Cursive writing making a comeback in Alabama schools

Posted: Saturday, November 5, 2016 7:00 pm

Jim Cook

Posted on Nov 5, 2016by Jim Cook

It was a sight to warm the heart of any education traditionalist — rows of students using paper and pen instead of tapping on iPads or Chromebooks, learning to write in neat cursive script.

Students in Sonia Crutchfield’s third grade classroom at Montana Magnet practiced their letters with painstaking care earlier this week, developing the skills that their parents and grandparents learned in class decades ago.

A recently enacted Alabama law mandates cursive instruction, which had been falling by the wayside as testing and other curriculum demands crowded out time for teaching a skill whose time seems to have passed.

Sue Clark, Montana Magnet School principal, said her school had been providing cursive instruction prior to the new law. Clark said she felt that cursive instruction has a number of benefits that may be overlooked by more tech-centric educators.

Clark said that while students may not often be required to write in cursive later in life, being able to read it is helpful as many documents such as deeds and wills are partially written in cursive. Cursive writing instruction helps with these reading skills.

Clark said cursive writing instruction also helps young students develop fine motor skills necessary for art and other activities. Clark said regular cursive practice also helps students develop self-discipline.

“It keeps us in touch with where we came from,” Clark said. “I think you still need it. You have to be able to communicate.”

Lexi’s Law

Lexi’s Law is the name of the new legislation requiring Alabama schools to place increased emphasis on cursive handwriting. The law went into effect on Aug. 1. It requires all public schools to teach cursive handwriting by the end of third grade.

The law was passed after lawmakers had concerns about a lack of emphasis on cursive writing in the Alabama College and Career Ready standards, Alabama’s version of Common Core standards, which were adopted a few years ago. The standards place greater emphasis on keyboarding skills.

Alabama Rep. Dickie Drake sponsored the law to require cursive instruction. Drake decided to introduce the legislation after becoming concerned that cursive wasn’t being consistently taught across the state. The law is named “Lexi’s Law” after Drake’s granddaughter.

Not all educators are sold on the value of cursive instruction in a time when most of us only use script to sign our names on checks or other documents. According to a national survey of elementary teachers conducted by Really Good Stuff Inc., 41 percent of the 612 teachers surveyed no longer incorporate cursive into their instruction plans. However, about 63 percent of teachers surveyed said they considered cursive writing skills to be important or very important.

Crutchfield said she’s ambivalent about the value of spending a lot of classroom time on cursive writing in an era when most written communication occurs via a keyboard. Crutchfield said all of the other testing and curriculum demands on schools makes finding time for cursive instruction difficult. Nevertheless, Crutchfield said cursive does have benefits in teaching motor skills and self-discipline.

“We have to find time to squeeze it in,” she said.

Ariyah Danzey, 9, is a student in Crutchfield’s class. Danzey said she’s enjoyed learning to write in script.

“It’s kind of hard, but it’s easy once you get the hang of it,” she said.

Danzey said she likes the way cursive looks and enjoys the work of forming the letters.

“It’s just more special looking,” she said.