“Evening was falling. Mom and Dad worried, wondering why their four boys hadn’t come home. “The kids must have gotten lost,” Mama said. If they haven’t found their way home yet, we’ll see them arrive home very tired. – Why not call Martine? She may have seen them! No sooner said than done ! At that moment, the dog began to bark. »
It is on this short text that the statistics agency of the Ministry of National Education and Youth (Depp) has been evaluating, since 1987, the spelling performance of CM2 students. Proposed to a sample of pupils in 1987, 2007, 2015 and 2021, this dictation of 67 words and 16 punctuation marks aims to assess the degree of mastery of the spelling of common words and grammatical spelling rules (agreement between the subject and the verb, agreements in the nominal group and agreements of the past participle). In thirty-four years, the number of errors has increased steadily, from an average of 10.7 faults in 1987 to 19.4 in 2021.
Slowing of the increase in the average number of errors
However, the increase in the number of faults is less marked between 2015 and 2021 (with an average of 1.4 more faults, compared to 3.3 additional faults between 2007 and 2015). In 1987, 30.7% of students made five errors or less. They were only 7% in 2021. Conversely, the proportion of CM2 pupils having committed at least 25 errors peaks at 27.5% in 2021, compared to 6.9% in 1987.
The study also highlights a gap in results between pupils making few errors, fewer than in 1987, and those who accumulate spelling errors, more and more numerous.
The agreement between the subject and the verb, the main source of errors
Lexical errors are the least frequent: in 2021, as in 2015, pupils recorded an average of three errors. Nouns “evening”, “house”, “dog” or ” father ” and ” mom ” continue to be written correctly by more than nine out of ten students. Definite articles are also mastered by more than 90% of students. The percentage of correct writing of the adverb ” definitely “ however, lost 4.7 points compared to 2015 and 18.3 points compared to 1987, with a success rate of only 43.1%.
It is the agreement between the subject and the verb that poses the most difficulties for students. In the sentence “evening was falling”only 56.9% of students conjugate the verb correctly in 2021. They were 87% in 1987. Similarly, in the sentence: “Mom and dad, worried, wondering why…”the verb is only spelled correctly by 42.8% of students in 2021, compared to 70.5% in 1987.
Among the ten words with a success rate of less than 50%, we also find “worried” (25.3%), “tired” (35.8%), “will see” (36.9%), or ” to arrive “ (46.7%). The palm of the worst spelled word goes to the agreement of the verb voir in the sentence: “She may have seen them!” », the verb voir referring to the subject ” the kids “. Already in 1987, only 32.2% of pupils succeeded in spelling it correctly. They were only 17.4% in 2021.
Differences between girls and boys and social origin
This study also shows that the performance of girls in spelling is superior to that of boys. They made an average of 17.7 errors while the boys recorded 21.1. This difference between girls and boys has remained globally stable since 1987.
Spelling performance also depends on the overall level of mastery of the language as well as the social origin of the students. According to a pupil performance index developed according to the social level of their schools, the Depp has identified four groups of establishments, from those which welcome the least privileged children to those welcoming the most privileged. Students in the first group, the least advantaged, make an average of 21.9 errors against 15.5 among the most advantaged.