Schools can write own rule

FAIRMONT – Cali Gack loves to write in cursive.

The Blue Earth Area fourth-grader holes up in her room with her journal, recording her thoughts in loopy, curved letters.

They are words future generations may not be able to decipher.

Minnesota no longer requires that students be taught cursive writing. Although local schools continue to have it in the curriculum, pressure from standardized testing and technological advances could edge it out.

“I think there will be a time when [cursive] is obsolete,” said Paul Carlson, a fourth-grade teacher at Blue Earth Area. “I don’t think cursive will stick around.”

Carlson teaches the form mainly so students will be able to read what their elders write, but he doesn’t spend a lot of class time on the skill.

Students in his class are assigned four pages of cursive to copy each week, which they complete when there is downtime in class after a lesson or at home. They begin to learn the form in second grade.

At Fairmont Elementary, students also begin their cursive lessons in second grade, learning the D’nealian method, a rite of passage many students eagerly look forward too, according to Assistant Principal Michelle Rosen.

The 2012-2013 school year is the first year Minnesota has allowed individual schools to choose whether to teach it, after adopting the Common Core English standards. The state has not adopted the Common Core math standards.

Common Core standards are a voluntary set of standards adopted by states and developed by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers.

Fairmont Elementary said the district still finds value in script, despite pressure on classroom teachers to fit in more topics in light of standardized testing.

“Yes, things to get squished with reading and math requirements,” Rosen said, “but we think it is important the kids learn printing and cursive.”

Forty-five states have adopted Common Core State Standards, which do not require students to learn cursive.

Carlson teaches his students cursive to help with their penmanship, but he doesn’t require students to use it their daily work. He doesn’t even write in cursive, but employs a mash-up style of printing and cursive common to adults.

At St. John Vianney School in Fairmont, students begin to learn cursive handwriting in second grade By third, all assignments are completed in it, a trend that continues through sixth grade.

“If they are writing a paper, they do their rough draft in cursive and then type it so that it can be put in their writing folder,” said St. John Vianney sixth-grade English teacher Brenda Noll. “The only time they get to choose is when they are writing in their journal – then they may choose to print.”

Despite the time spent working on the perfect loops and monkey tails, students are learning more modern forms of communications as well.

Elementary students in most schools spend time in front of a computer during the school day, learning keyboarding, typing assignments or researching projects, something likely to change as more and more digital natives enter the school systems.

But for Cali Gack, there is something to be said for less technological forms of communication.

“If you are sitting in front of a computer screen all the time it is not good for you,” she said. “I don’t like that. … I like writing in cursive. It is fun making the letters and making the curves and stuff.”