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Current Events & Hot Topics Current Events & Hot Topics

States Want Kids To Learn A Lot β€” Maybe Too Much

Posted by on Feb. 17, 2014 at 10:25 AM
  • 66 Replies

States Want Kids To Learn A Lot β€” Maybe Too Much

A fifth-grade student uses her cursive skills at a school in Baltimore. The Indiana Senate recently passed a bill that would restore instruction of cursive writing as an educational standard.

A fifth-grade student uses her cursive skills at a school in Baltimore. The Indiana Senate recently passed a bill that would restore instruction of cursive writing as an educational standard.

Lloyd Fox/MCT/Landov

Jean Leising admits she's no expert on brain development, but she still hopes to do something about the way kids learn.

Leising serves in the Indiana state Senate. Last month, she convinced her Senate colleagues to pass a bill that would restore instruction of cursive writing to the state's educational standards β€” the set of skills and knowledge kids are expected to master in each grade level.

Even in the email age, teaching cursive might be a great thing. But when legislatures impose mandates on instruction, professional educators get nervous.

It's not just controversial topics such as creationism, which is still a matter of debate in states such as Texas, Louisiana and Missouri. When legislators insist that students master certain material, whether it's a specific historical event or a set of writing or math skills, it can interfere with the overall program that schools are guiding kids through.

"If you have too many cooks throwing too much decontextualized content into K-12 standards, they can very quickly become overwhelmed," says Kathleen Porter-Magee, a policy fellow at the Fordham Institute, a conservative education think tank.

The Kitchen Sink Approach

Education standards are endlessly debated by lots of different people, including teachers, school districts, parents and politicians. States consult with experts, but specific expectations are often set by the legislature.

The end result can be textbooks larded with more material than teachers can hope to get to in the course of a year.

"It's impossible to cover all that content with any depth and rigor," says Porter-Magee. "Teachers have to decide what they're going to teach, but if that's the case, what is the point of the standards?"

Teachers may confront competing mandates from the state, their district and even their own school. This can lead to situations where kids in one fourth grade class are learning fractions, while their peers in the room next door aren't.

Their fifth grade teacher might then decide to teach fractions again, since half the kids in class don't understand them. But the fourth graders who already know fractions will not only be bored, but miss out on the chance to learn something else.

The lack of coherent instruction is becoming an even bigger problem at a time when textbooks are giving way in many cases to Internet-based materials, says Julio Noboa, a professor of teacher education at the University of Texas, El Paso.

"If it becomes an ad hoc set of topics, it's like memorizing the phone book," says William Schmidt, director of the Center for the Study of Curriculum at Michigan State University. "From the research we've done, coherence is one of the things that makes a difference to kids. If topics are put in the proper sequence, it fits and follows and flows into the next thing."

Common Core Issues

Schmidt served as an adviser to the Common Core effort, which was headed up by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers.

Common Core represented an effort not only to raise standards to a more rigorous level than was found in many states, but to prioritize what it is that all kids need to learn in order to get ready for college and careers.

There are now proposals to slow or cancel implementation of Common Core standards in at least a dozen states. Although it was developed by state officials, it has been heavily promoted by the Obama administration.

As always when the feds interfere with instruction, that is causing a backlash. Two of the governors involved in shaping the standards recently published an article defending them, called "Common Core Isn't a Government Conspiracy."

Who Gets To Decide?

The pushback may be due to fears about federal control, but it's been exacerbated by the fact that states have not done a good enough job tailoring the standards to their own needs, Porter-Magee suggests. Common Core allows states to custom-fit 15 percent of the material to suit their own needs.

"Very few states took seriously the task of adding content on top of the Common Core," Porter-Magee says. "A lot of states did not add anything, or very little."

In other words, too much interference from state-level politicians can cause problems, but taking a totally hands-off approach and leaving instruction totally up to distant technocrats can lead to trouble, too.

That leaves Leising hoping that the Indiana House is ready to take up her proposal to require cursive, which it's passed on over the past couple of years.

"When kids connect letters from left to right, it stimulates the brain and cognitive development of the brain," she says. "When we have kids who are not being taught cursive, they're going to have bigger challenges regarding their ability to spell and to read and write."

If legislators decide that cursive is something all Hoosiers should know, that's OK with Andrea Neal, a member of the state Board of Education.

