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 (9)
  • 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.

  • 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.

  • gabriellem-har
    4/20/2017 - 12:20 p.m.

    The Bee's organizers want to eliminate ties because when they have a tie, they have to give each of the kids the amount of money that they were supposed to get. This means that the Bee's organizers end up paying double what they would have to if there was only one winner. In the article, "The National Spelling Bee adjusts its rules to prevent ties" the author, Brigit Katz states, "For the past three years, the Scripps National Spelling Bee has ended in a tie. Two whiz kids each claimed a $40,000 prize" (paragraph 1). This quote proves that everytime their is a tie, the Bee's organization has to pay a lot more money.

  • samanthas-1-ste
    4/20/2017 - 01:33 p.m.

    The Bee's want there to be a fair race and one champion. Also, I would not want to give out $80,000 more than once.

  • djw1-har
    4/20/2017 - 08:31 p.m.

    The Bee's organizers want to eliminate ties because people are getting smarter and smarter and more people are going to tie in the near future. The Bee's organizers also want to eliminate ties in the spelling bee because with these kids that keep trying they might want someone else to have a chance to win.

  • brooket1-ver
    4/21/2017 - 03:19 p.m.

    This is interesting because it's good that they have to change the rules. It mean more kids are willing to learn words and practice for them. Plus it shows that more and more kids are getting smarter everyday. Furthermore the change is also good because if the kids keep getting better and better and there will be more ties, kids won't get all the prize money and might not be as willing to try. Hopefully this change will help with ties and make sure there is only one champion this year.

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