After board members voiced concerns over how much time schools were using to focus on teaching cursive writing skills, Superintendent Frank Roberson made a presentation describing
the necessity of teaching them.
Roberson presented data that showed “20 to 40 percent” of third- to eighth-grade students in Richmond County elementary and middle schools had unsatisfactory cursive writing skills.
While cursive is being taught in county schools, beginning in third grade, the skills are not tested, leaving it up to individual teachers to decide how cursive is taught.
The new instructional period will be included in elementary and middle school language arts classes, in addition to special school programs and extended learning blocks. Teachers will receive instruction ensuring they can teach cursive writing. High schools that show a high population of students with deficiencies in the ability will be targeted for specialized instruction.
The new instructional period will begin toward the end of April, after students complete CRCT testing. The cursive classes will continue as a staple part of school curriculum.
“Some say this is a technologically literate age. Students will learn to write on a keyboard. And we want to keep that. It’s important,” Roberson said. “But we want the best of both worlds. Students need to graduate from our schools knowing how to write and read cursive. “
Roberson gathered information on the number of students with deficient cursive writing skills by surveying teachers and principals in elementary and middle schools, quizzing them on how many students in their classrooms were struggling with penmanship.
“Some people may see it as a simple, elementary skill, but it is important for learning,” Roberson said. “Learning cursive benefits your brain."
Roberson used himself as an example when arguing how cursive writing augments cognitive ability. The superintendent, who had impaired cognition and memory after brain surgery, said learning to rewrite cursive helped “heal” his mind.
“It helped my brain repair connections and gain neurons," he said. "It’s an efficient way to improve learning ability.”
Recent research does support Roberson’s claims. A 2009 study published in the science journal Cognitive Neuropsychology said learning cursive is important for cognitive development.
The board passed the curriculum change unanimously, will little discussion.