Parent and teacher conferences, phone calls, Open House night at school, emails . . . it’s often a one-parent support team for a child with a teacher. It is so commonplace for teachers to interact with only one parent, the relationship seems almost normal.

Many times it’s mom working with school personnel. Sometimes, it’s dad. When it’s consistently both parents, it’s unusual. And sometimes it is no one.

Lack of parental involvement is one of the biggest challenges facing public schools. Yet, when parents are rooted in a child’s education, kids attend school on a regular basis, earn higher grades, have better social skills and behavior, score higher on tests, and a have better overall outcomes in life.

It’s the parent effect.

Parents are the most influential factor in a child’s education according to MIT’s The Review of Economics and Statistics. Children work harder when parents put ongoing effort into their schooling. Another important MIT side-point: why not aim a few educational policies toward improving parental involvement?

With front-row seating to parent conferences and contacts, I can attest. The chances of reaching a child’s mind increase substantially when held accountable through parents. Kids respond when it’s a family affair.

For children supported by a single parent, most often with a missing dad, the stats take a drastic downward turn.

Kids with absent fathers are twice as likely to repeat a grade, twice as likely to end-up as a drop out. Eighty-five percent of all children that show behavior disorders are from a dad-less home; 63 percent of youth suicides, 90 percent of homeless children, 75 percent of adolescents in chemical abuse centers, 85 percent of youths in prisons are all from fatherless homes.

The negative stats continually roll on like a nightmare that won’t quit.

Dads have a tremendous role in the overall outcome of a child -they are more than a paycheck.

It is that empty hole, that absence of emotional support, listening, guidance, consistency, time spent on school work or reading at home, and good character role-modeling that take huge bites out of a child’s development. As a single mom, I can attest to that.

In Mississippi, there are currently 85,253 single-parent families in the work force, and 90,368 single women have children younger than age 18.

These are serious numbers, red zone markers for our children’s future and for Mississippi’s economy.

Missing dads are not without widespread financial impact.

An estimated $99.8 billion a year is spent by the federal government to support father-absent homes, according to The One Hundred Billion Dollar Man report by the National Father Initiative.

The adults in a child’s life matter the most.

As former U.S. Secretary of Education William Bennett recently commented during an education panel aired on Meet the Press: Parents are the most influential factor in education. Teachers are the most influential factor in schools. And everyone needs to be on board.

Cindy Howie is a teacher and writer who lives and teaches in Oxford.

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Source: Jackson Clarion Ledger –