Archive for Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Kansas to adopt standards for cursive writing

December 12, 2012


The art of cursive handwriting may be losing stature in the digital age, but the Kansas State Board of Education says it still has a place in public schools.

The board agreed unanimously Wednesday to adopt a policy statement encouraging schools to continue teaching cursive writing, also known as "joined italics" by some educators. But it split 8-2 in favor of adopting formal curriculum standards to direct classroom teachers on what is expected.

Those standards, however, will not result in schools having to give standardized tests in the subject, as they do in other academic subjects.

After a discussion on the subject last month, the board directed staff at the Department of Education to draft a policy statement to be sent out to schools. The staff came back this month with three options: one recommending that instructional time could be put to better use in other areas; another only stressing the need to learn cursive for social functions such as a signature or reading handwritten documents; and a third emphasizing the importance of handwriting in cognitive development, as well as daily life.

The board agreed unanimously on the strongest language.

"The Kansas State Board of Education believes that cursive handwriting as a student skill still holds an important place in the instructional practice of every school's curriculum," the policy statement reads. "Research supports the role that handwriting instruction plays in the cognitive development of children, and this activity is even more important in an increasingly digital environment. The Board strongly encourages educators to ensure that all students can write legibly in cursive or joined italics and comprehend text written in this manner."

At the urging of board member Ken Willard, a Hutchinson Republican, the board also agreed to add language encouraging teachers to incorporate handwriting into other academic subjects.

When it came to adopting formal curriculum standards, though, the board was less united.

"I don't think we need standards," said board member Sue Storm, an Overland Park Democrat. "You and I all write cursive. We didn't have any standards back in the (1950s) when I went to school. ... I don't think we need (staff) to write standards at this point. People know that we recommend cursive writing be taught. If the school districts don't do it and parents are concerned enough about it, it'll happen. You all have enough on your plate already."

Board member Jana Shaver, an Independence Republican, said she preferred that the state simply recommend a set of "best practices" to guide educators in teaching cursive.

But Tom Foster, director of research and evaluation for the department, said developing formal standards would not be difficult because they would mainly apply only to a few grades in elementary school. He also said there are several model standards already developed that the state could adapt for use in Kansas.

But board chairman David Dennis, a Wichita Republican, said he supported adopting formal standards.

"If you don't have some kind of document or standard or something for somebody to look at, we don't know where we're going," he said. "I think standards are important, whether or not they're mandatory standards. At least if you have standards and they say at the kindergarten level you need to be able to do this, and then first grade, second grade and so on ... best practices are something that kind of get put on the website and disappear into the ozone."


Bailey Perkins 5 years, 5 months ago

Ensuring students know how to write legibly seems a better option than forcing them to learn cursive. I enjoyed writing in cursive, but I'm also a girl and a child of the 80s. Somewhat required from that decade.

Bailey Perkins 5 years, 5 months ago

Decided to add more to the post:

I agree that requiring cursive isn't necessarily good, but ensuring future generations know how to write - that could be of some use. This is even after understanding the fact writing with pen/pencil/paper/etc won't exist much longer thanks to computers. The art of handwriting - especially cursive - is something humanity shouldn't lose. In some respect, teaching children to write in cursive wouldn't be such a bad idea. Nowadays people use their phone, ipad, etc to make purchases (requiring a signature). May as well know how to properly write your name. I find it sad that younger generations know nothing about cursive even though generations upon generations of people still use it on a daily basis. If a child can't read the form of writing, what good is it?

Ron Holzwarth 5 years, 5 months ago

"This is even after understanding the fact writing with pen/pencil/paper/etc won't exist much longer thanks to computers."

For the exact same reasons, they don't make saddles, and no one ever rides horses anymore, because we have cars.

One big EMP and almost every computer in the country is not going to be working.

Linda Endicott 5 years, 5 months ago

I think that still requiring cursive handwriting in school is very good...contrary to popular belief, the computer has not eliminated paperwork, it has increased it...and everyone I know at work is always having to update said paperwork, and put notes in cursive in the margins with instructions...

If they eliminate cursive writing in schools, one of these days I will be part of a special club, and we will write our minutes in the rest of you that don't want to be bothered with it won't know what the hell we're saying...what a secret code...

I for one still use cursive, and I use it every day...I write on paper, at home...oh, the horrors...

