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Hernando County: Cursive not a lost art — yet

Jeff Schmucker Hernando Today
Published:   |   Updated: May 7, 2013 at 04:24 PM

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It's unknown how many educators still bother instructing youngsters in the art of writing in flowing script, but despite trends showing its lack of overall use, teachers are being urged to somehow slip it into the elementary curriculum.

Joe Vitalo, president of the Hernando Classroom Teachers Association, said the teaching of cursive writing has been slipping as more emphasis has been placed on preparing for the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.

Vitalo said students aren't even using pen and paper as much as before. Now most everything — including writing — is shifting toward being done on a computer, making the need for cursive writing unnecessary.

"It's not being done consistently across the county because it's not on the state assessment," Vitalo said. "We teach them for the test. And that's what society has accepted."

But school board members don't share that sentiment. Instead, they still see a need for youngsters to be shown how to loop and connect their letters — if for no other reason than to learn how to write their signature.

Earlier this week, four school board members agreed at an afternoon workshop to slip it into the curriculum.

Superintendent Bryan Blavatt was careful to say that teachers were "encouraged" to do so and not required to teach cursive writing among other requirements.

School board member James Yant said he is more concerned with students' poor spelling — something Vice Chairman Matt Foreman agreed with.

Yant said that in some academic programs, such as nursing, students are passing the science and knowledge portion of their exams, but fail because of bad spelling.

"Why do you think that is?" Yant asked. "Is it because of cell phones and texting?"

However, Foreman added that with the push to expose students earlier to technology and other skills, he can see how difficult it would be on teachers to require cursive to be taught.

"I also think it can have an impact on spelling," Foreman said.

Board Chairwoman Cynthia Moore said she knows cursive handwriting is not currently taught in most schools throughout the county, which is why she pulled the item for discussion during Tuesday's meeting.

Blavatt told board members that Tuesday's discussion was the time to give staff members direction on whether they wanted cursive writing included in the curriculum, resulting in the board giving unanimous approval for it to be part of the third-grade English/language arts classes.

Blavatt wryly commented later that more discussion was spent on the merits of cursive writing than on the budget earlier in the meeting.

Meanwhile, Vitalo said it's a shame that students are missing out on learning about cursive writing in lieu of preparing them for state testing.

"I think the state needs to recognize that students do need to learn cursive writing and put it in the state standards," Vitalo said.

"Instead, we're telling teachers that we want them to do other things and take time away from focusing on the measure that is used to possibly fire you.

"That doesn't make any sense." (352) 544-5271

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