Interesting article in today’s DDN, explains, “Cursive writing no longer required for school districts. Dept. of Education leaves it up to districts whether to teach the skill.”
The writer, Margo Rutledge Kissell, does a nice job of reporting on how area school districts are reacting to this new Dept of Education decision, and says Kettering has not yet decided how to respond.
“This year we still have cursive writing at the second-grade level in Kettering. Whether or not that will change next year will be a decision of my committee and our work,” said Michele Massa, who taught second-graders cursive writing for 10 years before becoming a district elementary curriculum leader for language arts and social studies. She expects her committee will be ready to make a recommendation for the language arts curriculum by next spring. Eventually, it’s up to the school board.
“The Common Core doesn’t say anything about cursive,” Massa noted, “but it does say you have to be able to write opinions and write stories … in addition to keyboarding.”
Massa said she personally believes it’s important kids “know cursive and can recognize it when they see it,” but the committee will decide “if that is the best use of our kids’ time.”
“What is the best use of our kids’ time?” What a great question. It would interesting to know the criteria that Massa’s committee will use to judge whether learning cursive writing is a good use of students’ time.
After working with kids on cursive for ten years, I’d bet Michele Massa loves cursive and sees a lot of value in using school time to help kids develop their cursive handwriting. But, it sound like, now, she is in a jam. Having been promoted to elementary curriculum leader, her first task is to keep Kettering’s test scores on top. The state tests are centered exclusively on the Common Core and the Common Core does not include cursive handwriting. The argument of the “let’s dump cursive” camp of educators seems to be that there will be a payoff in better scores for those districts that find extra time for kids to practice curriculum that is part of the Common Core — such as writing acceptable sentences on a keyboard — and one way to get that extra time is to dump cursive handwriting.
The biggest opportunity for a district to raise test scores is to get the marginal group of students — the 10% or 30% (depending on the district) that are almost competent — pulled over the line into the group whose test scores are minimally acceptable. The reward for moving these marginal students is potentially great. If enough kids are deemed minimally competent, then the district is considered “excellent.”
An argument can be made that state tests have contributed to the dumbing down of America. Eliminating the teaching of cursive handwriting will mean a diminished education for many students who are doing fine with the Core Curriculum but, if given the opportunity, would gain a lifetime benefit from an early experience with the discipline of cursive handwriting.