There are a host of factors that contribute to academic success for children, and there are many theories as to what will help increase the academic success of your child. Some issues may be out of the parent’s purview or control. Others can be modified to give your child a great start in school and continued success.
The broad stroke issues that can influence performance in school include socioeconomic status, parenting, amount of time spent with children, quality and quantity of time spent away from primary caregivers, degree of physical and mental health, and effects of peer relationships. Other things that may influence success in school include motivational and well-trained teachers, parental expectation, reading at age appropriate levels, and meeting of nutritional needs. Each child is also an individual and needs to be addressed as such in the home and any daycare setting in order to help the child fully succeed in school.
It’s important to remember that factors for academic success are statistically based, which means some children will be academically successful despite being at high risk for academic failure. We have all heard stirring and motivational stories of people who rose from poverty, abuse, cultures of violence, and other terrible circumstances to great heights through continued trying and sheer gumption. Such self-motivated individuals may be helped along the way by teachers, perhaps the only resource, in some cases, to achieve their dreams. These kids who succeed are wonderful, but tend to be exceptional in ability to self-motivate, something that may be stripped of other children in similar circumstances.
Probably one of the greatest determining factors in succeeding in school is parental involvement and parental motivation. About 70-90% of children who get As or Bs in schools report they are encouraged by parents to do well in school. This alone may help children understand that school is important. Such parents may also be around to help with homework, occasionally volunteer at school, and they attend any conferences or meetings with teachers. In contrast, children who earn Cs or lower, at least in one study, report at about 49% that parents do not encourage them. Schools also regularly report that better performance and academic success are more likely when parents are actively involved in their child’s education.
Socio-economic indicators for success in children tend to exclude the children — about 19% in the US — who live in poverty. Middle class and upper class children tend by in large to get better grades, while children from poorer families, especially the poorest, are more likely to repeat grades. Traumatic events, abusive parenting, the impact of violence, and being parented by a single parent frequently correlates to lower grades. In the last instance, what seems to most determine academic success is the degree to which a single parent has time to share with children, since the single parent in most cases must work at least full time to support his or her family. It is clearly the case that many single parents do very well with this, and are able to balance the needs of work and family and be extraordinary parents.
Quality childcare and early childhood education, especially of a caliber that helps children develop socially, mentally, and emotionally, tends to be a positive factor in succeeding in school. Conversely, childcare in crowded institutions that are the only choices for parents on a budget may not give children the skills they need to do well in school. Programs for children like early intervention pre-schools and Head Start do tend to make a difference.
Getting adequate nutrition can’t be underestimated. Many studies have shown that students perform better on standardized tests when given breakfast the day of the test. While this is great knowledge to have, many parents wonder why students aren’t then fed every day, since grades are usually not determined by standardized test performance. When schools can offer free or reduced lunch programs these may positively affect academics, but many argue these programs are not far reaching enough and cover only the most impoverished children.
Regular school attendance tends to produce more successful students. Frequent absences, due to illness, disruptive home life, or chronic conditions negatively affects success. Peer relationships, especially when instances of bullying occur, can affect both attendance and academic success, so both parents and educators must be vigilant to potential bullying or abusive situations in the school setting.
This short list is only part of the factors that create academic success. There are clearly many things that will affect student performance, and it takes fine teachers, great schools, and good parents to help each child progress.