Spending on education has skyrocketed over the past five decades, more than tripling since the 1960s. But despite the ever-increasing taxpayer investment in education, American students’ academic achievement has flatlined.
While continuing the status quo of excessive spending does not increase educational gains, social science points to a strong correlation between parental involvement—especially from fathers—and increased academic success.
Fathers who spend more time with their children—going on outings, reading to their children, and showing regular interest in their children’s education—can impact their children’s academic attainment. For instance, individuals whose fathers demonstrated involvement with them as young children are more likely to reach higher levels of education. Even controlling for a mother’s involvement, the interest and attention given by a father to his adolescent’s education can significantly affect the student’s success. Likewise, children whose dads regularly visit the classroom and meet with teachers tends to fare better than children whose mothers are the only involved parent.
Married fathers can have an especially significant impact on their children’s success in school. Children raised in intact, married families fare far better than children from divorced or single-parent homes. Dads’ absence from single-parent or cohabitating homes can lead to more behavioral problems and lower academic achievement. Married parents who are involved in their children’s lives and education, on the other hand, can influence academic success from early childhood development to positive adolescent behavior and achievement.
In today’s economy of high-skilled jobs, a college degree is increasingly necessary for financial success. Children from stable, married families are 9 percent more likely to apply to college and 10 percentage points more likely to actually attend college right out of high school than students from disrupted families. Dad and mom’s attention can make a difference even in less than ideal economic circumstances. Low-income children whose parents are regularly involved in school activities tend to exhibit higher levels of academic achievement.
Instead of continuing to fund a wasteful and ineffectual federal education bureaucracy, policymakers should consider ways to promote marriage, encourage stable family formation, and give control of education back to the people who can make the most difference—parents and local leaders.