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April 2, 2013

Education goals stress keyboarding - not cursive

The debate over the value of teaching cursive writing in schools has escalated since the nation’s governors and state education commissioners launched the Common Core State Standards Initiative in 2009.

Forty-five states and the District of Columbia have since adopted the national standards, beginning next year.  Only Alaska, Minnesota, Nebraska, Texas, and Virginia have not.

The goal of the standards is to develop uniform education standards that spell out what students in kindergarten through 12th grade are taught so they can be competitive in the global economy.  States can supplement the national rules with state standards.

The national standards don’t require children to learn how to read and write in cursive. They do, however, require that by the end of fourth grade, students demonstrate sufficient command of keyboarding skills to complete a one-page writing assignment.

The requirement is found in the literacy standards for English Language Arts for fourth-graders in a section that spells out standards for writing: “With some guidance and support from adults, use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing as well as to interact and collaborate with others; demonstrate sufficient command of keyboarding skills to type a minimum of one page in a single sitting.”

The common core standards don’t preclude teaching cursive writing. But as more time is devoted to mastering skills mandated by the standards, penmanship is dropped or less time is spent on it.

There are mixed responses in the states. Many are simply leaving it up to local school districts to decide whether cursive writing is taught in their schools.

The state boards of education in Alabama and Georgia, for example, voted in July 2012 to include cursive in their supplemental state standards. The Massachusetts Department of Education requires that fourth graders should be able to “write legibly by hand, using either printing or cursive handwriting.

To find out more about your state, go the Common Core State Standards Initiative website: www.corestandards.org.

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