"If legislators believe something of great significance is being omitted from the schools, then they have every right to pass legislation," Neal says. "As the Common Core debate illustrates, there's no agreement on what that one clear standard should be."

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by on Feb. 17, 2014 at 10:25 AM
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Replies (1-10):
supermonstermom
by Silver Member on Feb. 17, 2014 at 10:34 AM
7 moms liked this

I home school, but still follow common core stantards.  Its not unreasonable.  

The cases I have seen against common core, have been poor choices in presentation by the teacher.


It do think that handwriting and cursive are important, as is manual note taking instead of typing notes into the computer. Physically writing notes, or spelling words or math facts helps the learning process.

LiveinJoy
by on Feb. 17, 2014 at 10:57 AM

The key word here is "rigor". It's a word we, as educators, exaggerate and lambaste frequently in the lounge. =)

lga1965
by on Feb. 17, 2014 at 11:55 AM
That's how I feel,too.

Quoting supermonstermom:

I home school, but still follow common core stantards.  Its not unreasonable.  

The cases I have seen against common core, have been poor choices in presentation by the teacher.


It do think that handwriting and cursive are important, as is manual note taking instead of typing notes into the computer. Physically writing notes, or spelling words or math facts helps the learning process.

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LindaClement
by Thatwoman on Feb. 17, 2014 at 12:26 PM
2 moms liked this

I love the caption under the photo.

'uses cursive skills' ... um, no. The child is clearly parsing for verbs, the teacher wrote the visual aid.

LindaClement
by Thatwoman on Feb. 17, 2014 at 12:28 PM

You do know that cursive was designed to stop from wrecking nibs, right?

There are a lot of stories about learning to draw letters this way, but most of them are fiction without foundation, including the idea that they're 'easier' or 'faster.'

Quoting supermonstermom:

I home school, but still follow common core stantards.  Its not unreasonable.  

The cases I have seen against common core, have been poor choices in presentation by the teacher.


It do think that handwriting and cursive are important, as is manual note taking instead of typing notes into the computer. Physically writing notes, or spelling words or math facts helps the learning process.


Woodbabe
by Woodie on Feb. 17, 2014 at 12:29 PM
3 moms liked this

Wouldn't practicing the ability to actually READ cursive be included in understanding and learning cursive?

Quoting LindaClement:

I love the caption under the photo.

'uses cursive skills' ... um, no. The child is clearly parsing for verbs, the teacher wrote the visual aid.


 Sexy If its unladylike, fattening or fun, I'm in!
  

AdrianneHill
by Platinum Member on Feb. 17, 2014 at 12:38 PM
I can't write in print for very long. I always revert back to cursive within a word or two. Even on applications and forms. My handwriting is loopy anyway because I'm too lazy to pick up the pen.
LindaClement
by Thatwoman on Feb. 17, 2014 at 1:02 PM

Uh, no.

That's like saying that being able to see the Mona Lisa is required to understand and learn painting.

I can, without difficulty, read and identify dozens of distinct fonts: can't draw any of them. Not only can't be bothered, but actually can't. I can see the distinctions and read them, but it in no way transmits the skill or practice needed to draw them.

Because, you see, I know the big secret:

Printing, writing and calligraphy are ALL drawing. 

Expecting the ability to read something to translate into the ability to encode it or draw it is like saying 'you play Angry Birds, why don't you program your own game?'

Quoting Woodbabe:

Wouldn't practicing the ability to actually READ cursive be included in understanding and learning cursive?

Quoting LindaClement:

I love the caption under the photo.

'uses cursive skills' ... um, no. The child is clearly parsing for verbs, the teacher wrote the visual aid.



anxiousschk
by anxiouss on Feb. 17, 2014 at 1:05 PM



Quoting Woodbabe:

Wouldn't practicing the ability to actually READ cursive be included in understanding and learning cursive?

Quoting LindaClement:

I love the caption under the photo.

'uses cursive skills' ... um, no. The child is clearly parsing for verbs, the teacher wrote the visual aid.



TranquilMind
by Platinum Member on Feb. 17, 2014 at 1:09 PM
1 mom liked this

 Thank God for home schooling and the superior results it (usually) produces, if done by educated, competent parents.  That's all I have to say. 

What a mess.  Everyone knows that cursive is a developmental step that should not be skipped...isn't that true? 

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