The Spelling Sensitivity Score: Noting Developmental Changes in Spelling Knowledge


Spelling is a language skill supported by several linguistic knowledge sources, including phonemic, orthographic, and morphological knowledge. Typically, however, spelling assessment procedures do not capture the development and use of these linguistic knowledge sources. The purpose of this article is to describe a new assessment system, the Spelling Sensitivity Score (SSS), and then demonstrate initial evidence of its usefulness for detecting developmental changes in spelling knowledge. Two studies that examined spelling knowledge across an academic year in kindergarten, first-, third-, fourth-, and fifth-grade students using the SSS and a traditional correct/incorrect scoring are reported. For all grades, the SSS system, unlike traditional scoring, was able to reveal specific increases in the children’s linguistic knowledge across time. Furthermore, for the kindergarten children, the SSS metric was more sensitive than traditional scoring for noting general and specific developmental changes across the year. Collectively, the SSS appears to be a viable tool for documenting changes in underlying linguistic knowledge that children apply to their spelling.


Communication Sciences and Disorders

Document Type





spelling, assessment, phonemic awareness, orthographic knowledge, morphological knowledge

Publication Date


Journal Title

Assessment for Effective Intervention