Eagle Ridge School fuels debate on comeback for cursive writing

SILVIS, Illinois --  The art of cursive writing is slowly turning a page at Eagle Ridge School.

"Handwriting is just something that's going away," said teacher Cassandra Smith, on Thursday, April 27.

Still, those loops and curves are important for her third grade students. She says it builds life skills.

"They need to know how to write their name in cursive when they sign an important document," she said.

But Common Core standards in Illinois, Iowa and other states no longer require cursive writing.  That's why some urban districts, already pressed for teaching time, are phasing it out to focus on keyboard skills.

Some Chicago-area kids are participating in an after-school program, because cursive writing is no longer offered in class.

"If it's not being tested or graded upon, some people feel that might not be a necessary component," said Principal Tim Green.  "It is a necessary skill."

The Illinois House wants to make sure it stays that way. Members voted to require short-term units on cursive.

That doesn't sit well at Eagle Ridge School, which already offers cursive in its language arts curriculum.

"They're telling us another time that's what we have to do when we're already overloaded with other mandates," Green continued.

Supporters say there's still a place for cursive writing in today's world. Otherwise, they argue, kids will have a hard time reading historical documents like the Declaration of Independence.

That's already happening in Smith's class, even with regular lessons.

"They come up to me and say, 'I can't read it,'" she explained.  "They have to turn the page over where it's in print."

These third graders are going to school during a remarkable transition.  It's a communication crossroads, where writing and technology are merging.

"How important, really, is cursive handwriting?" Green asked.

Cursive or not, it's a topic for this generation to write about.