State board approves handwriting standards

? The Kansas State Board of Education voted unanimously today to approve new standards for handwriting, including a statement that the board “expects” schools to ensure that all students can write legibly in cursive and be able to read material written in cursive.

The handwriting standards are considered “model” standards because districts are not required to implement them.

The state does not administer yearly tests for handwriting as it does for the core subjects of math, science, English and social studies, and student performance is not used as a basis for accrediting schools.

Still, several board members said it was important to send a message to districts that the board believes penmanship and cursive writing are important for student learning.

“I would like to see it emphasized,” said Sally Cauble, R-Dodge City. “I want all districts to know we strongly encourage all students be able to write legibly in cursive.”

Kansas is one of only a handful of states that still calls for instruction in handwriting. In most other parts of he country, officials say it has fallen by the wayside, especially since many states adopted the new Common Core standards for reading and math, which put more emphasis on keyboarding and technology, and make almost no mention of handwriting.

Greg Bonsignore, a Lawrence “teacher on special assignment” who works with elementary teachers on English language arts curriculum, said the issue for teachers is finding the time to teach handwriting, along with the keyboarding skills required under Common Core.

John Boesen, a handwriting analyst from Salina, told the state board today that learning to write helps develop cognitive and motor skills, and that it is still an important form of communication.

“The pen is mightier than the keyboard,” Boesen said.