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Utah to Weigh Pros and Cons of Cursive in Schools

Education officials in Utah plan to study whether or not cursive writing instruction is relevant in public schools today. On Friday, the state school board approved the formation of a committee of teachers and administrators in the state which will examine the issue over the next year.

Is it important to include cursive writing instruction in Utah schools? What does current research say about the importance of cursive to students developmentally and how should educators approach teaching cursive to students? Tiffany Hall is the Kindergarten through 12th grade literacy coordinator for the Utah State Office of Education. She says these are questions the committee hopes to answer.

“There is research that says it's absolutely vital,” Hall says. “There's research that says it's kind of iffy. So we need to look at the quality of research and see how that fits in to what our view of education looks like.”

In the past, Utah required cursive instruction in third grade. But in 2010, the state adopted the common core standards, which don't require schools to teach cursive. Hall says that doesn't mean Utah schools have stopped or will stop the practice.

“But what did happen is that when something is not in the standard, it is not seen as important or as legitimate as it was when you include it in the standard,” Hall says.

She says although education is increasingly driven by technology, the ability to read, write and interpret documents written in cursive has been central to Utah's history and culture.

“We look at old journals,” she says. “We connect to our families by looking at historical records. Many people here are involved in genealogy activities where they're reading primary source documents and putting those into searchable database fields.”

Outside of Utah, states like Indiana and Hawaii and Illinois are foregoing cursive instruction and are instead opting for keyboard proficiency.

Hall says the committee will make a recommendation to the school board at the end of this school year.  

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