New standards don't require cursive writing

Extract from a report on on 10 July 2011.

New standards don't require students to learn cursive writingWalk into any school these days and the kids aren't working on their loops. They're in keyboarding class.

Cursive writing and handwritten letters are the past. Keyboarding, emails and texts are the now -- and the future. Indiana's school curriculum now reflects that.

This month, Indiana joined a growing list of states that no longer require schools to teach cursive writing. Instead, Indiana will mandate schools to teach keyboarding in elementary school.

"I think it's progressive of our state to be ahead on this," said Denna Renbarger, assistant superintendent for Lawrence Township schools. "There are a lot more important things than cursive writing."

The national move away from cursive is being fueled by the Common Core curriculum. That is an effort led by governors in 46 states, including Indiana, to agree to common standards and, eventually, common tests to measure whether kids are learning them. Cursive is not part of the Common Core curriculum. Keyboarding is.

Lawrence Township, Renbarger said, saw the Common Core standards coming years ago and has transitioned class time away from cursive and toward keyboarding.

Victoria Linde, a sixth-grade student at Skiles Test Elementary School in Lawrence Township, said she learned keyboarding beginning in third grade. She and her mom, Kristin Peoples, see typing as the way of the future in a world in which emails have long replaced letters and texts are quickly supplanting the jotted-down note.

Peoples, who types far more often than she writes by hand, is OK with the move away from cursive.

"It sounds more effective to me," she said. "Kids use computers more today."

Corpus rejects many of the arguments for cursive instruction. She does not think learning cursive makes kids better learners or better writers, as some supporters argue. She's not sure it's a necessary skill for kids to have the way keyboarding clearly has become.

Speed is important, he said, because slow writers can have trouble getting their ideas down -- whether using cursive, print or a keyboard -- and may be marked lower than they deserve when graded.

"It's the same as when people look at a page with lots of spelling errors," Graham said of illegible handwriting. "People think negatively about what you have to say. They question how smart you are. Teachers won't muddle through. They start to say to themselves, 'This is not one of my better students.' "

The effect on the reader can be dramatic. In a study Graham has just completed but not yet published, he found that an "average" composition paper was often rated "poor" by test scorers if written with poor legibility. When the same average paper was written in excellent handwriting, it was routinely rated "above average."

"I don't care if it's cursive or manuscript, you need to be fluent and legible with at least one type of handwriting," Graham said, "and you need to be fluent on the keyboard."