Kentucky bill would require elementary students to learn cursive - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Kentucky bill would require elementary students to learn cursive

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A Wilder Elementary School student works on handwriting (WDRB file photo) A Wilder Elementary School student works on handwriting (WDRB file photo)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A Kentucky lawmaker has filed a bill that would require cursive writing to be taught in elementary schools and for students to be proficient in cursive by the time they enter middle school.

Rep. Jill York, a Republican from Grayson, filed House Bill 495 Friday, which would amend the the state statute on student writing to say that "by the beginning of the 2018-2019 year, cursive writing shall be included as a course of study in all elementary schools and shall be designed to ensure proficiency in cursive writing by the end of grade five."

In an interview with WDRB on Monday, York said she has been "discouraged that the state's academic standards no longer place any emphasis on the teaching of cursive handwriting."

A spokeswoman for Kentucky Department of Education says historically, when or how to teach cursive writing has been a decision left up to local schools. 

In 2010, Kentucky was the first state to adopt the Common Core State Standards, which require keyboarding and teaching students how to type, but allot no time for teaching students handwriting, so many districts left it up to individual teachers to decide whether or not they had the time to teach it.

However, the state is in the process of reviewing and rewriting its academic standards and Kentucky Education Commissioner Stephen Pruitt says that cursive writing will be included as part of the new guidelines, which means it will be required to be taught.

"We have heard from educators that cursive is a piece that is missing from the classroom," Pruitt said in an interview Monday. "It's important for students to be able to read historical documents. It's also important that they have this real life skill so that they are able to do things like sign official documents."

York says she's been following "with great attention" Pruitt's goal to "revise the standards and bring cursive writing back."

"I am hoping this bill will bring some specificity about when we would like for our elementary students to be proficient in cursive handwriting," she said.

Some people question why kids should be expected to master cursive writing as they don't use pen and paper as often as they once did and more time is being spent on smartphones and tablets. Others argue that kids are graduating from high school without having the ability to sign their name or read any documents in cursive.

"Technology is grand but it also allows us, at thinkers, to sometimes be a little bit lazy," York said. "When you are in school, depending on how you learn...note-taking and being active in that process has resonance to help us retain better."

"I think we will give our kids a better chance....somewhere, sometime you will not have cell service or the charger is missing or you can't boot up and you may still have to process information," York said. "I can't imagine why we would give up teaching a skill that has been important to us for generations."

York said a few weeks ago, she was visited by a group of Carter County high school teenagers, who told her about some mentoring activities they do with elementary school kids.

"The number one thing that the younger kids were asking the older kids to do was teach them how to write in cursive," she said. 

In Indiana, state Sen. Jean Leising has unsuccessfully pushed legislation making cursive writing mandatory since 2011, saying she believes learning cursive will help students read old documents and retain information. She's introduced the bill again this year.

Last year, Alabama became one of the latest to enact a law requiring cursive writing. There are at least five other states have similar laws on the books.

Reporter Antoinette Konz can be reached at 502-585-0838 or @tkonz on Twitter.

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