Cursive writing would become a ‘course of study’ in Kentucky public schools under Tichenor’s bill

Published 12:11 pm Thursday, March 21, 2024

By McKenna Horsley

Kentucky Lantern

A Republican senator wants to ensure that students become proficient in cursive handwriting in Kentucky’s public elementary schools.

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Sen. Lindsey Tichenor, of Smithfield, presented Senate Bill 167, which would require cursive writing to be taught “as a course of study” in elementary schools, to the House Education Committee Tuesday. The Senate has already passed the bill.

Tichenor said she filed it as a response to the handwriting style not being part of Common Core Standards, which began in 2010 as a way to bring cohesion to the way states taught English and math.  More than 20 states, including California and New Hampshire, have adopted directives to require teaching cursive writing.

Kentucky’s standards for elementary education already include instruction in cursive and print handwriting.

Under the Kentucky Academic Standards for Reading and Writing cursive writing is taught to second- and third-graders, and  print letters to kindergarteners and first graders.

State law gives school superintendents authority over instructional resources and assessments for meeting goals. School councils are also required to adopt a program consistent with policies from their local boards of education. Principals are required to ensure the implementation of the program in school curriculum.

Tichenor’s bill says that beginning in the 2025-26 school year, “cursive writing shall be included as a course of study in all elementary schools and shall be designed to ensure proficiency in cursive writing by the end of grade five.”

Tichenor said that learning cursive can improve literacy skills. A 2020 study from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology found that writing in cursive activates different electrical activity in the brain for students compared to when they type.

“Every grandma out there who sends a birthday card is going to be so happy that their grandkids can read their birthday cards,” Tichenor said.

While Tichenor received a lot of positive feedback, some representatives raised concerns about implementing the requirement in schools.

Rep. Lisa Willner, D-Louisville, said that she was often contacted as a former school board member about requests to teach cursive. She did raise concerns about the requirement becoming another burden for teachers, especially those who might not feel comfortable teaching the material and as Kentucky faces a shortage of teachers in classrooms.

McKee Republican Rep. Timmy Truett, a school principal, said he sees education trending toward technology over written assignments. He gave an example of a statewide writing test that is now submitted on a computer.

“I almost think that typing in the world we live (in) would be more important than the cursive writing,” Truett said.

Tichenor responded that cursive writing encourages students to use motor skills. She also said she has not had a lot of teachers reach out to her with Willner’s concerns.

Both Willner and Truett ultimately voted for the bill. The House Education Committee forwarded the bill to the full House with 15 yes votes, one no and a pass vote.

Tichenor’s legislation must now be approved by  the House before it can be considered by Gov. Andy Beshear for signature.

A spokesperson for the Kentucky Department of Education said it does not have a comment on the legislation at this time.