Kentucky students would be required to learn cursive for the first time under revised state standards under review that also include new standards for calculus.
Under Senate Bill 1, wide-ranging education legislation that was signed into law by Gov. Matt Bevin in April, the Kentucky Department of Education must begin reviewing all academic standards and their assessments in the 2017-18 school year. One or two content areas are to be reviewed each year and every six years on a rotating basis, according to the Kentucky Department of Education.
“I think any time that we go back and look at what we’re doing and try to make it better is a good thing,” said Cindy Beals, the high school instructional supervisor and district assessment coordinator for Warren County Public Schools.
The state will collect public feedback on the English language arts and mathematics standards until Sept. 15, and going forward, educators will be heavily involved in the standards review process through grade-level advisory panels that also include higher education representatives.
Those panels will recommend changes to a Standards and Assessment Review Development Committee, which is also made up of public school educators and higher education representatives. The standards go through another committee made of members appointed by the governor and General Assembly before ultimately being approved by the state’s board of education. The public will also get to comment.
For Beals, involving educators and the general public is a positive. Additionally, while she sees cursive as a useful skill, she’s concerned it may take up too much instruction time that could be better used elsewhere.
“There’s only so many hours in a day so I don’t know what we’re going to have to take out to put it in,” she said.
“It’s great if anyone can read cursive,” she said. “Can we get by without it? Absolutely.”
Leslie Birdwhistell, a parent with a daughter in eighth grade and a son in college, also said the skill is useful but doesn’t think it’s worth giving up more important priorities. Her son hasn’t been adversely affected by not knowing the skill, she said.
“There’s just other things that could be done with that time,” such as art and more recess time, she said. “I would like to see those restored from where they’ve been cut over the years.”
During a previous review in the 2014-15 school year, almost 4,000 people, about half being educators, gave input on the English language arts and math standards. As many as 88 percent of respondents said no changes were needed, and the rest said they’d like to see some change in one or more of the standards, according to the Kentucky Department of Education.
An extensive review process followed that involved K-12 and postsecondary educators in both content areas, and the new standards were added.
Other parents on Twitter have said the skill is useful for reading historical documents.
Jennifer Davis, the instructional supervisor for the Bowling Green Independent School District, supports teaching cursive. Davis has previously been a teacher and said the skill doesn’t take that much time to teach. Davis also cited research showing that cursive writing helps develop kids’ brains.
“For me it’s a positive; some may disagree,” she said.
During the 2018-19 school year, educators will train in the new English language arts and math standard while also setting aside time for a field test. The Kentucky Department of Education will develop tests to align with the newer standards. Ultimately, the new standards will be in place by the 2019-20 school year.
The 2017-18 school year will also see development of standards in physical activity, health, career studies and computer science, according to a schedule from the state.