Cursive writing standards in the works for Tennessee schools

wbir.com-Cursive handwriting is making a comeback in Tennessee, with performance benchmarks in the works to guide the teaching of the fading art to students.

Proposed cursive standards that would begin in second grade, accelerate through third grade and finish in fourth grade received preliminary approval Friday from the Tennessee State Board of Education.

The model will now be shared with Tennessee teachers, principals and other educators before the board takes up the policy for a final time in October.

Though there's been a shift to the computer keyboard in culture and in the classroom, education officials took up the matter after a bill sponsored by Rep. Sheila Butt, R-Columbia, unexpectedly won widespread support at the Tennessee General Assembly this spring, eventually landing on Gov. Bill Haslam's desk for his signature.

The law loosely requires its instruction "at the appropriate grade level," leaving that determination to the department of education.

Under the proposed standards, students would be expected to show they can write "many" upper- and lowercase in cursive at the end of second grade, demonstrate mastery in all letters at the end of third grade and write legibly in cursive at the end of fourth grade.

Emily Barton, assistant commissioner of curriculum and instruction at the department of education, said the timeline for cursive came after reviewing laws in other states and research. Previous cursive standards in Tennessee lacked performance indicators.

"We looked to Tennessee educators to weigh in on the question of, 'What would work best in our state?'" Barton said.

How teachers incorporate cursive in their curriculum will be up to them and their schools. Tennessee has similar standards for writing in print/manuscript and using the keyboard.

Butt, who had estimated about half of all Tennessee schools had abandoned cursive, argued that, as a result, kids have trouble even reading handwritten notes from teachers never mind deciphering the Bill of Rights in its original form.

Tennessee is among more than 40 states that adopted and has stuck with Common Core academic standards, which do not require cursive. Other states have taken actions to add it, though, recognizing that the infiltration of technology has displaced a former rite of passage in the classroom.

While final approval of the standards could be coming in October, the state board would decide when to make them go into effect.

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7/28/14