Kentucky students would be required to learn cursive writing in new standards

In this Wednesday, March 1, 2017, photo, a third-grader practices his cursive handwriting at P.S.166 in the Queens borough of New York.
In this Wednesday, March 1, 2017, photo, a third-grader practices his cursive handwriting at P.S.166 in the Queens borough of New York. AP

For the first time, Kentucky students would be required to learn cursive writing, in a revision of academic standards released Monday by Education Commissioner Stephen Pruitt for public review. Calculus standards are also new in the revised English/language arts and math standards.

“The Common Core Standards are over,” Pruitt said as he announced that the state Department of Education is moving ahead with developing a new set of standards for math and English/language arts. He outlined several steps that the public, educators and lawmakers will take in reviewing the revisions before being sent to the Kentucky Board of Education.

Senate Bill 1, the reform bill approved by the 2017 General Assembly, calls for the state education department to implement a process for reviewing all academic standards and their aligned tests beginning in the 2017-18 school year. The current schedule calls for one or two content areas to be reviewed each year and every six years after that on a rotating basis. Senate GOP leaders had touted Senate Bill 1 as repealing the Common Core standards, as they had long promised.

The state’s current English/language arts and mathematics standards have been taught in Kentucky classrooms since 2011, officials said Monday. Standards outline what students are expected to learn in each grade, not how they are taught. The curriculum or methods and materials used to teach the standards is decided by the local school district.

A bill filed by state Rep. Jill York, R- Grayson, that would require cursive writing to be taught in elementary schools stalled in the 2017 General Assembly.

Pruitt said “there was a big call” in a prior public review of Kentucky’s academic standards for students to learn how to read and write in cursive.

“All our major historical documents are written in cursive. That was, I think, a big impetus for that.”

Pruitt said the education department was starting the standards revision process by revising English/language arts and mathematics “because those are the foundations for other learning.” In addition to math and English, physical activity and health, and career studies standards will be revised in 2017-18, and computer science standards will be developed in 2017-18. All of those would be implemented in the classroom the following year. Students competent in computer science will be needed in the state’s job market, Pruitt said.

He said said a review of the math and English standards began years ago.

Nearly 4,000 people — about half of them educators — provided input during a public review on the English/language arts and mathematics standards in the 2014-15 school year. Since then, he said, an extensive process involving elementary, middle, high school and postsecondary educators in math and English has resulted in revisions to the standards. New standards to address cursive writing and advanced coursework in mathematics, specifically calculus, were added.

State education officials said the English/language arts standards, as revised, are now available for public feedback online at The revised mathematics standards are available at

The Kentucky Department of Education will collect recommendations from the public on all of the draft standards in English/language arts and mathematics until Sept. 15.

Pruitt said he wanted Kentucky to develop “the best set of standards in the country” and teachers would be a big part of that.

“We’re excited that teachers and school employees will be a heavy part of the process in implementing new standards that make sense for kids,” said Stephanie Winkler, president of the Kentucky Education Association, an educators group.

Winkler said the new standards for cursive writing and calculus “are just small parts of a huge pie.”

She said Kentucky’s academic standards are being revised based on research and what’s best for kids at different ages and levels.

Overhauling standards “is a huge undertaking to make sure kids learn what they need to know before” they take the jobs of the future.

Grade-level advisory panels and educator and legislative committees will review the draft standards before they are sent to the Kentucky Board of Education for approval.

The next group of academic standards that will be revised will be social studies and world languages in 2018-2019.

Valarie Honeycutt Spears: 859-231-3409, @vhspears