Kansas Board of Education Adopts Standards for Cursive

Cursive might be losing favor and instructional time nationwide, but in Kansas they take good handwriting seriously. According to Lawrence Journal-World, the State Board of Education has released a policy guideline that encourages schools to continue teaching cursive writing in schools, and in an 8-2 vote also agreed to adopt a formal curriculum standard including setting out metrics for teachers of cursive to hit.

Contrary to standards for other academic subjects, however, these will not require schools to administer standardized cursive exams.

A month ago, board members directed the Department of Education to to draft a policy paper on the teaching of cursive that could be sent out to all the schools in the state. They got three versions, each with successively stronger pro-cursive language. The first called to drop the teaching of joined italics entirely, the second advised schools to continue teaching it – without making it mandatory – and the third focused on the importance of learning cursive, especially when it came to cognitive development.

The board agreed unanimously on the strongest language.

"The Kansas State Board of Education believes that cursive handwriting as a student skill still holds an important place in the instructional practice of every school's curriculum," the policy statement reads.

"Research supports the role that handwriting instruction plays in the cognitive development of children, and this activity is even more important in an increasingly digital environment. The Board strongly encourages educators to ensure that all students can write legibly in cursive or joined italics and comprehend text written in this manner."

In addition, other board members joined calls by member Ken Willard that encouraged teachers to make handwriting an important part of teaching other subjects as well. The board members unanimously voted to approve both the third draft language and Willard's addition.

When it came to actually setting out academic standards for cursive, the unanimity cracked somewhat. Jana Shaver, who voted against the standards, said she preferred simply to adopt a set of "best practices" that teachers could refer to but wouldn't be bound by.

"I don't think we need standards," said board member Sue Storm, an Overland Park Democrat. "You and I all write cursive. We didn't have any standards back in the (1950s) when I went to school. … I don't think we need (staff) to write standards at this point. People know that we recommend cursive writing be taught. If the school districts don't do it and parents are concerned enough about it, it'll happen. You all have enough on your plate already."

Board chairman David Dennis said that formal standards made sense, since without them how teachers taught cursive would differ greatly from school to school.

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