Survey shows cursive, on the decline, is taught in many classrooms nationwide

About 75 percent of second- and third-grade teachers continue to include cursive instruction in their curriculum despite concerns that the artful writing is on the decline, according to a new national survey of elementary school teachers.

The survey shows that cursive writing — once a staple of elementary instruction but long considered to be a dying script — is still alive in many classrooms across the country.

Cursive’s relevance has come into question in recent years as 45 states and the District have adopted the Common Core, a set of national education standards that do not emphasize cursive instruction. Cursive writing has been pushed aside by some teachers who opt to spend more time preparing their students for standardized tests, teachers and experts have said.

And with the rise of technology, job applicants who comfortably use computers and have superior typing skills can be more valuable to employers.

A Vanderbilt University study in 2007 found that 50 percent of second-grade and 90 percent of third-grade teachers gave cursive instruction, and a 2010 report by the Miami-Dade public school system concluded that cursive instruction had been diminishing across the country since the 1970s.

The new survey, sponsored by school supplies company Really Good Stuff, indicates that the numbers have fluctuated. The study found that 65 percent of second-grade teachers included cursive in their curriculum and 79 percent of third-grade teachers did.

Really Good Stuff asked 612 kindergarten through fifth-grade teachers from 48 states whether they teach cursive in their classrooms: About 59 percent overall said they do.

Roughly three in four second- and third-grade teachers, who perform the bulk of cursive instruction nationwide, said that they teach cursive. About two-thirds of all the teachers in the survey reported that they planned to teach cursive in the future and described cursive writing as “important” or “very important” for students to learn. About 70 percent of the respondents said that no longer teaching cursive would have long-term negative consequences.

Eighty-two percent of the teachers said that keyboarding had not replaced cursive writing in the curriculum.

“I think they should learn cursive so that they have a choice in the future as to how they’d like to write,” a fourth-grade teacher from Florida wrote in the survey. “Without at least being exposed to it, they don’t have a choice. Even with computers, cursive has a place.”

T. Rees Shapiro is an education reporter.
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