If you don't bother writing in cursive, you will forget the skill, even if you did learn it in school...and someday, all those old, ancient handwritten manuscripts will be lost to everyone...because no one will be able to read them anymore...

How sad...

Linda Endicott 5 years, 5 months ago

That's another good point about cursive that I didn't think about...if you do any kind of genealogy research at all, you'd better know cursive...most of the old, old census records and such were done in cursive...if you don't know how to read it, you'd never find out any information about your ancestors...

average 5 years, 5 months ago

Cursive is a script theory designed around the mechanical requirements for constant 'down-stroke pressure' required by split-nibbed pens. Quills, dip-pens, and later fountain pens.

All of which would be about as foreign to today's elementary school student as a Commodore VIC-20.

verity 5 years, 5 months ago

For the most part, cursive is just linking letters together. How difficult is it? Seems to me most reasonable third graders could learn it in an hour a day for a week or less.

Day One: Learn to draw lines between letters

Day Two: Learn how to write m, n, s, z, G and S. (Did I miss any?)

Day Three: Practice cursive

Day Four: Practice cursive

Day Five: Practice cursive

There, I'll give the state the guidelines for free. Done.

Kate Gladstone 5 years, 5 months ago

You missed b, f, k, r, y, A, E, F, H, I, J, M, N, Q, T, Y and Z among others). You missed the way that every cursive lower-case letter has to change when it follows a letter b, o, v, or w ... And you missed the change of slant (from zero slant in print-writing to 20-soe-odd degrees rightward for cursive writing.)

Your omissions disturb me less than the spectacular blunder of the Board (or of the reporter?) in saying that cursive is also known as "joined italics." The style called "joined italics" is quite a different style (and, in my judgment as a handwriting teacher, a much better one). To see what "joined italics" is like, visit or or or ... Saying that "cursive is also known as joined italics" is about as productive (of rational discussion on the subject) as saying that "Canada is also known as the northern USA."

Kate Gladstone Director, the World Handwriting Contest CEO, Handwriting Repair/Handwriting That Works

Joe Hyde 5 years, 5 months ago

Will the state still allow a child to opt out of cursive training if they give the teacher a note saying they plan on one day becoming a doctor?

Lawrence Morgan 5 years, 5 months ago

Kansas would be a lot better off if there was a standard for international learning. I have never heard a single word about my posts, which involve classroom projects, in the Journal-World.

Ron Holzwarth 5 years, 5 months ago

This is a reposting from about a month ago:

A friend of mine's mother was a UK bride, and after they were married, her father did some graduate studies in London for a period of time. After my friend moved from the US and before she enrolled in school at about the 4th or 5th grade, she had to undergo testing to determine her grade level.

She did fine in every subject except one. Cursive handwriting.

So, she was flunked for one entire year, and studied how to write neatly and properly, using pen or pencil on paper, for hours on end.

Today she is in her 50s, and is frequently complimented on her beautiful and perfectly legible handwriting skills. To say the very least, she was not pleased to be flunked for an entire year in elementary school over that, but today, she does not regret it in the least.

And, in case any of you have ever wondered why letters you might receive from the UK are so beautifully written, now you know why.

Paul Wilson 5 years, 5 months ago

No...actually claiming a theory as fact is "as stupid as it gets". Whether it's creation or evolution...theory is theory.

chootspa 5 years, 5 months ago

A theory is not a theory. It's not the same as a hunch. It's a broad system derived from evidence and serves to explain a large series of observations. Evolution is a scientific theory. Creationism is an ideology. Evolution is supported by evidence and survives as a theory even when one or two underlying observations are called into question. Creationism survives by faith alone, and by many adherents the failure of even one aspect of the ideology would result in the failure of the entire ideology.

Paul Wilson 5 years, 5 months ago

Now "a theory is not a theory" huh? Did you mean to say that out loud? 'Magine that...a lecture. How arrogant. Your definitions are only valid if you live in a self created, scientific method, box. We put people to death on human testimony but disregard it in "science". I have plenty of evidence validating creation. "Scientists" have specifically created a method that excludes human testimony. hummmm... Self created boxes are easy to stay within. If you came across ten rocks stacked on top of each other in the woods... would you say that it was created or a random occurrence? In your would be living by faith without the evidence of human testimony. You live in a box and have been brainwashed to ignore anything outside of that box. Very sad.

chootspa 5 years, 5 months ago

You said "theory is theory," so I was responding to that. And no, I didn't say it out loud. I learned how to read silently in grade school.

