Scripps is creating a new path to its National Spelling Bee that could result in the field of spellers nearly doubling, from fewer than 300 to more than 500.
Any speller who wins a school-level bee will now have the opportunity to request a wild-card invitation to the national bee. Scripps will hand out up to 225 wild cards, giving top priority to those who have been to the national competition before and then to older spellers who are running out of eligibility. The bee is open to students through the 8th grade.
The motivation behind the change is to level the uneven playing field at regional bees, which previously offered the only path to the finals. There are roughly 275 regional bees. But 25 percent of the 11 million spellers who participate in the Scripps program are concentrated in just eight regions.
While sponsors pay for regional winners to travel to Washington for the bee, those who get invitations will have to pay a $750 entry fee and cover their own travel, food, and lodging costs.
A version of this article appeared in the December 13, 2017 edition of Education Week as Scripps National Spelling Bee to Offer Wild-Card Slots