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Can low income children receive quality education?

The research first began when Dr. Keith Leger, Director of Education Policy and Governmental Affairs for CABL, heard that certain people in different organizations believed that children who were part of lower income families could not learn as well as higher income children.

On March 26, Council for a Better Louisiana (CABL) visited Pecan Grove Primary School, located in Gonzales, Louisiana.

Pecan Grove has over 75 percent of students who are from relatively low-income families, yet they are still excelling academically. CABL visited the school to do research on what they are doing right to help the children excel.

The research first began when Dr. Keith Leger, Director of Education Policy and Governmental Affairs for CABL, heard that certain people in different organizations believed that children who were part of lower income families could not learn as well as higher income children.

“This really bothered me, because I knew of schools that had a higher number of lower income students, yet they were doing tremendous in their education,” Leger said. “We began the research by targeting schools with a 75 or above percentage of students who are economically disadvantaged. One hundred and twelve schools in Louisiana fit that criteria. Pecan Grove was one of them.”

Leger’s motto for most of his visits is that poverty is not a learning disability. His goal is to shine light on the successes of these schools and create more opportunities for these children and their teachers.

When CABL goes into a school, they ask a series of questions to employees at the school. Each set of questions are the same, so results do not differentiate.

Ultimately, Leger hopes that they can create a presentation with their findings and share the better learning atmospheres throughout Louisiana with educational leaders.

Common themes for teachers who have students who are advancing academically but may come from a lower income family include dynamic leadership, shared responsibilities, strong leadership, and using words like “we” and “us” in the classroom.

“Poverty should never determines someones success,” Ascension Parish Superintendent David Alexander said. “Do we give up on students who don’t reach a mastery level by October? No. Sometimes they may not reach it until December. Either way, they still got there.”

“We really try to focus on the how,” Principal Amy Champagne of Pecan Grove said. “How can we get involved? How can we improve something? It’s also important that we find people who love children. Our faculty is held to high expectations for our students. They’re not just here to teach, they also need to be human.”

Follow Darian on Twitter @dariangshark.