What will it take for students who live in poverty to succeed academically? The simple answer is to eliminate poverty, which is virtually impossible in a country suffering from recession. Therefore, our elected leaders must fund programs that have shown to work. These programs should include pre-school programs, family intervention programs, and most of all, bringing fathers back into the family.
Head Start: This program has shown to be very effective in helping children in poverty achieve academic success in the early elementary grades. Many poor children have limited vocabulary due to a lack of academic stimulation at home and this weakness gets magnified as these students fall further behind academically as they get older. Programs such as Head Start should be part of our country's educational policy and all pre-school children should have an opportunity to get a start in their academic development, especially children growing up in poverty.
Academic Interventions: One of the problems with Head Start is that the academic improvements disappear by second or third grade and without additional academic interventions the child will start to fall behind and be in danger of being left back or worse, drop out during high school. Therefore, programs such as one-to-one-tutoring, mentoring, and after school programs are a necessary component for any successful academic intervention. Expanding the Boys & Girls club and PAL programs would be examples of how to keep the children off the streets and away from gangs that lead to academic problems.
Wraparound Services: While it is very important for children in poverty to have academic support, it is more important that these children have a stable family environment. Too many children come to school hungry, without proper clothing, and with poor hygiene. This takes their toll on the child's self esteem and are, in turn, ridiculed by their peers by their appearance. The result is a reluctance, even a hatred, about going to school and a poor academic performance. In other words, it starts at home with the family. These "broken families" are usually mother led single family households, with little family supervision and discipline, which struggling financially. Therefore, intensive interventions are needed with social workers, family councilors,, and organizations such as "Big Brother and Big Sister" to bring a role model to the child. Finally, it is important that the child receive adequate health and nutrition and that the caregiver is trained to meet the child's needs and keep him or her safe.
Fathers bring stability and structure, as well as financial support to the family. It is no coincidence that an astounding 39% of our prison population come from mother led single parent households. Worse yet, 85% of our youth in prison come from fatherless households! Here are some interesting facts when fathers are part of the household.
Father Factor in Education - Fatherless children are twice as likely to drop out of school.
- Children with Fathers who are involved are 40% less likely to repeat a grade in school.
- Children with Fathers who are involved are 70% less likely to drop out of school.
- Children with Fathers who are involved are more likely to get A’s in school.
- Children with Fathers who are involved are more likely to enjoy school and engage in extracurricular activities.
- 75% of all adolescent patients in chemical abuse centers come from fatherless homes – 10 times the average.
- I in 3 teenage girls get pregnant in fatherless homes compared to 1 in 20 with the biological father present.
Sure, it is important to have an excellent teacher in the classroom but it is imperative that we eliminate poverty and it's causes if those excellent teachers can get these children to succeed academically.