Cursive handwriting is alive in North Carolina’s elementary schools – five years after state lawmakers required that students be taught what some advocates feared was becoming a long lost art.
A new report approved Thursday by the State Board of Education shows that 62 percent of North Carolina’s elementary schools say they’re providing cursive instruction at least on a monthly basis. The report also shows that 94 percent of elementary schools say they’re teaching students the multiplication tables at least weekly.
A bill passed by state lawmakers in 2013 requires that public schools teach cursive writing so that students “create readable documents through legible cursive handwriting by the end of fifth grade.” The “Back to Basics” law also says students in public schools are required to memorize multiplication tables.
“It is a law,” said Rep. Pat Hurley, a Randolph County Republican who was the main sponsor for the law. “It is on the books, and it needs to be taught. Whoever is being taught should be given an opportunity to learn cursive.”
Hurley says her motivation was being surprised that the handwritten thank-you notes she received from a group of fourth-grade students were written in print and not cursive. She said students should learn cursive because it helps develop their brains and allows them to read documents written in cursive.
The state’s push to require cursive instruction came as part of a nationwide pushback against the Common Core standards in language arts and math that were adopted by 45 states, including North Carolina. Critics complained that Common Core didn’t specifically call for teaching students to write in cursive.
There are now 21 states that require cursive instruction and five states that are considering adding the requirement, according to Sarah Pompelia, a policy researcher for the Education Commission of the States.
As part of last year’s state budget, the state Department of Public Instruction was required to survey districts on how they’re teaching cursive and multiplication tables.
The report says that 6.5 percent of elementary schools have daily instruction in cursive handwriting for students in third through fifth grade. It’s offered weekly in 41 percent of elementary schools, monthly in 14 percent of schools and occasionally in 38 percent of schools.
Wake County elementary schools teach cursive to third-grade students several times a week, according to Michael Yarbrough, a district spokesman. He said the specific number of days and the amount of time spent is left up to individual schools.
In Durham, schools have been encouraged to incorporate 10-15 minutes of cursive writing instruction each day beginning in third grade, according to Tim Gibson, the district’s interim executive director of elementary teaching, learning and leadership.
“The time expectation begins in third grade,” Gibson said. “Subsequent grade levels would incorporate cursive writing instruction and practice based on students’ needs to work toward the goal of mastery by the end of fifth grade.”
Despite the report’s findings, Hurley says she remains skeptical that cursive is being taught in all elementary schools. She said she’ll continue to press for more information to make sure cursive is taught.
“Many children have been embarrassed because their parents found out they couldn’t sign their name or they couldn’t read their grandparent’s thank-you note,” Hurley said. “They need the opportunity to learn this part.”