News From Terre Haute, Indiana

July 3, 2011

Archaic Method? Cursive writing no longer has to be taught

Sue Loughlin
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Starting this fall, the Indiana Department of Education will no longer require Indiana’s public schools to teach cursive writing.

State officials sent school leaders a memo April 25 telling them that instead of cursive writing, students will be expected to become proficient in keyboard use.

The memo says schools may continue to teach cursive as a local standard, or they may decide to stop teaching cursive altogether.

Greene County resident and parent Ericka Hostetter has mixed feelings about the teaching of cursive. She has three children, and two will be in public schools next fall.

“I’m right in the middle,” she said, noting that she learned about it on Facebook. “I don’t use cursive much. I use keyboard. I use my phone, so even for my generation, I think we use the keyboard more.”

Hostetter is concerned about signatures. “I think we all need to know how to sign our names in cursive,” she said during a visit to Terre Haute Friday. Also, children will still need to be able to read cursive written by others.

“I’m really not on one end or the other,” Hostetter said. “I see the points of both sides, but to tell you the truth, I probably lean more toward the keyboard.”

In the Vigo County School Corp.,  handwriting is currently part of the elementary curriculum in grades 1, 2, and 3, with cursive handwriting being taught in third grade, said Karen Goeller, deputy superintendent.

“We consider our students’ needs, and right now, we do see a benefit in teaching cursive as part of our curriculum,” she said.

Currently, the SAT test and Advanced Placement exams call for handwritten essays, she said. “Speed and legibility are keys to success.”

Also, research has shown that handwriting does make a difference in the perception of a student’s knowledge and ideas. Legible handwriting may improve a student test score, while messy handwriting may detract from the writer’s ideas, she said.

She noted that some employers consider cursive handwriting as important in day-to- day work.

Handwriting and reading textbook adoption  will be reviewed again in 2013 by a districtwide committee. “In terms of handwriting, we will consider future student needs like college and employer expectations in writing,” Goeller said.  

Keyboarding also is taught in the elementary grades through a software program available in school computer labs. More advanced keyboarding, word processing and application experiences take place at the middle and high school levels, she said.

“We feel it’s important students have a healthy mix of handwriting and keyboarding skills,” Goeller said.

Susan Newton, VCSC language arts curriculum coordinator, said the state is moving from Indiana Academic Standards, which includes cursive writing in third grade, to national Common Core standards, which do not include cursive writing at all.

Most states have adopted the Common Core standards, which aim to create consistent national benchmarks for all students, regardless of their home state.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at (812) 231-4235 or sue.loughlin@tribstar.com.