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Cursive writing still matters in Manteca Unified classrooms
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A small but growing number of college professors are banning laptops and other electronic devices in their classroom.
And an unexpected byproduct of such moves — according to a March report by the Wall Street Journal — is a number of impacted students find that they are at a disadvantage because they have been brought up relying completely on keyboarding and have no cursive writing experience.
It isn’t a problem with Manteca Unified graduates as the district deliberately kept a strong emphasis on cursive writing when they launched their Going Digital drive five years ago to put a device in the hands of every one of their 24,000 students.
“Teachers use a blended learning approach with students at the high school level,” noted Clara Schmiedt, Manteca Unified Senior Director of Elementary and Secondary Education. “This means that they are required to do assignments not only using technology but also with writing skills and many activities for a well-rounded education.  MUSD focuses on students being Career and College Ready; this means that students are prepared to use technology and the other various communications skills, speaking, writing, etcetera.”
Manteca Unified adheres to — and exceeds — Language Arts Standards for kindergarten through fifth grades. That means they must learn to:
Write legibly in cursive or joined italics, allowing margins and correct spacing between letters in a word and words in a sentence in the third grade.
Write fluidly and legibly in cursive or joined italics in the fourth grade.
As far as keyboarding, the state standards the district teachers use are in the:
third grade: use technology to produce and publish writing (by using keyboarding skills) as well as to interact and collaborate with others.
ourth grade: use technology, including the internet, to produce and publish writing as well as to interact and collaborate with others; demonstrate sufficient command of keyboarding skills to type a minimum of one page in a single sitting.
fifth grade: demonstrate sufficient command of keyboarding skills to type a minimum of two pages in a single sitting.
sixth grade: demonstrate sufficient command of keyboarding skills to type a minimum of three pages in a single sitting.
“Teachers are also able to utilize a Districtwide Keyboarding program called Typing Agent in order to help our students achieve the keyboarding standards,” Schmiedt noted. “There is very much a blending of keyboarding and handwriting skills being used in our classrooms.”
The district has deliberately not mandated how much digital devices are used at the high school level to allow teachers to determine the best mixture for their subject and teaching style.
There are some school districts, according to the Wall Street Journal, that decided going to digital devices and deep-sixing cursive writing at the high school level was the best move for their students.
College professors interviewed for the Wall Street Journal article cited a wide array of reasons for the ban ranging from having no way to prevent students from surfing the Internet to a concern that students were becoming stenographers.
Several citied studies that tie actual note taking by hand — cursive primarily — in helping to re-enforce understanding.
Manteca Unified use of One Note has allowed students to incorporate the ability to note take and “underline” electronic text to help emphasis key points and context.
One of the concerns some parents had expressed when Manteca Unified moved to incorporate digital devices to make local schools “seamless” with the work world after high school was that the district would abandon cursive writing.
Not only does the State of California mandate that it be taught but Manteca Unified has kept it part of their classroom strategy beyond sixth grade.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email dwyatt@mantecabulletin.com