Introducing the Literacy Pod

Rebecca Sitton Spelling Program Abandons Rules

Traditional spelling rules have been abandoned in the latest spelling program sweeping the nation. Children use cheat sheets during "tests" to ensure success.

Talk about dumbing-down our schools. School districts across the nation are adopting the Rebecca Sitton spelling program. Here is the truth about this spelling program, as taken from a seminar guidebook by Rebecca Sitton called Improve Student Spelling Achievement (copyright 1995, by Rebecca Sitton; published by Egger Publishing, P. O. Box 4466, Spokane, Washington 99202. Phone: 509-534-1000, Fax: 509-534-6971).

Sitton students must spell only 1200 high-frequency "core" words correctly by 8th grade. By contrast, kids taught phonics can spell tens of thousands of words by 8th grade. Under the Sitton program, students will be encouraged to invent spellings for words not on the core list of 1200 words. Sitton defends invented spelling by claiming that kids' budding creativity and fragile self-esteem will be stunted if spelling mistakes are corrected.

Struggling students are excused from learning the entire core word list. Instead, the teacher chooses a few words from the list for the slow student. The first 10 core words are: the, of, and, a, to, in, is, you, that, and it. Parents, will you be satisfied if little Johnny can spell only these 10 words by age 8?

According to Sitton, "students routinely get 100% on the post-test" of the core words. How is this possible? Because each child looks up words on a cheat sheet during the "test" (in Loudoun County, Virginia a cheat sheet is taped to each child's desk). Traditional spelling tests are out; feel-good pseudo-tests are in.

Sitton believes that "the spelling solution does not lie in improving the low standardized spelling-test scores...The solution is to improve students' spelling in writing and then to use their writing as the basis for spelling evaluation." What better way to mask failure than to replace objective standardized tests with subjective writing evaluations?

"Very few spelling rules...are effective in teaching spelling," claims Sitton. So it's no surprise that the Sitton program teaches only four spelling rules. Your child certainly won't be taught the vowel spelling patterns (such as ai, ay, ie, oo) that everyone must learn to become a good speller and reader.

Sitton insists that "learning to spell a word involves forming a correct visual image of the whole word. All words should be introduced as whole words so that students can more easily form and retain correct visual images of them."

It's clear that the Rebecca Sitton program is a whole-word or whole-language spelling program. But whole language, which has replaced phonics and traditional spelling instruction throughout most of our country, is the root cause of declining U.S. literacy (as documented in The Century of Miseducation of American Teachers and Illiteracy: An Incurable Disease or Education Malpractice?).

By adopting invented spelling, and now Rebecca Sitton spelling, school administrators across the country are trying to hide the grievous failure of their reading, writing, and spelling curriculums. Bewildered parents are told it's OK that their first-graders can't spell more than 10 words, they'll pick it up eventually. How? By osmosis?

by Sandra Elam, Virginia Director, The National Right to Read Foundation, November 1998