Schools Moving Spelling Up on Their Priority List

Article excerpt

Byline: Dwayne T. Wong Daily Herald Staff Writer

Children should know what words to use in a sentence and how to spell them.

That's what Prospect Heights Elementary District 23 officials recently told administrators about developing programs to halt a slide in students' spelling skills.

District 23 board member Mari Cohen said the panel wants it "so kids realize even with (computer) spell check, all the words on the paper have to be spelled right."

The District 23 board became concerned about the subject after results from the Iowa Test of Basic Skills showed an increasing number of its fourth-grade students falling into the below average category in spelling over the past few years.

Last week, parents presented a petition with 160 signatures to District 23 officials asking them to make improving the school system's spelling curriculum "a priority."

Some Northwest suburban educators, including those in District 23, have partially blamed the decline in spelling scores to an increase in testing of students who are not proficient in English.

They also cite an increasing number of at-risk students now attending area schools, rising enrollments and a high number of children moving out of and into schools during the year as factors contributing to the problem.

However, District 23 is not alone in its struggles with lagging student test scores in spelling.

In neighboring River Trails Elementary District 26, for example, officials are challenged by a similar downward trend in students' reading scores.

District 26 Superintendent Shirley F. Smalley says factors cited by District 23 officials contribute to problems students experience learning English.

"It (language) is reading, writing, speaking and listening. It's in the writing part where you deal with spelling and grammar," she said.

District 26 officials recently approved a host of short-term programs to help students struggling in reading and other subjects.

Those programs include developing the Northwest suburb's first pre-kindergarten summer school for children entering the district lacking "readiness" skills needed for learning. …