It's the end of the road for teachers who can’t spell

As of next term, teaching students will sit a national literacy and numeracy exam, a move the education minister hopes will put an end to misspelt report cards and miscalculated marks.

But one expert warns that a multiple-choice test does not a good teacher make.

Misty Adoniou from the University of Canberra writes in The Conversation, “If quality teaching and high student learning outcomes were achieved simply through knowing how to spell ‘accommodation’ then shame on us for not having figured that out a century ago”.

Ms Adoniou says teaching students need to understand the reasons why words are spelled the way they are, along with the rules of grammar that disappeared from curriculums with the “absorption” approach to language.

And most crucially, she argues, teachers must know how to teach this understanding to their students.

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As a teacher of teachers, Ms Adoniou says the inability to read critically and to write coherent arguments are of greater concern than a teacher’s ability to place a punctuation mark.

News Limited reports that in a recent study, more than 200 graduates at an unnamed Australian university struggled to spell a list of 20 words including “acquaintance”, “definite”, “exaggerate” and “parallel”. Not one student got full marks.

Education Minister Christopher Pyne said, “Testing key aspects of the literacy and numeracy skills of aspiring teachers will assist higher education providers, teacher employers and the general public to have absolute confidence in the skills of graduating teachers.’’

However, Ms Adoniou says “As politically appealing and cost effective as it seems, a multiple choice test of spelling and grammar will not provide the answer to the vexing questions around why some children struggle to read and write.”

The first 5000 teaching students will sit the test in August, although they have been told they will graduate even if they fail the test. From 2016, however, all teaching students much pass the test to qualify.

Do you support a mandatory spelling and numeracy test for teachers or do you think it’s a Bandaid solution for a deeper issue?