Can You Imagine a World Without Handwriting?

On January 23, 2012, researchers and education thought leaders convened in Washington D.C. for Handwriting in the 21st Century? An Educational Summit to discuss research and opinions regarding the role of handwriting instruction in the 21st century classroom. During the Summit, attendees overwhelmingly agreed that both handwriting and keyboarding skills are necessary for students’ 21st century success.

Written-Language Production Standards

Following the Summit, the HW21 Community created a set of proposed new K–8 Written Language Production Standards for keyboarding and handwriting, to assist education decision makers looking to standardize keyboarding and handwriting expectations in their school, district, or state.

In July of 2014, proposed PreKindergarten standards were drafted in response to increasing demand for better Kindergarten readiness and recent research that connects PreKindergarten handwriting with later academic success and provided for public review.

Now, after careful consideration of the valuable input we received, the proposed PreKindergarten Written Language Production Standards have been updated and added to the existing Kindergarten–Grade 8 standards, resulting in the combined PreK–8 Written Language Production Standards.

Educators are encouraged to refer to the proposed PreK–8 Written Language Production Standards for support in incorporating handwriting and keyboarding into the curriculum.

Regional and National Developments

Since the Summit, a renewed focus on the importance of handwriting instruction has occurred across the country. Regional and national developments include:

National Level

  • Dr. Virginia Berninger, professor of educational psychology at the University of Washington, offers a response to NASBE’s handwriting policy update in a Commentary piece from March 25, 2013. The Commentary—Educating Students in the Computer Age to Be Multilingual by Hand—makes the case for including handwriting (both cursive and manuscript) and keyboarding instruction in the curriculum.
  • The National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) released a policy update in September of 2012 that examined the role of handwriting and its instruction in schools today. The update also carefully examined the pros and cons of the debate, particularly in light of research.

State Level

  • April 2016 – Currently, several states, including Ohio, Arizona, Indiana, Louisiana and Washington, have pending legislation that would require cursive handwriting instruction.
  • December 2015 – West Virginia passed The College and Career Readiness Standards, which include handwriting instruction in grades K – 4 and explicitly mention cursive instruction in grades 2 – 3. The standards are scheduled to take effect July 1, 2016.
  • March 2015 – Arkansas passed legislation mandating cursive instruction requiring students learn cursive writing by the end of third grade. The new handwriting standards went into effect during the 2015/2016 school year.
  • In June of 2014, Nikki Haley, governor of South Carolina, signed legislation requiring schools to teach cursive handwriting to ensure student competency by the end of the fifth grade beginning in the 2015–2016 school year.
  • In May of 2014, Bill Haslam, governor of Tennessee, signed a legislation into law that requires students to create readable documents through legible cursive. In July of 2014, proposed cursive standards received preliminary approval from the Tennessee State Board of Education.
  • On February 18, 2014, the Florida Board of Education voted unanimously to approve an amendment to the state standards requiring cursive handwriting instruction in grades 3-5.
  • On December 10, 2013, the Kansas State Board of Education unanimously (10-0) approved new handwriting standards for public schools, requiring students to learn cursive.
  • On June 13, 2013, Pat McCrory, governor of North Carolina, signed the “Back to Basics” legislation into law, making cursive handwriting instruction a requirement in N.C. elementary schools (the law will take effect in the 2013–2014 school year).
  • On June 7, 2013, the Utah State Board of Education gave its approval to add both manuscript and cursive handwriting to the state’s elementary English language arts core standards.
  • On February 28, 2013, Idaho legislature overwhelmingly passed a measure that directs the State Board of Education to require cursive handwriting in Idaho elementary schools.
  • In July of 2012, Georgia incorporated handwriting standards into their curricula that now require students' proficiency in cursive handwriting.
  • Prior to the Summit, Massachusetts and California amended their Common Core State Standards with handwriting requirements.