State School Board gives preliminary approval to keeping cursive in schools

Published: Friday, April 5 2013 4:50 p.m. MDT

Shauna Tateoka goes over vocabulary words projected on the board in cursive at Reid School in Salt Lake City on Friday, September 9, 2011.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

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SALT LAKE CITY — The flowery, flowing script of cursive received a preliminary nod of support from the State School Board on Friday, with members advancing a proposal to include handwriting and cursive in Utah's core curriculum.

The issue will be given time to receive input from the public before coming back before the board for a final vote.

The debate on cursive instruction follows the adoption of the Common Core State Standards by Utah, as well as 44 other states. The standards, a set of educational benchmarks intended to foster uniformity between states, do not include instruction in cursive handwriting, but education officials are able to include cursive in their individual state curricula.

Cursive is not currently required of school districts, Deputy State Superintendent Brenda Hales said, but many continue to educate students on the writing style. A committee created last year by the board to study cursive education recommended that handwriting be added to the Utah Core Standards, but Hales said school districts would continue to be able to provide instruction on cursive if the proposal is not adopted.

"This is strictly a discussion of what is fundamental," Hales said. "The question is whether penmanship is fundamental to an English and reading education, and the answer the committee came up with was, 'Yes, it is.'"

With the advancement of technology in the classroom, from computer keyboards to handheld electronic devices, many view cursive and penmanship as antiquated relics akin to a quill and inkwell or a slide rule. Others, however, point to the benefits of cursive instruction, from its potential use in archival research to developing motor skills in students.

Board member Dixie Allen, speaking for the committee, said research shows that penmanship education leads to increased proficiency in reading and spelling. The proposed addition to the state standards includes both a writing and reading component and would call for students to begin being instructed in cursive by third grade.

"We've resoundingly found that there is some real important, research-based information that cursive handwriting does help," Allen said.

Hales also said the number of school districts in the state that currently do or do not teach penmanship is not tracked.

E-mail: benwood@deseretnews.com

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