The College Board recently reported that SAT reading scores have dropped to their lowest point in almost 40 years.
A number of factors, including a larger number and increasingly diversified group of students taking the test, affected the scores; but the Family Research Council has released a research synthesis paper, "Marriage, Family Structure, and Children's Educational Attainment," that shows how a child's home environment, particularly intactness of a child's parents, affects their educational achievement.
The paper, authored by Dr. Patrick F. Fagan, Leonie Ten Have and Wendy Chen, reports that both young children and adolescents in intact families have higher test scores than their counterparts in non-intact families. High school students in intact married families have a higher average combined math and English GPA than their counterparts in other family structures.
"We cannot ignore the fact that the vast majority of American youth grow up today without both their biological mother and father. This has significant, weakening effects on the educational attainment of our students," says Dr. Patrick Fagan, director of the Marriage & Religion Research Institute at the Family Research Council. "Nationwide, over 57 percent of children in intact families enter college. Their counterparts living in stepfamilies, single-parent families and families without parents are significantly less likely to enter college.
As Fagan sees it, having both a mother and father at home means a child is more likely to behave in school and care about doing well in class. Growing up with both parents means that a student is almost 20 percent more likely to graduate from high school.
"If we want to turn America's educational system around, we must encourage America's parents to remain together in a committed relationship. Policy makers and candidates who are serious about reversing these lower SAT scores should start by advancing policies that encourage, and not hinder, family formation and marriage," Fagan says. "Strengthening the family is fundamental to bringing up the next generation to be competitive in this ever-evolving world."
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