Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Dads and School Leaders

Since reading a tweet earlier this month by Chuck Gardner (@charleswgardner) about his program to get dads more involved at his school, I've been thinking about how school leaders can promote the importance of dads in the academic and total development of all children. As you know if you've read some of my posts in the past, I am an evidence based practitioner who likes to examine and reflect on data before altering my practice or offering my thoughts on bridging the research-practice gap. So, although I know that dads do make a difference in children's lives from an anecdotal perspective (I am a father of two and principal at a K-5 school with approximately 500 students), I began my search for peer reviewed work on Twitter.

In true Twitter form, regardless of what Mike Francesa has to say about its utility, within a few moments Steve Constantino (@smconstantino) connected me with J. Michael Hall (@strongfathers). Before long, Mike Hall emailed me more than 15 sources to find peer reviewed dad research. This isn't a post about the importance of using Twitter as a PD tool, but this quick response and connection by members of my PLN to my simple query was astonishing and provides more support why all educators need to be on Twitter. Nevertheless, I've just begun to sort through the evidence, but the data are so important I felt the need to get this post out sooner rather than later.

The evidence clearly supports the need for a father to stay involved in his child's life. Father involvement, which is typically measured by the number and type of interactions that a father has with his children, is related with many positive outcomes, including cognitive development, emotional well being, social development, and physical health. As important, increased father involvement is associated with a decrease in negative child development outcomes, including delinquent behavior, substance abuse and drug use, and socioeconomic disadvantage. This summary supports the important role of fathers in children's lives, but how can school leaders use this evidence to improve our schools and learning for all students?

I don't think there is a simple answer to this question, but I know many schools offer programs that provide fathers with additional opportunities to increase their involvement with their children. As school leaders, we must continue to make the press to bring fathers into our schools and to provide them with more opportunities to remain engaged with their children. As educators, it is our duty to provide our children with the foundation to continue to build a successful life. The evidence clearly points to the importance of fathers in laying this groundwork. 

If you have a unique perspective on father involvement at your school, please share so we can help each other help our students to improve.


Allen, S. & Daly, K. (May 2007). Father Involvement Research Alliance. The effects of father involvement: An updated research summary of the evidence. Center for Families, Work & Well-Being, University of Guelph.

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