Ferragut: It's not the teacher's fault

Ferragut writes, "Years of research data proves that the adults in the student's home are more important to student success than teacher quality or class curriculum."

James Ferragut
James Ferragut

This year public school students throughout the country will be less educated than every graduating class before them. The data is here to prove it. Unfortunately and sadly, teachers, school administrators and school boards are being vilified for simply doing their jobs. The public perception is that they are the ones to blame.

These are common unacceptable student behaviors:
students attacking teachers, paras and administrative personnel; in-school fights; trashing of bathrooms and school property; vaping in bathrooms; intimidation in girl's bathrooms; zero respect for teachers, paras and other students. It seems as though learning is an unacceptable task and an inconvenience for some of them.

Data from June 2022 show us levels of incidents:

  • Classroom disruptions, 56%
  • Disrespect towards teacher/paras/admin staff, 48% Rowdiness outside of the classroom, 49%
  • Physical fights between students, 33%
  • Student tardiness, 55%

Local media recognizes this, of course. Newspaper columnists, television, radio talking heads, online pundits and former educators all have suggested the same observations and conclusions: “It's the teachers' fault. It's the school board's fault. We aren't tough enough on the kids. Kids should be sent to detention and should be charged for the cost of the detention teacher. We have to focus on grades and learning..." These well-intentioned solutions are out of touch and completely miss the mark.
The culpable parties in this mess are the parents, the foster parents, the grandparents, the guardians, the adults in the home. Not the teachers. Years of research data proves that the adults in the student's home are more important to student success than teacher quality or class curriculum.

* Research finds:


  • Over one-third of students say their “parents” have no idea how they are doing in school.
  • One-sixth of all students report that their “parents” don't care whether they make good grades or not.
  • One-fifth of parents attend school programs or activities (PTA meetings,open houses, parent/teacher conferences, concerts, sports, plays...)
  • More than 40% of parents never do.

Less than one-third of parents don't read at home. They are disengaged from educating their kids, but they buy their kids smart phones, online game systems, expensive sports shoes. In one anecdotal story, a “father” shared this: “I learned that my 12th grade daughter had a 1.4 GPA. He was 'shocked' to learn graduation required 2.0 GPA to graduate.” The school provided online access to student grade books, daily assignments, attendance so he could help her improve her GPA. The father's response? “I don't have time to learn all of that...”.

Maybe our teachers should be grading the adults in the home instead of their students.

There are solutions, of course.

A study of 100 public schools in Chicago show that students with strong parental involvement were four times more likely to improve their reading and 10 times more likely to improve in math.

There is help for the parents of kids who are failing, with poor grades, poor attendance or refusing to do homework:

  • Set up a daily family routine
  • Find a space and set a time for homework
  • Check student's assignments/homework
  • Talk to your kids about their school activities
  • Read to your kid(s) and model for them by reading yourself
  • Limit phone, games, social media, TV to times after homework has been completed and reviewed
  • Create realistic expectations and standards for their learning
  • Use school online programs to monitor your student's activities, grades and attendance
  • Attend parent, teacher conferences, open houses and back-to-school events. Attend school sports, concerts and plays
  • Don't sit on the sidelines. You have to get involved. 

As Frederick Douglas once said, "It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken adults.”       
*The data used reflects only national sources and are not specific to any Fargo Public School.

Ferragut is a special ed para-educator for Fargo Public Schools and a longtime contributor to The Forum's Editorial Page. Email him at

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Forum's editorial board nor Forum ownership.

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