By Mark Rountree
STILLWATER, Okla. —
The new Common Core State Standards, which will be fully operational beginning in the 2014 school year, lays out standards that include keyboarding proficiency by the fourth grade. But the standards make no mention of the need for cursive writing ability.
Many educators believe cursive writing is less relevant in today’s educational environment that includes personal computers, smartboards and iPads. Many believe classroom time spent on cursive writing instruction could be better spent on meeting the rigorous standards that Common Core requires.
Stillwater Public School students in kindergarten through third grade get instruction in cursive writing.
During their fourth- and fifth-grade years, students begin a more rigorous instruction on keyboard skills.
“Our theory is, students need both,” said Diane Fix, director of elementary curriculum for the Stillwater district.
At the secondary level, most teachers encourage students to submit written work electronically, or at least type it on a word processor, said Becky Szlichta, the director of secondary curriculum for the Stillwater district.
“I am not aware of any secondary teacher that would require students turn in work in longhand,” Szlichta said.
Fix said Common Core will require students taking their tests online, and that includes written essays.
Students enrolled in English II and English III at the high school will take end of instruction tests this week.
The test requires a written response on paper, but the responses do not have to be written in cursive.
Educators are judging if they want to use classroom time to teach penmanship when that skill is not evaluated on high-stakes standardized tests.
“Work submitted electronically has more tools available, like spell check,” said Stillwater High School Principal Uwe Gordon. “It’s so much better for our students.”
The National Association of State Boards of Education issued a policy statement in September that indicated there is value in cursive writing instruction.
The national panel said research suggests the practice and process of handwriting may improve a student’s cognitive and motor skills development while enhancing literacy and retention.
“We think (cursive writing) is a life skill that is still important,” Fix said.
A researcher at Indiana University asked a panel of college students to memorize a paragraph and found students who wrote the paragraph in cursive retained more information a week later than those who used a keyboard or printed the same material.
“Oh, I can totally see how that can be right,” Fix said.
Some educators believe students growing up during the digital age need to be equipped to read important historical hand-written documents such as the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, and developing cursive writing skills at a young age helps to facilitate that.
“That’s one of the big reasons to keep (cursive writing),” Szlichta said. “Students need to be able to read those things.”