EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

April 7, 2013

Penmanship alive and well in local districts

If Merrimack Valley and Southern New Hampshire schools are any indication, cursive handwriting isn’t going away anytime soon.

“Children still need cursive as far as signing their names on checks and official papers,” said Carol Mack, principal of the Matthew Thornton School in Londonderry. “We don’t put the same amount of emphasis on it like we used to, but it’s important for them to be able to read it still.”

In Haverhill, Superintendent of Schools James Scully said penmanship will be taught at local elementary schools as long as he’s around.

“I don’t see us de-emphasizing that,” he said. “At least not in my lifetime.”

The use and teaching of cursive writing has been fading from society since the arrival of the computer keyboard. Common core education standards require proficiency in keyboarding by grade 4, but not in cursive hand-writing.

In New Hampshire, cursive handwriting is not a requirement — and may never have been. School districts make a choice as to whether they want to teach cursive.

Some do, and some don’t, according to Judith Sillion of the New Hampshire Department of Education.

“It’s not a requirement, but a number of districts offer it,” she said. “I have heard that some don’t.”

The same is true in Massachusetts, said JC Considine, director of board and media relations for the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Massachusetts added a standard in 2011 requiring that all fourth-graders be able to “write legible by hand, using either printing or cursive handwriting.”

“Some schools teach cursive handwriting, some don’t,” he said. “The point of writing is communication, hence we placed the emphasis on legibility, rather than the form of the letters.”

While cursive handwriting is not a requirement, that hasn’t stopped schools — both public and private — from teaching it.

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