Cursive could be mandatory in Ohio schools again

Landen Stafford, a junior studying English, writes in cursive. He learned how to write cursive in grade school but only started consistently using it in college to take notes more quickly. (PHOTO ILLUSTRATION by Emma Howells)

Ohio elementary students may soon be dotting their i’s and crossing their t’s during cursive lessons — by law.

House Bill 58 would require Ohio schools to ensure students learn print by third grade and develop legible cursive by fifth grade. The bill was proposed by state Reps. Andrew Brenner, R-Powell, and Marilyn Slaby, R-Copley, and has since gained traction with 13 cosponsors.

“We live in a society where you have to have a signature,” Slaby, a former educator, said. “You don’t print a signature. You write a signature (in cursive). … It takes a heck of a lot longer to print things than it does to cursive-write them.”

The bill was referred to the house Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee on Tuesday. Following the required three committee hearings, the entire House will vote and it will move to the Senate. If both chambers approve the bill, it goes to Gov. John Kasich to be.

A similar bill was introduced in 2015, but it did not pass.

Ohio does not mandate schools teach cursive. Although it is included in the model curriculum, some schools have opted to drop cursive lessons and focus on keyboard typing.

Athens City Schools does not require cursive instruction, but the schools’ administration does encourage it, Tom Parsons, the director of curriculum and development, said.

“We currently don’t use a standardized system,” Parsons said. “We’ve put information in people’s hands regarding the positive benefits of teaching cursive, however, we do understand that the standards currently do not require the teaching of cursive, so we follow Ohio law on that.”

Slaby said cursive and writing is still a vital motor skill for students to have because not all children have access to computers.

“There are some schools who do not have computer rooms yet and students financially don’t have any at home,” Slaby said. “You cannot just throw everybody together and say, ‘They don’t need this.’ Maybe those students don’t, but there are some who do.”

Athens City Schools has a variety of computer classes with a focus on keyboard skills, and the district is adding more, Parsons said, but cursive should still be emphasized.

“We have good evidence that it increases the communications between different parts of the brain,” Parsons said. “It helps with the acquisition of language. It improves the learning to read process. It certainly increases eye-hand coordination. It causes greater retention of information.”

Sarah Gossett, a sophomore studying early childhood education, did not learn cursive in grade school. She only knows how to write her name in cursive. As a prospective teacher, she said she is in support of the bill, even if she did not learn the skill herself.

“Cursive is great,” Gossett said. “It’s a faster way to write. … There’s always time to learn typing and even print first.”


 Originally published for The Post on Feb. 23, 2017.

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