You don't have evidence validating creation. You have a religious ideology for which you find evidence that affirms your pre-conceived notion and disregard evidence inconsistent with your religious beliefs. I hazard a guess that most of your "evidence" is "This thing is really complicated, and I don't understand it. God must have done it." Am I wrong?

You may very well be right. God may have intentionally buried dinosaur bones to confuse the unbelievers, but there's no way to prove that. Evolution is the theory supported by evidence. Creationism is a religious belief.

Do you think ancient Egyptians were rational for believing the sun was rolled around by scarabs? There's holy written testimony, the beetles emerge during the day, and they're observed rolling objects (dung) from which new life emerges. Oh, right. You disregard their beliefs and evidence because they're not your beliefs. Not part of your "self created box," as it were.

If I came across 10 rocks stacked together in the woods, I wouldn't assume God did it. Speaking of which, I never said I didn't believe in God. You're just making assumptions because I do not share your narrow and literal interpretation of the Bible.

Paul Wilson 5 years, 5 months ago

God did not stack the rocks genius...a human did...creation. What do dinosaurs have to do with it? I have plenty of evidence just not the kind that fits in your tiny box. Creationism has nothing to do with religion. What Egyptians believed about the sun is not the same as human testimony about certain events, people of history, or what they did and said. Who said anything about the Bible? I never said you don't believe in God. But...if you do...why? Where did you ever get that silly idea?

Kate Gladstone 5 years, 5 months ago

Handwriting matters ... But does cursive matter? Research shows: the fastest and most legible handwriters avoid cursive. They join only some letters, not all of them: making the easiest joins, skipping the rest, and using print-like shapes for those letters whose cursive and printed shapes disagree. (Citations appear below)

When following the rules doesn't work as well as breaking them, it’s time to re-write and upgrade the rules. The discontinuance of cursive offers a great opportunity to teach some better-functioning form of handwriting that is actually closer to what the fastest, clearest handwriters do anyway. (There are indeed textbooks and curricula teaching handwriting this way. Cursive and printing are not the only choices.)

Reading cursive still matters — this takes just 30 to 60 minutes to learn, and can be taught to a five- or six-year-old if the child knows how to read. The value of reading cursive is therefore no justification for writing it.

(In other words, we could simply teach kids to read old-fashioned handwriting and save the year-and-a-half that are expected to be enough for teaching them to write that way too ... not to mention the actually longer time it takes to teach someone to perform such writing well.)

Remember, too: whatever your elementary school teacher may have been told by her elementary school teacher, cursive signatures have no special legal validity over signatures written in any other way. (Don't take my word for this: talk to any attorney.)


/1/ Steve Graham, Virginia Berninger, and Naomi Weintraub. THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN HANDWRITING STYLE AND SPEED AND LEGIBILITY. 1998: on-line at


/2/ Steve Graham, Virginia Berninger, Naomi Weintraub, and William Schafer. DEVELOPMENT OF HANDWRITING SPEED AND LEGIBILITY IN GRADES 1-9. 1998: on-line at

(NOTE: there are actually handwriting programs that teach this way. Shouldn't there be more of them?)

Yours for better letters,

Kate Gladstone Handwriting Repair/Handwriting That Works and the World Handwriting Contest

chootspa 5 years, 5 months ago

Yeah - I expect this will be the same as what I learned. Two or three years of being forced to write in cursive. As soon as they stopped doing that, I stopped writing in cursive.

verity 5 years, 5 months ago

I bow to your obviously superior knowledge about the matter, and perhaps it is presumptuous of me to argue with you, but I still think that none of the letters are so different that it would take long to learn them and most people can hold a number of ways of doing something in their head at one time. As far as the slant---that is completely up to the person writing. I generally write backhanded, even though I'm right-handed, because that is most comfortable to me, and I've never had a problem reading various slants that other people use.

I agree with the posts of crazyks and none2 above. Anybody who has done historical research or studied history knows how much has been lost and how difficult it has been to crack much ancient language/writing---or even to read early American English. While I would not ever want to go back to pre-computer, electric files are already becoming obsolete and unreadable as programs are undated. Where I used to work, we archived a lot of files and had to keep old programs and even old computers with outdated operating systems to run the programs to be able to update files. Some files were lost because they were only updated when somebody came back and requested their file from a previous job and we no longer had the equipment to read them---updating them all whenever we got new programs was too time consuming. Hopefully this can be done automatically in the future---maybe already is done?

