BALTIMORE—But is there still time in the school day for it?
Research on the importance of cursive writing is mixed. Because not all students have access to computers at school, kids do most work there in handwriting, according to Steve Graham, an education professor at Vanderbilt University. Studies show that legibility makes a difference. When researchers had student work graded in both typed and written form, the paper's legibility affected the grade.
But whether the handwriting is printed or written in cursive may not matter, he said. "Do we need to teach two different kinds of script? In a day in which the curriculum is very crowded, you can see why people are asking whether we need to teach both," Graham said.
When he studied what happened to students' handwriting later in their school careers, he found that the students who mixed cursive and print generally were faster than those who stuck to one form or the other.
Throughout the country, he said, most teachers are still teaching cursive in third grade.
But others believe that the new national common core standards -- which put a greater emphasis on learning different forms of writing, such as research papers, persuasive writing and creative writing -- will force teachers to make hard decisions about what is going to be sacrificed. As long as students are able to write in some form, whether cursive or block letters, they will be fine, researchers believe.
"The common core is going to force some very difficult decisions about how much time is going to be spent on teaching handwriting," Graham said. "You can bet people are going to look at efficiency."
Chiki, from the National Council of Teachers of English, said, "As long as they get their thoughts on paper, as long as they have voice in their writing, as long as they have the grammar (correct), it doesn't matter."
At 10 years old, Darius Riley doesn't mind learning cursive. And the girl across the table from him with near-perfect penmanship, Katherine Castillo, likes cursive "because it is a different way to write."
Their teacher writes almost exclusively in cursive and Nancy Fagan, the principal of Highlandtown Elementary and Middle School No. 215, is still in the camp that believes it should be taught.
"They need to know how to do it, and they need to know how to read it," she said firmly.