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Do you need to be a good speller to be a good writer? The Oregon Department of Education doesn’t seem to think so :

On Wednesday, students across the state will start taking their standardized writing exams, and for the first time, those doing their essays online will get to use spell check.

For some students at East Portland’s Parkrose High School, using spell check on the state’s required writing exam makes a lot of sense.
“Nobody is a perfect speller. People have gone through school, they haven’t done so well at spelling and still turn out successful,” says junior Jerry Hunter, who points out that spell check is everywhere, even on cell phones. “It’s a good tool just to keep with you. I don’t think kids should be denied of that. It might even benefit us in the future.”

As an editor, I consider spell check to be one of the greatest technological advances since the pencil eraser. But I’m troubled by the idea that seems to be taking root that certain tools designed to aid cognitive abilities can be adequate substitutes for particular skill sets.

However, I don’t object to the use of calculators on advanced standardized tests. I recognize their utility in taking out the drudgery of doing basic calculations, freeing the student to focus on higher level processes. Is using spell check like using a calculator? How important is spelling as a skill related to writing anyway?

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