National Spelling Bee Covers Cross Section of Educational Backgrounds

Forgive me if I act a little sleepy today. I stayed up past my bedtime last night to watch the finals of the Scripps National Spelling Bee. And after that, I was too excited to go to sleep. When I’m old enough, I want to be on ESPN and national TV, too — competing for the top prize as spelling champion. Think I can do it?

For now, I look forward to rooting for Tim Ruiter in 2010. The homeschooler from Centreville, Virginia, finished as runner-up this time around. (Next year, maybe Colorado spellers will advance farther, too.)

I like Tim’s attitude. He told the Washington Post:

Tim said that he plans to be back next year and that he’ll take only a short break — “I’ll go to bed” — before he resumes word study. “I’m glad that she won, because this was her last year,” he said.

The “she” is none other than the now-famous Kavya Shivashankar from Olathe, Kansas — who, as the Post puts it, “will take home a trophy, $37,500, a collection of reference works — and glory.” Kansas is definitely a lot closer to here than Virginia is. So even though she’s a girl and all, I felt pretty happy for her winning the Spelling Bee.

So what does this all have to do with education policy, you say? Well, I had to come up with something, so here it is. It’s worth looking at the diversity of different kinds of schooling backgrounds that were represented by the 293 competitors:

  • Traditional public schools (186 – 63.5%)
  • Private non-religious schools (39 – 13.3%)
  • Homeschools (36 – 12.3%)
  • Private parochial schools (24 – 8.2%)
  • Public charter schools (8 – 2.7%)

An interesting exercise is to compare these figures to the total enrollment percentages nationwide (approximate):

  • Traditional public schools (86.4%)
  • Private schools — not divided into parochial and non-religious (9.2%)
  • Public charter schools (2.4%)
  • Homeschools (2.1%)

It’s also important to note that most of the spellers in this year’s Bee got lots of coaching help from family members, usually parents.

Now it’s your job to make sure I spelled everything correctly in this post.