It's not just the "really pretty" script that draws McKinley Elementary School third-grader Alexia Holcomb to cursive writing.
"It makes you strong in your hands," the 9-year-old said as she clutches her pencil tightly and practices writing words in her workbook in the Davenport classroom.
Her classmate, Xavier Overton, also 9, was not as enthusiastic.
"It's hard," he said.
Their teacher, Karen Tallman, works with the kids for about 20 to 30 minutes a day on their cursive writing skills.
“It’s something that they look forward to, and it’s something that’s a challenge,” Tallman said. “Although it doesn’t have that importance as does reading comprehension and math, it helps with their fine motor skills.”
Cursive writing is a subject that is still taught in many schools around the country, as well as the Quad-Cities.
But someday, cursive writing may be erased completely from U.S. schools.
“Folks are seeing less and less of a real need for it in the real world,” said Jeff Zoul, assistant superintendent of the Rock Island-Milan School District. “We’re talking about college and career readiness all the time as educators. I don’t know that many of us see a huge place for cursive writing in college and the career-world anymore.”
Illinois and Iowa are two of 45 states to adopt the Common Core State Standards, which cuts cursive writing from the English curriculum.
As standards change and more courses are added to districts, cursive writing seems to be the choice to cut back on, said Chuck Hyser, director of education at Augustana College.
“There’s now at least twice as much stuff in the curriculum per grade level, so there’s less time to focus on cursive writing,” he said. “It’s causing us to do it more superficially than to teach it in depth.”
Schools in the Davenport Community School District focus on "manuscript" writing in kindergarten and teach cursive writing to third-graders, said Beth Evans, the district's language arts and reading curriculum specialist.
Teachers will spend 10 or 15 minutes going over the letters each day and give students five or 10 minutes of practice, Evans said.
"We want them to understand the formation of those letters and be able to read them," she said. "Having to make very fluid strokes helps with their fine motor skills."
By the fourth grade, students are taking keyboarding lessons; cursive writing is monitored but is not given an official grade, she said.
Evans said she can still see the value in knowing how to write and read cursive writing, especially when students have to analyze historical documents, most of which are written in cursive.
Hyser agreed that learning cursive writing can help in reading historical texts. Today, however, most people have encountered so many different types of text that kids have become very flexible and adept at reading it.
Zoul said schools in his district still teach cursive writing, but it's left up to the schools as to how they want to teach it.
Some teachers also will try to incorporate cursive writing practice with other lessons, such as vocabulary or spelling.
Zoul said that as curriculum standards change, the district is teaching more keyboarding and spending less time on cursive writing.
There is still a lot of work to be done, he said.
“As we decrease our focus in one area, we have to increase our focus on another,” he said. “We’ve certainly made great strides in our district and are constantly trying to find ways to provide (technology) to every school in the district.”
Zoul said he would like to see a one-on-one initiative, which would provide an iPad to each student in the district.
Zoul added that new state testing likely will become electronic in the future, he said.