SS9. 8pp. On other pages: part 2, part 3, part 4 (Supplement), part 5.
[Allan Campbell: see Journals, Newsletters, Media, Spell 4 Literacy NZ.]

Founded 1908
Working for planned change in English spelling for the benefit of learners and users everywhere

simpl speling July 1999 part 1.

Editor: Allan Campbell.

Reps Appointed.

At the Society's annual meeting in March Alan Mole was appointed its United States representative. [See Newsletters, Web link, badges, 'winning the children'.]

Allan Campbell was confirmed as the New Zealand representative.

Members favor gradual change.

More than half of respondents to the members' ballot on the type of reform the Society should pursue favored a gradual approach.

Sixty-five members (about half) returned their ballot papers. Forty-one favored option B - staged reform (24 in small steps, 15 in a few big stages; and two did not specify which). Sixteen favored A - a comprehensive, single-stage reform. Eight made other suggestions.

Comments with the votes indicated that B voters recognized idealism needed to be tempered by realistic appreciation of what was possible - that likely public reactions to reform proposals needed to be taken into account. They had voted for the B option because they saw it as the one most likely to succeed.

Six A-voters said they, too, appreciated reform would probably have to be introduced in stages, but wanted an agreed overall plan in place before this was attempted.

The need for clear overall aims before doing anything was also stressed by several B and C voters.

Another favored strategy was to educate the public on the harm of TO.

Secretary Masha Bell was pleased to find that her own overall views on reform were in agreement with the majority of voting members. This would enable her to launch herself into publicity on behalf of the Society with more confidence. It also indicated the general direction which more detailed proposals should take.

Research may lead to agreed first steps.

At the Society's annual general meeting Masha Bell presented research she had undertaken with a view to getting some suggestions for the improvement of English spelling agreed to by members. She said she was keenly aware that lack of such agreed suggestions had repeatedly been cited as a reason for the Society's failure to make more headway with reform.

She presented a list of 32 main problem areas of TO she had found. She then outlined research she had done into establishing which problems were common and which less so among the 3000 most frequently used English words - She felt if our chief aim was to help learners, we needed to concentrate on making the spelling of the most common basic vocabulary as regular as possible. This would ensure more reliable success for the teaching of fonics, and make it less dependent on the excellence of teachers. It would remove current vocabulary restrictions on beginners' learning schemes.

She found doubled consonants and the variety of spellings for the long ee sound were the two greatest sources of possible confusion; followed by silent final -e; inconsistent short -u- (eg, nut) and short -e- sounds; and deviations from a+magic e spelling in medial position.

She has put her findings before the Society internet discussion group which is at present trying to reach consensus on some reform measures members could be asked to vote on.

The first seven or so favorite measures of the membership, depending on the final number which the discussion group agrees on, could then perhaps become agreed SSS strategy for improving English spelling in an initial reform.

[Masha Bell: see Journals, Newsletters, Leaflets, Media, Personal View.]

This 'n' that from here 'n' there.

Parents lodge lawsuit over basic skills exams

Jean Wilkinson.

A group of Oregon parents of learning-disabled children, via Advocate for Special Kids (ASK), is suing the Boards of Education of the State of Oregon and of Portland City Schools. They claim the test for the new Certificate of Initial Mastery (CIM), now given to all tenth-graders in Oregon public schools, discriminates against their children, most of whom are dyslexic.

The test includes reading, writing (spelling, punctuation, etc) and math story problems. A passing score qualifies students to attend advanced classes leading via a second exam to a Certificate of Advanced Mastery (CAM). Graduates failing the CIM will get an ordinary diploma.

The parents are protesting that their children are neurologically incapable of correct spelling, but are otherwise intelligent. Failing the CIM limits their children's education, and could also make them ineligible for Oregon's public universities and community colleges.

The school district is responding by saying these students should have had (legally mandated) Individual Education Programs, whereby at the first of the school year the student's parents and teachers would have together set up a course of study that helps to deal with the disability. Presumably word processors with automatic spell-checkers would have been made available to these students thruout the year.

The parents are claiming that this prerequisite was not made clear to them at the first of the year, making the student ineligible at test time for the accommodation. The state is countering that the use of those helps during the test would invalidate the test. Using the accommodation will disqualify the user.

The case is to be heard in the US District Court in Portland, its date being determined on or after June 8.

¶ Jean's comment: These students need a consistent orthography - Soundspel, for instance. So do low achievers and some immigrant students. Why can't the US have two simultaneous orthographies? I read in the Journal that Japan has four.

[Jean Wilkinson: see Newsletters .]

Winners, Spelling Day Competition 1998:
Tom Lang 1, Jean Wilkinson 2.

'Scrabl' for reformers.

In 'Scrabl' for reformers (for trademark reasons called BABL), double score is awarded for using Surplus-Cut spellings - that is, omitting letters that are really surplus to representing meaning or pronunciation. The score is not awarded if other players show that the omitted letters are really necessary to show meaning or pronunciation. This variation, invented by Society vice-president Valerie Yule, can also be played with extra tiles, as suggested by other SSS members, to represent phonemes ch, sh, th, zh, and ng, and even long vowels a, e, i, o, u.

