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The Oregon Department of Education has decided that students will have the option of spell checking their work before submitting state exams in 2011. It's one of those stories that seems to beg for "shock" and "scandal" and "kids these days" sorts of ledes and headlines. The Huffington Post, for example opens its story by saying Oregon "no longer feels its students need to be able to spell."

But Oregon officials say the move will help students focus more on their writing and less on their keyboarding. Indeed, spell check has always seemed to address typos as much spelling errors.

Fourth graders won't have the option to use spell check, as the Department of Education says this age group is still learning the fundamentals of spelling. (All students do have access to dictionaries during the exams.) But older students will be able to spell check their writing exams -- the tool that won't look at grammar or punctuation.

Some state officials have expressed their opposition to spell check being allowed, questioning whether it's in kids' best interest to have the technology at their disposal.

The Oregonian quotes Tony Alpert, Department of Education's Director of Assessment saying "Students must still know how to recognize a correct word and correct spelling. We're giving one additional tool to students to identify potential misspellings. It's consistent with how we might expect kids to learn how to use the technology in life."

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Audrey Watters


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