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Arizona has made some big decisions regarding state public school education standards as they relate to the federal guidelines of Common Core.

It’s being called Arizona’s College and Career Ready Standards.

Among the headline changes are that the state will require public schools to teach students cursive. Students will have to learn print and cursive. For the latter, students will be taught cursive through fifth grade. By third grade, students must be able to read and write cursive in upper and lower case, according to KPHO.

Overall, nearly half of Common Core standards have been revised in K-12  math and language arts. Forty percent of math and 48 percent of language arts Common Core standards have been revised at the state level.


KPHO/screenshot
KPHO/screenshot

Here is a rundown of some of the changes:

The Arizona standards remove requirements that 70 percent of high school reading material be “informational,” while 30 percent is “literary.” A staff summary of the changes called those requirements “arbitrary” and “inappropriate” and said the revision will give local school boards more flexibility when choosing reading material.

Arizona classrooms are expected to teach cursive handwriting through fifth grade. By third grade, students will be expected to read and write cursive letters in both upper and lower case.

Second graders are expected memorize the sums of two one-digit numbers. Third graders are expected to memorize multiplication and division tables through 10 x 10.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas got her job in no small part by vowing to replace the Common Core standards.

“We now have new standards that have been worked on by Arizona teachers, parents and been vetted by anti-Common Core experts,” said told KPHO. “This is a proud day for Arizona. Has everything changed? No. Should everything have changed? No.”

The standards are supposed go into effect by fall 2018.

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Diane Douglas says that the changes make the state curriculum more rigorous than the federal standards.

“I would not accept [the new standards] if they were lower than federal standards. This is all about improving the rigor and making them better for our children. Making them more understandable for our teachers and parents,” she said.

As far as cursive is concerned, there is some debate about the merits of adding it to the curriculum.

Back in October, when the prospect of making cursive required learning, Charles Tack, a spokesman for the Arizona Department of Education, said, “Writing in cursive can help build hand-eye coordination and is also believed to help strengthen cognitive development.”

Others have argued that the skill is obsolete in a computer age and doesn’t tackle the real issues. Still others argue that learning cursive could help with keyboard functionality down the road, helping refine motor skills and boost cognition.

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Still others say children write more words in handwriting than they type on keyboard and that this is a good thing.

“There’s a myth that in the era of computers we don’t need handwriting. That’s not what our research is showing,” University of Washington professor Virginia Berninger told The Washington Post. “What we found was that children until about grade six were writing more words, writing faster and expressing more ideas if they could use handwriting — printing or cursive — than if they used the keyboard.”

Others appreciate cursive for aesthetics or reasons of individual expression. For instance, the individuality of one’s signature.

John Hancock wrote in cursive and will be remembered forever because of it. In fact, a signature is sometimes referred to as a “John Hancock.” A cursive signature and a man’s name are one and the same.

Whatever the case or argument, the state of Arizona has made its decision, and this is what’s going to happen.

Matt Naham About the author:
Matt Naham is the Weekend Editor  for Rare. Follow him on Twitter @matt_naham.
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