Tennessee Forges Ahead with Cursive, Other States Look On


In Tennessee, a new law passed during this year's legislative session that proficiency in cursive writing be required of elementary students, and the new standards were finalized last week with no opposition.

By second grade, students must be able to create "many" upper- and lower-case letters. By third grade, students should have mastery of all letters, and should be able to write legibly in cursive by fourth grade, writes Dave Boucher of The Tennesseean. The standards will take effect next school year.

The assistant commissioner of curriculum and instruction at the department of education, Emily Barton, said that the push for learning to write cursive came after a review of laws on this matter in other states and by consulting research, writes Joey Garrison of The Tennessean. The previous laws concerning cursive standards did not have performance indicators.

Barton said that Tennessee educators were consulted to decide what would work best for Tennessee. It will be up to teachers and their schools to decide how to incorporate cursive writing into their teaching schedules.

There are also standards in Tennessee for writing in print/manuscript and for using the keyboard. Not knowing cursive means that students have trouble reading teachers' notes, and, perhaps more importantly, historical documents like the original Bill of Rights. Tennessee, along with 40+ other states, has aligned with the Common Core standards, which do not require learning cursive writing. While most states feel that the keyboard has displaced the need for cursive writing, Tennessee and others have taken steps to augment the curriculum.

The city of New York's Department of Education leaves the decision up to each school, but, the high stakes testing and rigors that come with Common Core math and reading standards have caused cursive writing to become a lost art, writes Susan Edelman of the New York Post. Marlon Hosang, principal of Public School 64 in Manhattan, is launching a cursive curriculum this spring. He says that children should be able to write their thoughts on paper, that handwriting is "soothing," and that cursive helps kids become smarter.

Several children who were asked said that it felt like a grown-up thing to do, that it was fancy, and that it was like drawing. At least 10 states have passed laws or have added standards calling for the teaching of cursive. In New York, this has not yet occurred.

New York state lawmaker, Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz (D-Bronx), says he is going to introduce legislation to make cursive writing a required part of the curriculum, along with learning the multiplication tables. This topic has already come up, but failed to get past committee, earlier this year.

"There's a general outlook in the Education Committee to not impose curriculum requirements. I disagree with that outlook," he said. "There are certain things that need to be required."

Donowitz agrees that typing in today's classrooms is more important for students to learn, but he feels that handwriting is important for developing motor skills.

Eric Owens of the Daily Caller says that American public schools have not taught "script" for years now.

"It's time-consuming to teach cursive writing," Sheila Durant, principal of PS 69 in The Bronx told the Post. "We prefer to use that writing time to focus on the content rather than what it looks like."

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