Franklin City School Board discusses value of teaching cursive

Published 8:41 pm Thursday, June 1, 2023

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Cristina Boone, Ward 4 representative on the Franklin City School Board, prompted a brief discussion on the value of teaching cursive writing in school during the board’s Thursday, May 18, meeting.


Boone said she had the pleasure earlier in the week of working with six students ranging in age from 9-12.

“We went over the (U.S.) Constitution, and it’s in script. And out of the six, four could not read it,” she said. “It’s a part of our history, it’s a part of the understanding of where it is, whether we agree with it or not.”

She then briefly expanded the discussion beyond the ability to read cursive writing and offered an assessment of some children’s ability to produce legible handwriting.

“We have children right now that write like doctors and don’t have Ph.D.s, M.D.s, and the reason why I’m saying that is because you get a prescription from the doctor, you don’t halfway understand it, but when it gets to that pharmacist, they understand it,” she said. “How can we have our children go to school with the writing that they have and the teachers not understanding it? I’m saying that because you have, unfortunately, some children that go to school and don’t get that second chance while they’re in school — they’re not asked that same question or, ‘Can you clarify this?’” 


Boone asked if there could be a motion or some action taken by the board to help bring back the teaching of cursive in school, and At-Large Board Member and Vice Chair Carrie Johnson assured her it is still taught.

Carrie Johnson

“Actually, it’s in the Virginia Standards of Learning for both grades two and three in the writing section,” Johnson said. “It’s not something that has to be brought back. We just have to make sure that we’re following it with fidelity. So you don’t have to worry, it isn’t lost, it is actually still taught.” 

Johnson recommended double-checking with whomever is teaching grades two and three at S.P. Morton Elementary School to make sure it is part of their lesson plans, but she said that when students get to those grades, cursive is something they are supposed to be taught.

“See but that’s the part that bothered me, because (the inability to read cursive) went all the way to the 12-year-old,” Boone said. “How can you read something when you can’t understand it? Or how can you read it because of the script? They blatantly could not read it.”

Johnson suggested that 12-year-old students’ assimilation of cursive may have been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. She asked for clarification on what grade the 12-year-old student would be in and was told sixth or seventh.

“So we back that up how many years, and we’re probably in that virtual learning part where they may not have gotten it,” she said. “They may have just gotten it before they went out, and then they missed it.”

She acknowledged that even though cursive is not in the standards of learning for the higher grades, it probably is something that those grade levels need to touch on. 

“But we also have to realize that we’re moving into an age of technology, and (students are) going to be doing a lot more on the screen,” she said. “(Cursive) is something that they should have to know how to sign their name, and they should be able to read basic cursive, but that’s not the wave of the future. They’re not going to have to be doing as much writing. 

“They’re not going to have to write reports when they go to college; that’s not something that teachers are going to even accept anymore,” she continued. “But it is something that, like you said, they’re going to have to know what it is when they see it. But they will be taught in second and third grade. So they will know that it’s not scribble.”

Ward 1 Board Member and Board Chair Robert Holt said, “I don’t think we need a motion. We can just ask for a status report on what we do know. Is that OK?”

“That’s good,” Boone said. “Yeah.”

Franklin City Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Carlton Carter said, “We’ll re-examine what we’re doing, and so thank you for bringing that to our attention.”