ATWATER TWP. — Eight-year-old Laci Bailey is able to write in cursive and she wants everyone to know it.
The back of her yellow, workbook folder reads in elegantly looping letters: “I am aloud (sic) to write in cursive anywhere I want because I have my cursive license!”
All third-grade students at Waterloo Elementary School earn their “cursive license” — that is, the right to write in cursive outside of their workbooks — by successfully writing a sentence using every letter in the alphabet with few errors.
Though some believe script writing has fallen out of vogue, Waterloo Elementary third-grade teachers Penni Bane, Michelle Besaw and Wanda Nekola understand the benefits of keeping it in the curriculum. The Ohio Legislature agrees with them.
Legislation approved recently requires the Ohio Department of Education to create instructional material on handwriting for grades kindergarten through five. The material would be designed to enable students to write legibly in cursive by the end of fifth grade.
Dan Minnich, the executive director of communications and outreach at the Ohio Department of Education, said the department will soon plan to guide the implementation of the bill. It is up to each school district whether to use the new materials.
“It’s part of our society so they have to be able to read and write in cursive,” Bane said as her class quietly practiced their handwriting. “I don’t think it should ever be out of the curriculum, something that’s essential to be able to function properly in society.”
Waterloo follows the Ohio Learning Standard, which mentions handwriting skills, according to Waterloo Elementary Principal Aaron Walker. Each third-grade teacher at Waterloo teaches cursive along with science and social studies in their homerooms. Though more important work, like preparing for standardized testing, sometimes takes precedence over script writing, Besaw said she is usually able to fit it into the daily schedule.
“Sometimes 15 minutes on your cursive gives you a brain break,” Walker said. “But you’re also practicing fine motor skills, you’re still exercising your brain just in a different way.”
Rootstown second-graders get a brief lesson in cursive, Superintendent Andrew Hawkins said. Beyond that, the district does not teach it.
With the implementation of Common Core teaching around 2010, Crestwood Superintendent David Toth said cursive writing was largely phased out. Though the Crestwood Board of Education has not decided whether it will implement cursive writing again, Toth understands arguments on both sides.
“The plus is I think there’s some sound research that it helps with motor skills and critical thinking,” Toth said. “The other side is the school thought that it’s an archaic way to communicate with key wording and coding and it takes away some time from reading and other academics.”
Laura Amero, the assistant superintendent at Windham Exempted Village Schools, said her district may attempt to implement cursive writing but it will not be a requirement of teachers. Amero said in an email that she’ll examine the curriculum once it is released by ODE along with the schedule for the 2019-20 school year and see where cursive lessons can be embedded.
In Kent, cursive is taught in second grade and revisited in third. Amy Hopkins, a second-grade teacher at Holden Elementary, said cursive benefits her students in a couple ways. First, because no two letters look the same in cursive writing, it helps students comprehend print letters better. Second, cursive writing gives students the ability to read historic documents.
“I do think they need to be exposed to it somewhat,” Besaw said. “Whether they use it beyond the classroom, I don’t know. But they do need to be exposed to it. If they see something in cursive, it shouldn’t look like a foreign language.”
Reporter Kaitlyn McGarvey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 330-298-1127