CNHI News Service
The debate over the value of teaching cursive writing in schools has escalated since the nation’s governors and state education commissioners launched the Common Core State Standards Initiative in 2009.
Forty-five states and the District of Columbia have since adopted the national standards, beginning next year. Only Alaska, Minnesota, Nebraska, Texas, and Virginia have not.
The goal of the standards is to develop uniform education standards that spell out what students in kindergarten through 12th grade are taught so they can be competitive in the global economy. States can supplement the national rules with state standards.
The national standards don’t require children to learn how to read and write in cursive. They do, however, require that by the end of fourth grade, students demonstrate sufficient command of keyboarding skills to complete a one-page writing assignment.
The requirement is found in the literacy standards for English Language Arts for fourth-graders in a section that spells out standards for writing: “With some guidance and support from adults, use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing as well as to interact and collaborate with others; demonstrate sufficient command of keyboarding skills to type a minimum of one page in a single sitting.”
The common core standards don’t preclude teaching cursive writing. But as more time is devoted to mastering skills mandated by the standards, penmanship is dropped or less time is spent on it.
There are mixed responses in the states. Many are simply leaving it up to local school districts to decide whether cursive writing is taught in their schools.
The state boards of education in Alabama and Georgia, for example, voted in July 2012 to include cursive in their supplemental state standards. The Massachusetts Department of Education requires that fourth graders should be able to “write legibly by hand, using either printing or cursive handwriting.”
To find out more about your state, go the Common Core State Standards Initiative website: www.corestandards.org.
Teacher colleges join digital trend
The trend toward de-emphasizing cursive writing is also occurring at universities that prepare teachers for the classroom.
Students studying to be elementary teachers at Pittsburgh (Kan.) State University’s College of Education are instructed not to teach cursive as a stand-alone activity but rather to incorporate it into writing projects, said assistant professor Kristi Stuck.
She said the purpose is to teach youngsters “about the process of writing through the methods of writing” and not worry about how the attractiveness of their penmanship.
The Education Department at Missouri Southern State University in Joplin, Mo., prepares future teachers to instruct in “very straightforward letters without lots of curls,” said associate professor Becky Gallemore.
Gallemore said student teachers are also taught how best to teach computer keyboarding and other technology skills.
Still, she said, cursive writing remains important to everyday communication.
“What if you don’t have a computer handy and you have to leave a note for your secretary?” asked Gallemore. “Are you going to print it? It’s going to take you three times as long. It’s just much faster to write in cursive.”
Details for this story were provided by the Joplin, Mo., Globe.