Tennessee to Add Cursive Writing to State Standards

By Liana Loewus — August 25, 2014 1 min read
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The Tennessee board of education has given preliminary approval to a new set of handwriting standards for grades 2-4 that include cursive, which a recent law requires students across the state to learn starting in 2015-16.

The issue of whether, in the age of computer-based writing, students still need to learn script never ceases to cause a stir. While 75 percent of 2nd and 3rd grade teachers were still teaching it last year, according to a national survey, that figure has been on the decline. In fact, the Common Core State Standards, which nearly all states have adopted, don’t mention cursive writing at all.

Tennessee, which is implementing the common core, is one of a few states that have been trying to reincorporate cursive into their English/language arts standards. Lawmakers earlier this year approved a bill mandating the subject be included in the state’s standards, and last month the Tennessee board of education gave preliminary approval to the following standards:

The rollout of instruction is a slow one, with students becoming proficient in cursive writing by the end of 4th grade. (The state will also have keyboarding standards, but I removed those from the chart.)

Proponents of teaching cursive say students need a signature and to be able to read historical documents. Students who don’t know cursive “will be locked out of doing research with literary papers and archival collections,” writes Valerie Hotchkiss, a library director at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, in the Chronicle of Higher Education. “They will not even be able to read their grandmother’s diary or their parents’ love letters.”

Opponents see it as a waste of time.

“It’s kind of like hopping on a Pogo stick,” a student at Lipscomb University in Nashville told Reuters. “If you can do it, great, but if not, it doesn’t matter.”

Sandra Wilde, the chair of an elementary committee for the National Council of Teachers of English, said to Reuters, “I don’t think it’s bad, but I don’t think there’s much of a point to it.”

The handwriting standards are up for final board approval in October, according to a spokesperson for the Tennessee education department.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.