It was bound to happen eventually. Oregon, one of the first states to offer online testing and digital writing exams, has decided that students will be allowed to click the spell check button while taking their state-wide writing tests
. State Superintendent Susan Castillo told Oregon Live, "We are not letting a student's keyboarding skills get in the way of being able to judge their writing ability," implying that the spell check will primarily be used to catch typos -- not compensate for poor spelling skills. Department staff supporting the move point out that the spell check will not correct grammar errors or misused homonyms and punctuation. Students will still be required to identify the correct word when presented with options and differentiate between words that are commonly mixed up like "their" and "they're," "to" and "too" or "effect" and "affect."
Still, some worry that offering the tool will encourage students to ignore their spelling skills. If a student knows they will simply be able to hit a button and identify and correct words they've misspelled they'll be less inclined to try and remember the correct spelling. The state is addressing some of those concerns by only offering automatic spell check to students in grades five and above, saying that children in the fourth grade and below are still learning the fundamentals of spelling (though they'll still be able to use paper and electronic dictionaries).