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Utah education leaders move to keep cursive in schools

Published April 5, 2013 5:55 pm

Education • A proposal to include cursive in Utah's new Common Core academic standards will now go out for public comment.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Cursive writing may not be as in vogue as it once was, but Utah education leaders took a big step Friday toward making sure it continues to be taught in schools.

The state school board voted unanimously to move forward with a recommendation that cursive be added to Utah's new Common Core academic standards. The proposal will now go out for public comment, and the board will take a final vote in a few months.

Debra Roberts, state school board chairwoman, said she struggled at first with whether to keep cursive, wanting to respect that today's young people are a new generation with new skills. But ultimately, she said, research persuaded her that cursive's time has not yet passed.

"The other side that really spoke to me are those studies that say it affects learning," Roberts said.

Utah and other states have been grappling with the question of cursive after adopting Common Core academic standards. The standards, which outline what students should learn each year in math and language arts, do not include cursive, leaving the decision of whether to keep it up to each state.

At least six states have voted to include cursive in their versions of the Common Core or are encouraging schools to continue teaching it. Several other states' legislatures are now considering the matter.

For years, Utah has taught cursive in third grade, and it will likely keep going into the future assuming the board and schools maintain support for it.

The Utah state school board's decision Friday follows a year's worth of work by a committee of Utah educators who studied the issue. That committee ultimately recommended cursive be kept.

Tiffany Hall, a literacy coordinator at the State Office of Education, said the committee agreed unanimously to recommend a continuation of cursive.

"We had a lot of different viewpoints that made our discussions very rich and very deep," Hall said. "… But for all of us, it was important this be a research-based decision."

Hall said the committee found that writing by hand — whether in print or cursive — helps students learn, and if handwriting can become automatic then students become better writers. Plus, people are often judged by the quality of their handwriting.

She said the committee also wanted to add cursive in particular to reading standards so students would still be able to read primary, historic documents.

"We feel like that's a skill being lost in our society," Hall said. "Students have less and less ability to read cursive writing."

A place to comment publicly on the proposal will likely be up on the state office's website within the next couple weeks.