1999 spelling jokes competition.

The millennial international competition for Spelling Day (October 9) is for the best collection of spelling jokes. Collect cartoons, limericks, quips, riddles, anecdotes, drawings, or make up your own. Prizes: Individual collections - Booklets on spelling games, and spelling cartoon memo books. Best school collection: A take-home Help Yourself To Read and Spell half-hour cartoon video. The usual competition rules apply.

All contributions without a prior copyright may be included in a Spelling Joke Book being compiled in aid of literacy innovations. Send your entry to: Valerie Yule, Australia. Closing date: June 30, 2000.

[Valerie Yule: see Journals, Newsletters, Media, Personal View Anthology, Bulletins, Web links.]

'Loopy' In The Herald,

Glasgow, this from an article on Andrew Carnegie: 'He had some loopy schemes: he was, for instance, an ardent supporter of spelling reform.'

Literacy reports.

In The Guardian (London) education section in March, Society member Ken Spencer discussed results of experiments carried out by Hull University's Institute for Learning, where he is a lecturer. After commenting on findings in comparative studies of literacy acquisition in some European languages, he asked why do we make reading so difficult, while other languages modernize their writing systems and do better in literacy.

Another report condemning the literacy level in an English-speaking country was made public in Britain two days after Ken's Guardian article. Declaring 23% of British adults had low literacy and numeracy skills (only Poland and Ireland had larger proportions), the government sponsored Working Group on Post-School Basic Skills proposed trebling funds for adults basic skills courses. It suggested an army of salespeople call at people's homes to persuade them to take new programs.

In April, the NZ Literacy Task force reported to the Minister of Education on how to achieve the goal that 'By 2005, every child turning nine will be able to read, write, and do maths for success'. The report read much like those of similar commissions around the world. It focused on funding, teacher training, teaching practises and resources, emphasis on literacy in early school years, community support, and a description of knowledge skills. The only mention of spelling was in an appendix, which stated a nine-year-old 'writing for success' 'consistently makes informed attempts at spelling.'

[Ken Spencer: see Journal, Newsletter, Media.]

[John Gledhill: see Journals, Newsletters, Media.]

What one member has been doing.

A pre-Christmas office experiment.

Dr John M Gledhill, England.

Searching for something different for the office staff to do whilst relaxing in the week before Christmas, 1998, I decided to seek their views on a variety of spelling systems sent to me for this purpose by some members of the Society email group. The idea was to give the participants the same text spelled in several different ways, to see which they felt was the easiest to read.

The full text was about one side of A4 taken from a student handbook, so that the terminology would be familiar to the staff. The first version was current standard English spelling, followed by the same text in ANJeL Tug, three variants of Cut Spelling/ Surplus-Cut, and two variants of New Spelling.

Staff were asked two questions: 'How easy did you find it to understand?' and 'How acceptable would it be to use as the normal form of spelling?'

The texts were presented in the above order, which was deliberately chosen (a) to ensure that 'normal' spelling came first so they were presented with the context and the terminology, (b) to put similar proposals near to each other to see if they got the same score (ie, to eliminate the tendency to give a high score merely because it was easier than the preceding version).

The number of staff in the experiment was too low to be able to vary the order of the texts, which would have helped eliminate variation based on that order; instead they were deliberately given them in the same order so that this variation (if present) was a constant that could be ignored.

Sixteen staff were invited to take part and were given the texts; seven of them couldn't grasp what was intended and declined to take part.

The figures are therefore based on the nine who could understand the basic assumption that there was such a thing as alternative spelling. That in itself is an interesting figure: half the staff simply took English spelling as an unchanging constant, even as an axiom.

The sample chosen consisted of one male and eight females, all well educated (six to graduate level); age mid 20s to mid 50s. The results are shown in the box (marks out of 10).

ANJeL Tug was a complete shock to all those taking part and elicited several puzzled comments. The time taken to read Cut Spelling was notably close to the time taken for TO.

It is possibly discouraging that three of the nine respondents found all alternatives unacceptable, and that all gave 10/10 for the 'acceptability' of current normal spelling (only one gave 9 for 'ease of use of TO'; all the rest were 10/10).

As a further control respondents were asked whether they (a) knew shorthand, and (b) knew any foreign languages. This was to try to control for familiarity with different ways of writing sounds. There did not, however, appear to be any bias in the scores attributable to these other skills.

Conclusion: This was a very modest attempt to see how people totally untutored in the idea of spelling reform would react to a range of proposed changes, from the extreme to the straightforward. The outcomes probably reflect the extent to which each diverges from current TO. Reactions to more extreme proposals were strongly negative.

Textease of useacceptability time(minutes)

Cut Spelling A
New English Spelling A
New English Spelling B
Cut Spelling B

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On other pages: part 2, part 3, part 4 (Supplement), part 5.