They Remember What They Touch: The Impact of Place-Based Learning in East Feliciana Parish

Last Updated: January 01, 2004

They Remember What They Touch

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By Dr. Emeka Emekauwa, edited by Doris Terry Williams

Contrary to its Spanish name, East Feliciana has never been a "happy land" for public education. Located in southeastern Louisiana, East Feliciana Parish School District was carved out as a result of consolidations, closures, mergers and chronic poor school performance. The district serves approximately 3,000 students, 2,400 of them in grades K-8. In a parish where African-Americans comprise only 47.1% of the population, they represent more than 80% of the public school students; most, 84.8%, qualify for free or reduced-price lunch.

Stressed by high poverty levels, a low tax base and low teacher salaries, the district competes, most often unsuccessfully, with neighboring districts and states, and with a relatively segregated white academy system for qualified teachers and pupil resources. Consequently, at the dawn of the federal government's landmark education reform initiative, the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, 55.8% percent of the district's K-8 teachers were not fully certified to teach and 80% of its students were performing below average in at least one core subject (District Indicator Summary Results, 2000-2001). At the same time, only 31.8% of the parish's adult population had completed high school and fewer than 5% were college graduates. With a median household income of $26,864, 26% of the parish's children were living below the poverty level.