TRAVERSE CITY — Keyboards and computer lessons are replacing cursive handwriting and penmanship instruction at public schools in the Grand Traverse region.
Officials from districts in Leelanau, Kalkaska, Benzie and Grand Traverse counties all said elementary school teachers are placing far less emphasis on penmanship in general and — cursive in particular — than they were a decade ago.
”About the only time we use cursive around here is to sign a check,” said Jason Stowe, superintendent of Leland Public School.
Stowe noticed a decrease in cursive and handwriting instruction as computers and other digital devices became more common in classrooms.
This movement away from cursive is reflected in the National Governors Association’s Common Core education standards.
The Michigan Board of Education in June 2010 adopted Common Core, which so far outlines uniform student expectations for math and language arts only. The standards include proficiency in computer keyboarding by the fourth grade, but do not mention cursive writing ability.
But common core standards are only a guide, not a mandated curriculum. Districts and schools that want to continue teaching cursive are free to do so, like Leelanau County’s Glen Lake Elementary School.
“(Common Core) is your foundation and your basis,” Glen Lake Elementary Principal Kim Wright said. “From Common Core you build up other curriculum.”
Glen Lake Elementary students receive cursive instruction in third and fourth grades. The benefits of penmanship and cursive for students range from learning how to hold a pen to developmental growth, Wright said.
And students shouldn’t rely on always having access to digital devices.
“What about just writing a note to somebody? There is still a use for sticky notes, isn’t there?” Wright said. “I think you have to find a balance. I don’t think you can swing all one way or the other. At least not yet.”