Cumberland Times-News

April 5, 2013

Local educators favor cursive instruction

Greg Larry
Cumberland Times-News

— CUMBERLAND — Despite a lack of support on the national level for instruction in cursive writing, local educators continue to teach and support the handwriting form that they see as an important communication tool in American society.

Could you imagine your son or daughter, or any young person, not being able to read the original letters of Abraham Lincoln? The current trend to move away from teaching cursive in the schools might just make that a reality.

“The main benefit of cursive is so students have options and a level of competence about how they read and record information,” said Dee Blank, the elementary supervisor for the Allegany County Public School System.

Since the Common Core State Standards Initiative began in 2009, the teaching of cursive handwriting is no longer seen as a priority with national and some state education officials.

With national standards no longer requiring cursive to be taught in school, state and local districts have become the final guardian of the handwriting form.

Allegany County has decided to continue teaching cursive for now, according to Blank.

“The ACPS believes that cursive should be taught. Students receive formal cursive instruction in the second and third grade,” Blank said.

However, national standards do require a student by fourth grade to be able to complete a one-page assignment using a keyboard.

“I don’t think we should dispose of it (cursive) simply because of the digital age,” said Janet Gregory, principal at Yough Glade Elementary School in Garrett County.

Gregory said that cursive is taught in third grade at Yough Glade and feels it should remain a part of the elementary education curriculum.

The fact that the digital age and keyboards are here to stay is not lost on Blank.

“Many assessments are online and require students from grades 3 to 11 to complete test items electronically,” said Blank.

Maryland is in the process of implementing the new common core curriculum for 2014, which will include testing known as the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Career.

The assessment of the keyboarding skills of elementary students is a direction that Maryland continues to research.

Advocates of the elimination of cursive cite the availability of reading materials in electronic form as a reason for no longer needing cursive.

“There are situations when electronic resources are not available, so pen and paper is still a viable option,” said Blank.

Blank said for many students the act of writing notes using pen and paper assists them in internalizing the information.

Supporters of eliminating cursive say that even the need for a signature is coming to an end.

They say mortgages are starting to be closed without signatures and that eye and fingerprint scanning will replace the signature.

Candy Maust, the principal of Route 40 Elementary School in Garrett County, favors cursive and penmanship.

“I think (cursive) is important and it also needs to be legible,” said Maust.

“We have to strike a healthy balance between education and what will be expected of children. We are about college and career readiness,” said Maust.

Gregory said she finds that knowing how a letter is formed and being able to read it is important.

“It’s nice to write notes. I think it means more when something is handwritten,” said Gregory.

Greg Larry can be contacted at glarry@times-news.com.