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Spelling Achievement: Weighing the Research

Cedric Croft

Studies of spelling are not particularly numerous in New Zealand, the 2 standard bibliographies listing no more than 20 completed during the last 50 years. All but two of these studies appeared before 1970, and only five are more recent than 1960. The majority are diploma of education investigations, interred in university libraries and rarely, if ever, consulted. Of the others a handful have achieved, quite recently, in the context of the debate over falling standards, a position of some eminence and authority. Three of these studies, by Winterbourn, Francis, and Freyberg, are based on data derived from dictated-word (OW) spelling tests. The others, by Arvidson, and Nicholson, employ data gathered from samples of written language. What evidence do these five studies contain, and how can or should it be interpreted? In particular, what light do they throw on the question of spelling achievement?

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