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By kindergarten, students should be able to write most letters in upper and lower case, as well as numbers 0 through 20 with appropriate spacing.
By third grade, they should produce words, sentences and paragraphs on standard lined paper and begin writing in cursive.
By sixth grade, they should be able to use an “adaptive but legible” hybrid of print and cursive, when appropriate.
Teaching children how to write on paper with a pen or pencil may be going by the wayside in some parts of the country, but not in Kansas.
The Kansas State Board of Education is expected to vote this week on new standards for handwriting that include both printing and cursive writing.
“There is research that supports the role that handwriting plays in the cognitive development of kids,” said Department of Education spokeswoman Denise Kahler. “As we move away from the written world to the digital world, kids can lose that at an early age.”
In many states, the focus on computer and keyboard skills has helped marginalize the importance of handwriting. That's been especially true since many states adopted the Common Core standards for English language arts, which focus on technology skills and make almost no mention of handwriting skills.
In Lawrence, local teachers say it's a question of finding the time to focus on handwriting while also meeting the technology-based expectations of the Common Core standards.
"There's 120 minutes, at a minimum, in the English language arts block at the elementary level," said Greg Bonsignore, a Teacher On Special Assignment, or TOSA, who works with elementary teachers on reading and writing instruction.
"The question is not do we teach handwriting, cursive and keyboarding, but what's an appropriate amount of time to spend on each those things. Lawrence has and will continue to teach penmanship and cursive, and will look at recommendations of (the Department of Education). It's a matter of finding that balance."
In Kansas, one of only seven states that still requires instruction in cursive writing, the state board appears poised to emphasize both technology and penmanship. Keyboarding standards, which are classified under library and media technology, call on students as young as second grade to be able to name parts of a computer, use a mouse and keyboard appropriately, and to print documents.
But state officials believe that's no reason to abandon handwriting. Besides helping develop fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination, Kahler said, it's also an important part of basic literacy.
“Even though we are digital, we still have to read handwriting and cursive to be successful,” she said.
The state board meets Tuesday and Wednesday this week in Topeka. Board members are expected to vote on the handwriting standards Tuesday, as well as proposed new standards for theater and English language proficiency for non-native English speakers.
Also this week, the board is expected to decide what type of reading and math assessments will be used in 2015 and beyond as schools across the state fully implement the Common Core standards.
Department of Education officials are recommending a hybrid approach to future testing so that students in grades 3 through 8 would take tests being developed by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, but high schools would have the option of offering a variety of tests, including Smarter Balanced, the ACT and SAT tests, or other tests approved by the U.S. Department of Education.
In other business, the state board will:
• Hold a public hearing Tuesday, and then vote Wednesday on proposed Celebrate Freedom Week regulations.
• Receive the results of a survey of school districts about the use of individual plans of study for all high school students.
• And receive a report on the use of fingerprinting and background checks for teacher licensure.