Yes, the value of reading cursive may be no justification for learning to write it, but I would argue that it's often very helpful to know how to use a historical process even when it's no longer used---it adds to one's ability to understand and use the current process. I have seen this often in my own profession. I agree with valgrlku below---"I honestly don't see the issue so much as 'should cursive be taught?' but rather, how much time and effort in the classroom should cursive be given?"

Linda Endicott 5 years, 5 months ago

Computers being what they are, by the time you buy one and get it home and set up, it's already obsolete...and one problem with them is that there are so many different word processing programs out there...I have personally had the frustration of using my home computer, and using one program, and not being able to access it anywhere else...

Not only that, but hundreds of new programs come out each year...not all are compatible with the others, or any other program you may be using...

And computers can, and do, break down at any time for no apparent reason (It has one, you just won't find out what until you've talked to 20 different tech people, if they can even find out...)...and if the power ever goes out for an extended period of time, I guess a lot of people would be speechless...

I'm seriously thinking of starting that club using cursive as our code...

verity 5 years, 5 months ago

If you save your word files (and Word as in Microsoft) as .rtf files they can usually be opened in other programs.

Linda Endicott 5 years, 5 months ago

It doesn't work with Word Perfect...nothing else seems to work with Word Perfect...I love the program, but it became such a pain in the behind that I stopped...

And we haven't even gone into the world of suddenly blank CDs and flash drives when the files were perfectly fine just yesterday...paper and ink aren't forever, either, but they usually last longer than two months...

Betty Bartholomew 5 years, 5 months ago

"Anybody who has done historical research or studied history knows how much has been lost and how difficult it has been to crack much ancient language/writing---or even to read early American English."

But that's to be expected to some extent. Language and handwriting evolve everywhere. It's impractical to say they shouldn't just because it makes it harder for past writings to be interpreted.

Besides, it gives anthropologists something to do.

bornon7 5 years, 5 months ago

I work in this school district. Kids need to learn how to spell, punctuate, and capitalize certain words. Many kids don't know their math facts in 5th grade. Cursive? There are more important issues.

valgrlku 5 years, 5 months ago

I honestly don't see the issue so much as "should cursive be taught?" but rather, how much time and effort in the classroom should cursive be given? When my daughter was learning (about 7 years ago here in Lawrence), her teacher's approach harkened back to that of my and my mother's generation - do it again and again and again and again until it's PERFECT.

This was incredibly stressful for my child and was quite unnecessary. My daughter still laments that this is one of the few "subjects" for which she earned a "bad" grade. BTW - Her handwriting is perfectly legible.

I think that learning cursive is fine, so long as it is done in a non-stressful, non-high-stakes manner.

Linda Endicott 5 years, 5 months ago

I agree that cursive handwriting doesn't have to be perfect...and it would probably be much easier for kids to learn if they didn't have that kind of pressure...

Ah, the good old days in school, when penmanship mattered, and you got graded on it...and this was not merely for cursive writing...they did the same for printing...I guess the thought behind it was that if you were going to do something, you should do it well...

My cursive handwriting is not the prettiest I've ever seen, but it gets the job done and everyone can read it...

Betty Bartholomew 5 years, 5 months ago

I do wish they would be a little more accurate when they're discussing this topic. Handwriting = characters drawn by hand with one medium upon another, typically to form words; cursive = style applied. Handwriting, very important skill; cursive, meh, not so much.

As far as reading it: Saying that if one can't write cursive then one can't read cursive is a false argument. You learn to read print long before you can write it. And people don't have to be able to draw hieroglyphs to be able to decipher them. I would venture to say that reading can exist entirely well without learning to write, though learning to write is highly dependent upon reading.

I'm not saying it shouldn't be taught - it's an art, and I believe in art - but the hue and cry is a bit much to take. Nobody's castigating the downfalls of calligraphy and illuminated text, after all.

Linda Endicott 5 years, 5 months ago

Cursive handwriting is a skill that seems to be rapidly falling by the wayside, and someday I think people are going to regret that...

I for one intend to keep on writing in cursive...

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