Cursive used to play an important part in each student's academic career, but with the imminent adoption of Common Core Standards – which don't require the teaching of cursive at all – many fear that the lessons in handwriting is on its way out of public schools entirely.
This is not exactly an unexpected or surprising development, as the teaching of cursive has been on decline for decades. As students progress through their schooling, many are switching from pen and paper to a computer keyboard to take notes and write essays and exams.
Therefore, many teachers, schools and districts now consider teaching keyboarding to be a higher priority. In the words of Patricia Granada – principal of Eagle View Elementary School in Fairfax County – cursive is simply becoming obsolete.
Michael Hairston, president of the Fairfax Education Association, the largest teachers union in the county, called cursive "a dying art."
"Cursive writing is a traditional skill that has been replaced with technology," Hairston said. "Educators are having to make choices about what they teach with a limited amount of time and little or no flexibility. Much of their instructional time is consumed with teaching to a standardized test."
Although the adoption of Common Core by 45 states since 2010 might have expedited cursive die-off, that wasn't the catalyst. After all, even though CCS doesn't require the teaching of cursive, it still leaves the decision to the individual district. And increasingly, districts decide not to do so. According to a report by Florida's Miami-Dade Public Schools, the number of students being taught cursive writing has been in the decline for nearly 40 years.
That isn't to say that instructing students in good handwriting skills doesn't have its supporters. On the contrary, those who believe that cursive has a place in today's classroom are passionate in that belief – using history and educational science to make their case.
Deborah Spear, an academic therapist based in Great Falls, said cursive writing is an integral part of her work with students who have dyslexia. Because all letters in cursive start on a base line, and because the pen moves fluidly from left to right, cursive is easier to learn for dyslexic students who have trouble forming words correctly.
"You will find people who say, âWhy teach cursive anymore because we have keyboarding,'" said Spear, who taught special education in Fairfax County before starting her own business in 2009. "They'll say, âWho cares if my kid can read Grandma's letters when Grandma is beginning to Skype anyway.' Yes, needing to read cursive is greatly diminishing in our society, but it's still very applicable as an instructional tool."