By Kim West
Signing your John Hancock to a document refers to the first person to sign the Declaration of Independence in 1776, and is a routine skill taught to elementary students who are growing up in an era of keyboarding and texting.
Students in Alabama will continue to practice their flowing penmanship because cursive handwriting remains part of the Alabama College and Career Ready Standards for grades K-12.
“One reason students would need to know (cursive) is if they were to go into the history field. To read historical documents, they would need to be able to analyze texts and documents that were written with cursive handwriting,” said Rhonda Stringham, executive director of curriculum for Limestone County Schools.
Beginning this fall, cursive writing will be taught by the county in second grade, instead of third grade. Students in Athens City Schools are taught in second.
Stringham does not regularly use cursive in the workplace due to computer technology. She said many schools are trending toward wireless devices that emphasize keyboarding over handwriting, which could be one of the reasons it is being removed from the national standards.
In addition to historical texts, cursive is used in personal correspondence, and to sign legal documents and checks.
Language arts standards
The system’s textbook committee and CCRS Implementation Team have been working for several months on adopting new English language arts textbooks for the 2013-14 school year.
The city and county school systems will implement CCRS into language arts classes beginning in August. Last August, new math standards and textbooks were introduced into school systems statewide.
Stringham said the system is working on a curricula, which is a schedule of when certain subject matter will be taught during the school year. She said it differs from a syllabus because it’s much more specific.
“A syllabus is just a general overview and description of a subject, while a curricula is a week-by-week breakdown of what and when something will be taught,” she said.
As with math standards that have emphasized higher-order reasoning, Stringham said the new English curriculum would be noticeably different from the current subject matter.
“Parents will definitely notice a change because of a shift to informational text, but we’re not leaving all of (the existing) reading behind,” Stringham said. “We want them to read for information, and not just because something is a nice story, or it has a fable ending.”
She said in addition to students reading classic novels, plays and poems, they also would be reading passages from informational texts, such as instructional manuals and legal documents.
“We want students to be able to use the information they read, too,” she said. “Regardless of whether a child goes into college or right into the workplace, everybody is eventually going to be working, and will need to be able to read and process information.”
Although the state’s CCRS is derived from the national common core standards, education officials in each state have the freedom to expand and customize their curriculum.
School systems in Alabama are allowed to add up to 20 percent to the state standards. This permits local systems to adapt to the needs of their students while also maintaining the commonality of CCRS.
CCRS originated from the Common Core Standards Initiative, which was developed in 2010 by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers to improve college and career preparation, and to provide consistent state-to-state curriculum.
Senate Bill 190 would give the Alabama Legislature final approval for curriculum and repeal the Alabama College and Career Ready Standards. The bill has passed through the Senate Education Policy Committee but the Senate has not considered it for a vote.
The Legislature’s general session is scheduled to end May 20.