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Bill would make schools teach cursive

A bill introduced Tuesday in the Ohio House would require schools to teach cursive handwriting, a skill that has been de-emphasized in an increasingly computer-based age.

House Bill 146 includes language to ensure that students can “print letters and words legibly by third grade and to create readable documents using legible cursive handwriting by the end of fifth grade.” The bill has not yet had any hearings.

State Rep. Cheryl Grossman, one of two sponsors of the bill, said cursive improves fine motor skills and cognitive development.

“There are proven studies that talk about the cognitive enhancement on students who use cursive,” said Grossman, R-Grove City. “It shows that students retain more information if they take longhand notes versus those taken through keyboarding.”

Many schools have cut back on handwriting instruction to spend more time on core academic requirements. For example, new state law requires elementary schools to spend more time helping struggling readers in first through third grades.

In Northmont schools, curriculum director Tony Thomas said students are introduced to cursive writing via a Zaner Bloser handwriting instruction program. But Thomas said there’s only so much time in the school day, so teachers don’t spend as much time on handwriting of any kind as they did 10 years ago.

“We hit keyboarding very hard here — even our elementary kids have what we call tech time, where they spend time keyboarding on a pretty frequent basis,” Thomas said. “But we still want them to be able to recognize and use cursive writing, and we do Zaner Bloser for that.”

The state currently gives a mix of guidance to schools on cursive writing. Ohio law mandates certain pieces of school curriculum — language arts, math, health, etc. — but mentions neither cursive nor computer literacy. The state’s official learning standards don’t include cursive either.

But Ohio Department of Education spokesman John Charlton said ODE includes cursive instruction in its “Model curriculum” for grades 3 and 4. And the state school board passed a resolution in early 2014 “in support of” teaching cursive.

Grossman argued that there’s time to focus on both computer literacy and cursive writing in the school day “without a lot of problem.” She worried that students would be unable to sign their names or read original historic documents that are written in cursive.

“People are always intrigued with new inventions and innovations,” Grossman said. “There was a lot of excitement about ‘Oh, I’ll just text this or type it on my computer.’ But I think we’ve lost a really important art of communication when you think about how much time people spend on their computers and iPhones.”

Thomas said Northmont isn’t ignoring cursive, but likely won’t cut back on technology either.

“Computer literacy is not in state law, but you know that for kids to be successful, in school and when they graduate, they need that skill,” he said.

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