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21st Century Learning: Cursive vs. Keyboard

Published 09/25/2013 12:00 AM
Updated 09/25/2013 11:27 AM

By Pam Johnson
The Sound

As Branford schools ramp up efforts to bolster keyboard skills for computer-based learning, one parent says students are failing to learn a very old-fashioned skill in school: cursive writing.

The discussion arose during the Sept. 18 Board of Education (BOE) meeting. The parent's comment came on the heels of a comprehensive explanation, by Superintendent of Schools Hamlet Hernandez, of how the schools are helping students tackle "keyboarding." The skill is needed for comprehensive learning with computer-based resources, a main tenet of the upcoming Common Core Standards Branford will adopt beginning with the 2014-'15 school year.

At the Sept. 18 meeting, parent Nicole Cipriano asked if the town is even teaching kids how to write and read cursive writing anymore. Assistant Superintendent of Schools Mary Peraro explained that cursive is part of the 3rd-grade curriculum. The Sound checked into it and confirmed with Branford Public Schools (BPS) that cursive is covered in an area described as "penmanship" on the 3rd-grade curriculum.

Cipriano begged to differ with Peraro, saying children have not been taught comprehensive cursive writing in the 3rd-grade year in Branford for years. She worried that students won't be able to sign checks or contracts or read notes, including those from employers, if written in cursive. Later in the meeting, BOE member Michael Krause commented he also felt today's students need to be taught to read and write in cursive.

Cipriano later told The Sound the problem seems to be emerging as a national trend, citing one recent description that gave the scenario of today's kids not being able to read their grandparents' love letters.

The Sound also spoke with Hernandez regarding Cipriano's question: Is cursive writing being taught to Branford's 3rd graders?

"The teachers have discretion," said Hernandez. "It's part of the 3rd-grade curriculum, but it is not assessed. It is certainly something teachers do with their class, but it's not carried through with a grade."

When it comes to choosing cursive or block lettering as a form of handwritten expression, students will "default to their preferred means of writing," he said.

For more than two years, BPS has been gearing up for the transition to the new Common Core Standards. The standards are meant to focus student learning so that, by graduation, the students are aligned with national college and work expectations. Research and evidence-based learning of rigorous content, with applications of knowledge through 21st-century skills-including computer-based learning and test-taking-are major tenets of the new standards.

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