The National Spelling Bee adjusts its rules to prevent ties Nihar Janga, 11, of Austin, Texas, and Jairam Hathwar, 13, of Painted Post, N.Y., hold up the trophy after being named co-champions at the 2016 National Spelling Bee. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin/AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
The National Spelling Bee adjusts its rules to prevent ties
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For the past three years, the Scripps National Spelling Bee has ended in a tie. Two whiz kids each claimed a $40,000 prize. They were able to correctly spell a dizzying array of winning words. Those included Feldenkrais and gesellschaft; nunatak and scherenschnitte; feuilleton and stichomythia.
 
As Ian Simpson reports for Reuters, officials have amended the rules of the Bee. The officials are hoping to ensure that only one speller will emerge as champion.
 
According to the new rules, the handful of contestants who make it to the final evening of the competition will be required to take a written tiebreaking test. The test consists of 12 spelling words and "12 multiple choice vocabulary items." This is according to the Bee's website. If it becomes "mathematically impossible" for a single winner to emerge by 25 rounds, officials will reveal the test scores of the remaining competitors.
 
"The speller with the highest Tiebreaker Test score will be declared champion," the site explains. "If, however, there is a tie on the Tiebreaker Test for the highest score, the spellers tying for the highest score will be declared co-champions."
 
There's still a possibility for a tie. But it makes that scenario less likely. The organization revamped its rules in response to a rather pleasant problem. The young competitors are getting too good. Prior to 2014, there was only one Spelling Bee tie. It occurred in 1962. This is according to Ben Nuckols of The Associated Press.
 
But in recent years, kid spellers have been expanding their knowledge of vocabulary and word origins. This has forced officials to plumb the dictionary. They are seeking ever-longer and more difficult words. (The Bee's list of winning words reflects the extent to which the competition has evolved since its inception in 1925. In 1936, for instance, Jean Trowbridge won for correctly spelling the word "interning." However, the word wouldn't have been as common at the time as it is today.)
 
Last year, the Bee decided to switch from 25 "championship words" to 25 "championship rounds." That means judges could hurl as many as 75 words at finalists. Officials were also granted permission to adjust the difficulty of those words during the competition. But 13-year-old Jairam Hathwar and 11-year-old Nihar Janga still tied for the championship prize.
 
Paige Kimble is executive director of the Spelling Bee. She told Nuckols that there "is certainly a point of view that the level of competition has risen to a place where we are likely to see more co-championships." That is, "unless we further raise the bar."
 
This year's Spelling Bee is May 30-June 1. It will be held at a convention center outside Washington. The new test will introduce an additional challenge to the already stressful event. But such is the rigorous world of children's spelling championships, where - theoretically at least - only one speller can rule them all.

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why do the Bee’s organizers want to eliminate ties?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (78)
  • devynm13-
    4/19/2017 - 08:36 a.m.

    They want to eliminate ties because recently,there been ties every year starting in 2014. They want to give the children a chance to win their own prize, by making finalists take a test.

  • wesleya-
    4/19/2017 - 08:37 a.m.

    Cause they want one person to win because it's more interesting to see only one kid win the championship instead of two people.

  • mariano-
    4/19/2017 - 08:37 a.m.

    I believe that they don't want ties anymore, because they only want one champion. The money would only go to one person, and then it's a more fun competition. If there is only one winner than the money only goes to one person, there will be an actual champion and not just co-champions.

  • hayleel-ste
    4/19/2017 - 12:06 p.m.

    I never personally was a good speller but I guess it is good that they fund a way to make sure their are no ties, because in the end someones got to win.

  • garfielda-
    4/19/2017 - 01:02 p.m.

    they WANT TO ELIMINATE TIES BECAUSE THEIR IS A LOT OF MONEY THAT THEY HAVE TO SPEND.

  • utinley-dav
    4/19/2017 - 05:35 p.m.

    In response to "The National Spelling Bee adjusts its rules to prevent ties," I agree that the National Spelling Bee should change to help prevent ties. One reason I agree is that for the past 3 years, the spelling bee has ended in a tie. Another reason is that the way the Spelling Bee officials have altered the rules, it doesn't affect the players as much as you would think. It says in the article, "But in recent years, kid spellers have been expanding their knowledge of vocabulary and word origins." A third reason is because kids that are in the national spelling bee are getting smarter which is leading to more and more ties. This makes it even harder for judges to give them words to spell. Even though some people may call it cheating, I think
    it was for the better.

  • andyz-har
    4/19/2017 - 06:58 p.m.

    The Spelling Bee's organizers want to eliminate ties because they only want one spelling bee champion. In paragraph 2 the author states," officials have amended the rules of the Bee. The officials are hoping to ensure that only one speller will emerge as champion." They have totally changed the Spelling Bee. They have added a written tiebreaker test. But if is "mathematically impossible," then they are just going to have to deal with it.

  • bmaria-dav
    4/19/2017 - 06:59 p.m.

    In response to "The National Spelling Bee adjusts its rules to prevent ties," I agree that they should create new rules to have only one winner. One reason I agree is that a tradition for spelling bees is to have one winner. Another reason is that kids don't have to fight over the trophy or prize money. It says in the article "For the past three years, the Scripps National Spelling Bee has ended in a tie," creating the test at the end could remove that 3 year streak. Even though the ties are fair, I think that one winner could be a nice change.

  • joeyh-
    4/20/2017 - 08:37 a.m.

    Ties aren't always a good thing because their is no real winner, which makes all of the work put in seem useless. Also, having two winners make it even more confusing the Bee to keep a record on who did what.

  • juliom2012-
    4/20/2017 - 08:41 a.m.

    The Bee organizers want to eliminate ties because they only want one person to be declared champion.

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