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 for their dizzying winning words (Feldenkrais and gesellschaft; nunatak and scherenschnitte; feuilleton and stichomythia, to be precise). As Ian Simpson reports for Reuters, officials have amended the rules of the Bee. The officials are hoping to ensure that one speller - and one speller only - will emerge victorious.
 
According to the new rules, the handful of contestants who make it to 6 p.m. on 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," the Bee's website states. If it becomes "mathematically impossible" for a single winner to emerge victorious 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."
 
That means 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 conundrum. The young competitors are getting too good at the spelling game. 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 for 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," though 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 two winners, 13-year-old Jairam Hathwar and 11-year-old Nihar Janga, nevertheless 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 unless we further raise the bar."
 
This year's Spelling Bee will take place 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 (16)
  • kimberlyc-
    4/20/2017 - 08:37 a.m.

    The bee's organizers want to eliminate ties because they want their to be on spelling bee winner since they've always ended in ties.

  • kimberlyc-
    4/20/2017 - 08:39 a.m.

    The Bee's organizers want to eliminate ties because they want there to be one clear winner since they've always ended in a tie.

  • kaylae-
    4/20/2017 - 01:02 p.m.

    they want to eliminate ties because the point is for one person to win. also if their is 2 winners they have to split the prize money or double it so each player is created equal

  • hjake-dav
    4/20/2017 - 03:59 p.m.

    This is a smart decision in many ways. The spelling bee will be wasting a lot of money by having two contestants win instead of one, and they could use the money to "upgrade" the spelling bee. Also, the one person who wins will now feel superior to the rest instead of feeling "you tied for first."

  • rlillian-dav
    4/20/2017 - 08:41 p.m.

    I found this article,"The National Spelling Bee adjusts its rules to prevent ties," interesting because I did not know a tie was even possible in a Spelling-Bee. I thought that it would just go until one person misses a word. I also found it interesting how if ties did occur, prior to 2014 they were very uncommon, as the article says, "Prior to 2014, there was only one Spelling Bee tie. It occurred in 1962." This was really surprising to me.

  • dsarah-dav
    4/20/2017 - 09:42 p.m.

    I agree with this decision to make only one winner of the National Spelling Bee. One reason why is because the prize money is very expensive to come out of pockets.40,000 dollars. That sounds like the money spent on a brand new, fancy car, right? Wrong. That is the amount of money given to the winning child of the bee. 80,000 dollars are spent to award the times when there are two winners. That is just too much to offer to kids who are good spellers. Another reason why I agree is that it is done wisely and fairly. The final kids take a "written tie-breaking test."

  • pkate-dav
    4/20/2017 - 10:00 p.m.

    In response to, "The National Spelling Bee adjusts its rules to prevent ties", I think it was a good idea to eliminate ties. The Bee organizers want to eliminate ties and only have one first place winner because they want to have one winner. In the article, it says, "But in recent years, kid spellers have been expanding their knowledge of vocabulary and word origins. This has forced officials to plumb the dictionary for ever-longer and more difficult words." This is showing that since they are making the words harder there is less chance for a tie. Although a tie could still be possible, it will become less likely because if there is a tie in the speaking portion, the two kids will have to take a test can consists of 12 spelling words. It states, "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." That means there's still a possibility for a tie. But it makes that scenario less likely."

  • nickk-ver
    4/21/2017 - 10:01 a.m.

    I think they want to eliminate ties because the point of the spelling bee is to find the best speller. If ties can be so easily achieved then how will we know who is the best speller? Without ties it would make the competition more competitive and more entertaining for audience to watch.

  • marquism1-bla
    4/28/2017 - 08:35 a.m.

    Bee`s organizers want to eliminate ties because it is weird sharing a championship trophy that you have earned with someone else. Like last year I was watching it and I just see two people holding a trophy like what... So I would be proud if there is one winner instead of two winners that is pretty lame how they do that.

  • shaniac-bla
    4/28/2017 - 09:28 a.m.

    The spelling bee wants to eliminate ties because the people who organize the bee's want there to be one winner, not two. The whole point of the bee's is to see who can spell the best or the hardest words. The people organizing the bee's have changed the bee, now including a pre-test, and harder, and more words. So, I think the point of eliminating ties is to have one winner, which makes it more competitive, and better to watch. With no ties it kind of gives you some suspense.

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