Accommodations Toolkit

Spell Check: Research

National Center on Educational Outcomes (NCEO)

This fact sheet on spell check is part of the Accommodations Toolkit published by the National Center on Educational Outcomes (NCEO). It summarizes information and research findings on spell check as an accommodation[1]. This toolkit also contains a summary of states’ accessibility policies for spell check.

A paragraph of text with numerous misspellings underlined in red

What is spell check? Spell check is a software feature that identifies possible misspellings, and either autocorrects or suggests possible corrections (Cullen et al, 2008; MacArthur, 1999). It is sometimes referred to as spell checker, spelling checker, spelling assistance. Spell check can help students correct spelling errors with less time focused on the writing mechanics of spelling which then allows them to concentrate more broadly on developing ideas or content in the writing process (MacArthur, 1999).

What are the research findings on who should use this accommodation? Spell check has been used for students with various disabilities in the elementary grades (Finch & Finch, 2013) and secondary grades (Finizio, 2008; Koretz & Hamilton, 2001). According to research findings, most of the students who receive this accommodation have specific learning disabilities (SLD) (Finizio, 2008; Koretz & Hamilton, 2001).

What are the research findings on implementation of spell check? No studies were identified on the implementation of spell check. Three studies examined the frequency of spell check.

  • Two studies examined how frequently students received the spell check accommodation, and both found that spell check was one of the least frequently assigned accommodations at the elementary (Finch & Finch, 2013) and secondary (Koretz & Hamilton, 2001) levels.
  • Finizio (2008) examined the match relationship between instructional accommodations and state assessment accommodations documented in the individualized education programs (IEPs) of secondary students with various disabilities, most of whom had SLD. The results indicated that spell checking was mostly used as an instructional accommodation and not generally used on assessments.

What perceptions do students and teachers have about spell check? No studies were found that examined student or teacher perceptions of spell check as an assessment accommodation.

What have we learned overall? Research studies found that spell check is one of least assigned assessment accommodations, though it may be used more often during instruction. It is used for elementary and secondary students with various disabilities, and is most frequently provided to students with SLD. No studies were identified that examined the effect of spell check on student performance. Research is needed on the effect of spell check on the performance of students with different disabilities, including English learners with disabilities. Likewise, there is a need to explore teacher and student perceptions of the spell check accommodation.


  • Cullen, J., Richards, S., & Frank, C. L. (2008). Using software to enhance the writing skills of students with special needs. Journal of Special Education Technology, 23(2), 33–44.
  • Finch, W. H., & Finch, M. E. H. (2013). Differential item functioning analysis using a multilevel Rasch mixture model: Investigating the impact of disability status and receipt of testing accommodations. Journal of Applied Measurement, 15(2), 133–151.
  • Finizio, N. J., II. (2008). The relationship between instructional and assessment accommodations on student IEPs in a single urban school district (Publication No. 3313763) [Doctoral dissertation, University of Massachusetts Boston]. ProQuest Dissertations and Theses Global.
  • Koretz, D., & Hamilton, L. (2001). The performance of students with disabilities on New York’s Revised Regents Comprehensive Examination in English (CSE Technical Report No. 540). Center for the Study of Evaluation (CRESST), UCLA.
  • MacArthur, C. A. (1999). Word prediction for students with severe spelling problems. Learning Disability Quarterly, 22(3), 158–172.


All rights reserved. Any or all portions of this document may be reproduced and distributed without prior permission, provided the source is cited as:

  • Goldstone, L., Lazarus, S. S., Hendrickson, K., Rogers, C., & Hinkle, A. R. (2022). Spell check: Research (NCEO Accommodations Toolkit #27a). National Center on Educational Outcomes.

The Center is supported through a Cooperative Agreement (#H326G210002) with the Research to Practice Division, Office of Special Education Programs, U.S. Department of Education. The Center is affiliated with the Institute on Community Integration at the College of Education and Human Development, University of Minnesota. Consistent with EDGAR §75.62, the contents of this report were developed under the Cooperative Agreement from the U.S. Department of Education, but do not necessarily represent the policy or opinions of the U.S. Department of Education or Offices within it. Readers should not assume endorsement by the federal government. Project Officer: David Egnor