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Bring Your Fathers to School!

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Just in time for Father's Day! A recent study reveals that a father's participation in in-school activities and events can have a significant impact on his children's educational success. Read about the implications of that study and learn some things you can do to make every day Fathers' Day at your school.

Fathers' Involvement in Their Children's Schools reveals that children whose fathers participate in classroom activities and school meetings and events receive higher grades, enjoy school more, and are more likely to participate in extracurricular activities than children whose fathers don't participate -- regardless of the level of maternal participation.

"This study provides hard evidence about the powerful and positive influence that parents can have as full and equal partners when they make the commitment to help their children get a good education," Vice President Gore said. "Fathers matter a great deal when it comes to helping their children succeed in school and this study should encourage millions of American fathers to step up to the plate and make a difference in their children's education."

The study is based on data from the 1996 National Household Education Survey (1996 NHES). In that survey, interviews were conducted with resident (in the home) and non-resident parents of nearly 17,000 students in kindergarten through grade 12. Middle- and high-school aged children of those parents were also interviewed. Following the interviews, an evaluation was made on the degree of both maternal and paternal involvement in their children's schools. Mothers and fathers were said to be uninvolved, moderately involved, or highly involved according to how many of four specific school-based activity categories each participated in. The four categories were general school meetings, parent-teacher conferences, special school events, and school volunteerism.


After comparing parental involvement with student achievement and behavior, the researchers concluded that:

  • Students in two-parent families were 43 percent more likely to get mostly A's if their fathers were highly involved in their schools.
  • Students in middle and high school whose fathers did not live in the home were 43 percent more likely to get mostly A's if their fathers participated in even one in-school activity.
  • Children of highly-involved resident fathers were 55 percent more likely to enjoy school than children of uninvolved fathers.
  • Children whose fathers did not live in the home but were involved in school activities were more likely to enjoy school than children whose non-resident fathers had only out-of-school contact with them.
  • Students in middle school and high school were 88 percent more likely to participate in extracurricular activities if their resident fathers were highly involved in the school.
  • Students whose non-resident fathers were involved in their schools were more likely to participate in extracurricular activities.
  • Students whose resident fathers were highly involved in their schools were slightly less likely to repeat a grade than other students.
  • Students were 39 percent less likely to repeat a grade and 50 percent less likely to be suspended or expelled if their non-resident fathers participated in even one in-school activity.


The results of the survey indicated that both resident and non-resident fathers who were involved with their children's schools provided significant educational advantages not realized when only mothers participated in school activities. According to the report, fathers appear to fill a different role in their children's lives and consequently in their education. Fathers, they say, play more with their children than mothers do and they play with them differently. Fathers tend to be more tactile and physical, and they appear to foster the development of analytical skills, particularly in their sons. In addition, children appear to rely more on their fathers for factual information and often believe that fathers and mothers have different family goals. Fathers, children say, think it's important that they learn and do well in school. Mothers want them to "feel special and important."

"Plausible hypotheses that stem from this research," the survey's authors say, "are that maternal involvement is beneficial for the social and emotional adjustment of children to school, particularly young children, but that paternal involvement may be most important for academic achievement."


The survey revealed some additional findings that have particular significance for educators. The researchers found that:

  • Nearly seventy percent of non-resident fathers and 50 percent of fathers in two-parent families are not involved in school-related activities.
  • School climate had a significant impact on the degree of father involvement, particularly in grades 6 through 12.
  • The advantages of paternal involvement were most significant in grades 6 through 12.
  • Parental involvement in school activities decreases significantly as children grow older.

Goal 8 of the National Education Goals states that "By the year 2000, every school will promote partnerships that will increase parental involvement and participation in promoting the social, emotional, and academic growth of children." In view of the findings presented in this study, it is apparent that educators must make specific efforts to significantly increase paternal involvement in school events and activities. And they must continue and intensify those efforts in the upper grades.


A Father Times article -- It's Elementary: Uniting Schools, Children, and Fathers -- offers teachers and administrators a variety of concrete ideas for involving fathers in their children's schools.

The author recommends that administrators:

  • schedule weekend events and ask fathers to help plan and implement those events.
  • recruit a "dad rep" to attend, and report on, district or school board meetings.
  • ensure that texts and handouts avoid negative male stereotypes.
  • provide opportunities for staff to attend in-service programs about effective ways of involving fathers in school activities and events.
  • declare a "Fathers in School Day."
  • display hallway bulletin boards that provide information about fathers, supply resources for them, and promote healthy images of fathers and children.

He suggests that elementary school teachers might:

  • recruit fathers for volunteer jobs in the school.
  • invite fathers to chaperone class field trips.
  • host a "Bring Your Dad to School Day."
  • ask fathers to share their jobs, favorite hobbies, or special talents with students.
  • invite fathers to join their children for lunch.

He says middle- and high-school teachers can:

  • ask fathers to lend their skills to special events, such as building sets or props for a school play, playing a musical instrument with the school band, or baking for the annual bake sale.
  • provide fathers with literature regarding the impact of television -- or father involvement -- on children.
  • encourage fathers and students to collaborate on video documentaries.
  • invite immigrant fathers to teach brief units on their native cultures and languages.
  • suggest a Mother's Day project that fathers and students can do together.

In addition, teachers and administrators around the country have developed their own ways of promoting paternal involvement.

  • One teacher assigns an autobiographical writing unit in which students are encouraged to explore their family history, traditions, and so on with their fathers.
  • Many schools with large numbers of non-English speaking parents hold family-literacy programs in the school, providing fathers (and mothers) with the opportunity to meet their own goals while becoming familiar with their children's daily environment.
  • Teachers in Malden, Missouri, encourage paternal participation at Family Unit Night (FUN), a regular event that includes cross-curricular, multicultural activities on a particular theme.
  • Administrators in Beech Grove City, Indiana, recruit fathers to serve as Security Dads at school-sponsored events.


It is apparent that children benefit from increased parental involvement in their schools. Teachers and administrators, however, are sometimes leery of encouraging that involvement, fearing that significant parental presence in school might be disruptive for students, lead to unwarranted criticism of individual teaching styles and methods, or result in uninformed interference with established policies and programs. This study found, however, that parents who are highly involved in school activities have a better relationship with their child's teacher and a more positive opinion of their child's school than parents who are less involved. In fact, everyone benefits.

Article by Linda Starr
Education World®
Copyright © 2006 Education World

Related Articles from Education World

See dozens of parent involvement ideas on Education World's special Parent Involvement page.


The Social Context of Education
This publication discusses the effects of divorce, poverty, parental education, race, ethnicity, and native language on student achievement.

National Study Links Fathers' Involvement to Children Getting A's in School
A press release from the Department of Education.

How Involved Are Fathers in Their Children's Schools?
A brief from the National Center for Education Statistics.

Students Do Better When Their Fathers Are Involved at School
A brief from the National Center for Education Statistics.

The Central Office Must Take the Lead
Includes suggestions on how administrators can help schools promote parental involvement.


The National Center for Fathering
Conducts and reports on research about fathers and fathering. Click "Practical Tips and Hot Topics" for relevant articles.

The Guide to Fatherhood
Provides links to articles for and about fathers.

Last updated 06/01/2010
Originally published 06/22/1998