An English teacher at Valley High School in Pennsylvania noticed such a wide difference in spelling ability between handwritten and word processed work that they held a spelling bee as a fun way to highlight the problem.
“Of the 10 most commonly misspelled ninth-grade words, only one (student) got eight right; the majority of them were three and under,” said Barr. The words included “incessant” and “camouflage.”
Students fared better on the sixth-grade words like “separate” and “restaurant,” but still only nine students got six out of 10 words correct, Barr said.
A survey in 2008 by the Pew Research Center found that most teenagers consider texting to be more akin to a phone call than actual writing, and as such they don’t believe that their use of ‘textisms’ (LOL, GR8, etc) negatively impacts the quality of their writing. However the same survey noted that half of students admitted to using informal writing styles in formal school assignments.
Melissa Tungate, Upper St. Clair High School’s English curriculum leader, said she’s seen “a lot of abbreviation and lack of punctuation” since texting became common. One of the most common offenses is the use of a lowercase U for the word “you.”
“They’re writing as they’re talking,” she said. “The challenge has always been to get them to write in a more formal voice.”
Prof Clare Wood, senior lecturer in the university’s psychology department, said: “We are now starting to see consistent evidence that children’s use of text message abbreviations has a positive impact on their spelling skills.
Despite a mass of anecdotal evidence, including Valley High’s spelling bee, suggesting that standards in spelling and literacy are declining, academics at Coventry University in the UK continue to insist that there is no evidence that mobile phones harm child literacy and that they may actually improve spelling.
This lack of spelling ability among its youth may become a more serious problem for Pennsylvania schools once it fully implements the Common Core standards, which include a requirement for English literacy that will apply to all students, not merely the college-bound.