Beaufort County schools prepare to bring cursive back into classroom

sbowman@beaufortgazette.comJuly 6, 2014 


In this October 22, 2008 file photograph, Angel Diaz 9, works on his paper, October 22, 2008. Children are texting, tapping and typing on keyboards more than ever, leaving less time to master that old-fashioned skill known as handwriting (John Smierciak/Chicago Tribune/MCT)

JOHN SMIERCIAK — File/McClatchy-Tribune News Service

When Gov. Nikki Haley signed the Back to Basics in Education Act last month, she signed it in cursive.

By fall 2015, all S.C. elementary school students will have to start learning the same writing form she used to sign the new law, which requires that all elementary students demonstrate mastery of cursive before fifth grade.

While the Beaufort County School District already teaches cursive to all elementary students, the new law will force it to rev up its instruction and test students' proficiency, according to head of instruction Dereck Rhoads.

However, Rhoads is not convinced this is a "basic" the state should go back to.

"If you look at the literature, cursive writing is not something that comes out as an essential skill for tomorrow's workforce," he said. "We are talking about a considerable time difference when we look at expanding it to more grade levels, and when we are going to have to assess it."

The district doesn't yet know what new or additional materials and teacher training will be needed, but the changes could mean more expense, according to Jennifer Morillo, director of teaching and learning.

Beaufort County students currently learn cursive in second and third grades, Rhoads said. But the extent to which they use it in coursework is left up to each teacher, Morillo said. That's because state standards have not required cursive in more than five years.

It is unclear how many districts opt to teach cursive, according to the state Department of Education. But they will no longer have a choice.

As the state begins to develop new academic guidelines -- after deciding in May it will not adopt controversial Common Core standards as originally planned -- it will again include cursive. The standards should begin to take shape this fall and be finalized in spring, Department of Education spokesman Dino Teppara has said.

Once the standards are established, the district will know more specifically how to incorporate cursive into its curriculum and assess students' mastery of it, Morillo said.

"We will be prepared to start (teaching cursive) as early as kindergarten if we need to, because it would not make sense to start teaching it in fifth grade if students are supposed to have mastered it by then," she said. "I think that is the whole intent of the 'back to basics' idea."

The law also requires students to memorize multiplication tables by fifth grade, but Morillo said that already occurs in Beaufort County.

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