

    - Grammar errors -1 point each in term papers.

    - Spelling errors -2 points each in term papers.

    - It was possible to get a negative score on a term paper.

    - All had to be typed. I typed at the paltry rate of 20wpm even after taking a typing class.

    - One could not "graduate" 9'th grade
  • It wasn't that long ago I went through school In university, we were forbidden to use calculators in any class where it would be an advantage.

    In the classes we were allowed to, it was because it was going to be pointless... (we dealt mainly with variables...)

    It got so bad, even on exams that needed a final numerical answer, I would just do all the calculations as variables... then when I had finished all the question, I'd go back and try and do the final calculations.

    Today, that really helps me as a softwa

  • I've lived in Oregon almost my whole life, and went through public school here. My first thought on reading this is that a number of district leaders who have historically poor performance measures must be pressuring the state to allow this. See, in Oregon, we have this extremely backwards system where if a district is slipping in terms of the students' performance on standardized tests, that district is punished by having funding taken away. This of course worsens the district still further, leading to mor

  • Seems to me that spelling is a proper subset of writing, yes? And therefore, proficiency in writing necessarily entails proficiency in spelling.

    I think attention to correct spelling, grammar, and usage has largely fallen by the wayside because there it has become popular to criticize such attention to detail as being fussy or anal-retentive. People who point out these errors are derided for being pedantic, petty, and nitpicking. After all, if the meaning or intent is clear, why get hung up on the details

  • So, if I don't need to use Spell Check, and refuse to use it, but still get the spelling right, would I get bonus marks?

    I mean, I obviously would have demonstrated that I'd learned more.

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