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How Fathers Increasingly Are Getting Involved in Schools

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With Father's Day coming up, I thought I'd take a look at ways that fathers increasingly are getting involved in schools.

While women have traditionally been more active in schools, dad groups have been growing around the country, and the National Parent Teacher Association has been working on supporting that growth, along with other groups.

It's an issue that has come up at the White House. In 2012, the White House Fatherhood Report came out, part of President Barack Obama's initiative to engage more fathers, finding that one out of three children in the United States live in a house without their biological father.

The PTA launched a specific Male Engagement Toolkit on its website, including the Male Engagement Event Program and Planning guide and a Father-Friendly PTA survey. There are also steps to creating a successful male-engagement program.

Beyond that, the National PTA Men Organized to Raise Engagement, or PTA MORE, was started in 2008 to bring together other groups that concentrate on father involvement, including 100 Black Men of America Inc. and WATCH D.O.G.S., or Dads of Great Students, which focuses on violence prevention.

Last year, the PTA MORE programs drew about 1 million men to visit schools through its programs, according to the PTA.

"National PTA established the M.O.R.E. alliance in an effort to raise the level of engagement between children and the important men in their lives," said Heidi May Wilson, an association spokeswoman, in an email. "Research shows that the engagement of fathers and male mentors in education and communities helps nurture children's intellectual, physical, and social development. And when men are present in schools, student achievement increases and negative behavior decreases."

In addition to the national groups, some fathers are creating their own PTA chapters in their communities. 

One example is the Detroit Area Dads PTA.

Anthony King, a father and grandfather of public school children, started the group when he and his friends noticed a need. The Detroit Area Dads PTA now has about 35 members, including some women, from throughout the community. Read a Q & A with King about the Dads PTA.

"The issue is that there are so many kids in the Detroit area. And you have conversations with them and find out their fathers not in their lives or fathers are somewhat in their lives. They are not having real impact to their upbringing and education," King said. "We felt there was a need." 

King said the group also supports single fathers.

The U.S. Department of Education partnered in 2014 with the Detroit Area Dads PTA and Detroit Public Schools to host a Dads to Dads forum that drew about 350 people.

Earlier this month, another Dads to Dads forum brought in Alejandra Ceja, executive director of White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, as a speaker.

Besides the big events, King said the group is also trying to help with major issues in Detroit. The PTA helps fathers and young men find jobs or training. Also, the PTA is considering starting a lead-testing program through a partnership with a church.

"They have an important role in education and the growth of the family," King said about fathers. "I think we've done a pretty good job."

How are fathers involved in your schools? What ways are you trying to get more men engaged? Send me an email or write in the comments section below.

Contact Sarah Tully at [email protected].

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