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Have spelling tests gone by the wayside in Harford County Public Schools? When a Dagger reader posted a recent a comment to that effect, we contacted HCPS looking for confirmation or denial – what we got was a little of both. More on that in a moment, but first, here is the comment from “HCPS Teacher” that sparked our interest:
“I just have one thing to say about this. All the parents need to contact the board because Lynn Owen the supervisor of Language Arts in the County has taken away spelling in the elementary schools for the first time this year. Spelling AND GRAMMAR is to be taught in content. No more weekly spelling tests and words to learn. If you happen to be at a school that still has it, then KUDOS to your principal for not listening to Lynn Owen. Spelling is going to be removed from the report card as well. Parents should be outraged as are the teachers. We are dumbing down our kids and we need to take a stand. Our children need formal grammar lessons as well as spelling on a daily basis. I often wonder to myself if even Tomback himself is aware of this. Parents you need to do this. If teachers do it then our jobs are on the line. Parents and every other tax payer in this county THIS IS HOW HARFORD COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLS OPERATES!!!!”
Such dramatic changes in spelling instruction would be news, so we contacted Teri Kranefeld, HCPS manager of communications, for more information. Responding to the changes alleged by “HCPS Teacher”, Ms. Kranefeld wrote in e-mail:
“The elementary report card has not been altered and still reflects spelling. Ms. Owen informed schools that the mode of spelling instruction could be altered in order to move instruction forward by teaching it more effectively. The typical method of spelling instruction was strictly memorization, the new research-based philosophy is to teach spelling through a variety of activities in order to facilitate an understanding of the word and its use rather than sheer memorization. Teaching children strategies for correct spelling is very important. Rather than receiving a spelling list on Monday and tested on Friday, students should be involved in examining words from a variety of perspectives and the activities should engage students in comparing, contrasting, and discussing words. As such, spelling actually becomes more of a focus rather than being removed altogether as the comment suggests.”
Responding to a follow-up question, Kranefeld said that spelling tests are still given in some schools.
So it appears that spelling remains on the elementary school report card (for now), and some students still have spelling tests. But much like other new waves in education – Whole Language instruction for reading and Everday Math – a new philosophy for spelling instruction has arrived, meaning that that weekly spelling tests in Harford County Public Schools may soon be t-o-a-s-t.