"I just assumed she knew how to do it, but I have a piece of paper with her signature on it and it looks like a little kid's signature," Davis said.
Her daughter was apologetic, but explained that she hadn't been required to make the graceful loops and joined letters of cursive writing in years. That prompted a call to the school and another surprise.
West Virginia's largest school system teaches cursive, but only in the 3rd grade.
"It doesn't get quite the emphasis it did years ago, primarily because of all the technology skills we now teach," said Jane Roberts, assistant superintendent for elementary education in Kanawha County schools.
Davis' experience gets repeated every time parents, who recall their own hours of laborious cursive practice, learn that what used to be called "penmanship" is being shunted aside at schools across the country in favor of 21st century skills.
The decline of cursive is happening as students are doing more and more work on computers, including writing. In 2011, the writing test of the National Assessment of Educational Progress will require 8th and 11th graders to compose on computers, with 4th graders following in 2019.
"We need to make sure they'll be ready for what's going to happen in 2020 or 2030," said Katie Van Sluys, a professor at DePaul University and the president of the Whole Language Umbrella, a conference of the National Council of Teachers of English.
Handwriting is increasingly something people do only when they need to make a note to themselves rather than communicate with others, she said. Students accustomed to using computers to write at home have a hard time seeing the relevance of hours of practicing cursive handwriting.
"They're writing, they're composing with these tools at home, and to have school look so different from that set of experiences is not the best idea," she said.
Text messaging, e-mail, and word processing have replaced handwriting outside the classroom, said Cheryl Jeffers, a professor at Marshall University's College of Education and Human Services, and she worries they'll replace it entirely before long.
"I am not sure students have a sense of any reason why they should vest their time and effort in writing a message out manually when it can be sent electronically in seconds."
For Jeffers, cursive writing is a lifelong skill, one she fears could become lost to the culture, making many historic records hard to decipher and robbing people of "a gift."
That fear is not new, said Kathleen Wright, national product manager for handwriting at Zaner-Bloser, a Columbus, Ohio-based company that produces a variety of instructional material for schools.
"If you go back, you can see the same conversations came up with the advent of the typewriter," she said.
Every year, Zaner-Bloser sponsors a national handwriting competition for schools, and this year saw more than 200,000 entries, a record.
"Everybody talks about how sometime in the future every kid's going to have a keyboard, but that isn't really true."