Although cursive won’t be a part of the Common Core standards soon to be adopted by the majority of states and territories in the U.S, it isn’t leaving the classroom altogether. Being left out of CCS will probably mean that fewer schools will teach cursive to their students, but for those schools that wish to retain handwriting instruction, there will be flexibility in deciding how and when it is taught.
The wide-scale adoption of CCS is still a year or two away. But in some districts, like Aberdeen Public Schools in South Dakota, most of the decisions regarding cursive have already been delegated to the schools and to the teachers. Although all schools in the district teach their students cursive in third grade, it is the teachers who decide how much or how little it is subsequently used.
Aberdeen, however, is an exception when it comes to its commitment to teaching students to write in cursive. According to assistant superintendent Becky Guffin, the decision to stop teaching cursive “wasn’t on the table.” Craig Case, principal of the elementary and middle division at Webster Area School, sounds much more ambivalent.
Case believes that a decision on cursive should ultimately be left up to the students. Although currently Webster spends some class time on cursive in second and third grade — and provides a refresher in the 6th — he doesn’t discount the possibility that time dedicated to handwriting, cursive included, might eventually shrink to make room for more instruction on Common Core subjects.
“With the Common Core standards, we always continue to question where handwriting instruction will go,” he said. “We want to utilize our time within the school day to teach those Common Core standards, so we have to consider if we want to take half an hour out of each day to teach penmanship.”
At Aberdeen Christian School, the commitment to cursive remains unshaken. Students begin to learn the rudiments of writing and reading the script in first grade and continue formal instruction until they move to fifth grade. Vanessa Grehl’s fourth grade students spend ten minutes out of each school day practicing.
Case understand why schools are still committed to teaching cursive, but he believes that typing instruction might be more useful in this day and age. He pointed out that in his district, students first put their hands on a computer keyboard in school as early as early as preschool, which raises questions as to how useful good handwriting will be going forward.
As students progress in their academic careers, the emphasis on good handwriting will lessen. On the omnipresent standardized exams and college entrance tests, all that is expected of students’ handwriting is that it be legible.
According to Ed Colby, a spokesman for ACT, writing experts who score the examination don’t track handwriting styles used by the high school students who take the essay portion of the test, since penmanship style is not a component of the score.