JAIME ALFONSO ESCALANTE GUTIERREZ (December 31, 1930 – March 30,
2010) was a Bolivian educator known for teaching students calculus
from 1974 to 1991 at Garfield High School, East Los Angeles,
California . Escalante was the subject of the 1988 film Stand and
Deliver , in which he is portrayed by
In 1993, the asteroid
CONTENTS * 1 Early life * 2 Education * 3 Early career * 4 National attention * 5 Later life * 6 Death and legacy * 7 Awards and honours * 8 See also * 9 References * 10 External links EARLY LIFE Escalante was born to two teachers of Aymara ancestry in 1930 in La
Paz ,
EDUCATION * Unspecified Year: Escuela Normal Simón Bolivar, School Teacher
Degree
* 1955:
EARLY CAREER Escalante taught mathematics and physics for 12 years in Bolivia before he immigrated to the United States. Then, "he had to work many odd jobs, teach himself English and earn another college degree before he could return to the classroom." In 1974, he began teaching at Garfield High School. Escalante eventually changed his mind about returning to work when he found 12 students willing to take an algebra class. Shortly after Escalante came to Garfield High School, its
accreditation became threatened. Instead of gearing classes to
poorly-performing students, Escalante offered AP
Determined to change the status quo, Escalante had to persuade the first few students, who would listen to him, that they could control their futures with the right education. He promised them that they could get jobs in engineering, electronics, and computers if they would learn math: "I'll teach you math and that's your language. With that, you're going to make it. You're going to college and sit in the first row, not the back because you're going to know more than anybody." The school administration opposed Escalante frequently during his first few years. He was threatened with dismissal by an assistant principal because he was coming in too early, leaving too late, and failing to get administrative permission to raise funds to pay for his students' Advanced Placement tests. The opposition changed with the arrival of a new principal, Henry Gradillas. Aside from allowing Escalante to stay on, Gradillas overhauled the academic curriculum at Garfield, reducing the number of basic math classes and requiring those taking basic math to take algebra as well. He denied extracurricular activities to students who failed to maintain a C average and to new students who failed basic skills tests. One of Escalante's students remarked, "If he wants to teach us that bad, we can learn." Escalante continued to teach at Garfield, but it was not until 1978 that Escalante would instruct his first calculus class. He hoped that it could provide the leverage to improve lower-level math courses. Escalante recruited fellow teacher Ben Jiménez and taught calculus to five students, two of whom passed the AP calculus test. The following year, the class size increased to nine students, seven of whom passed the AP calculus test. By 1981, the class had increased to 15 students, 14 of whom passed. Escalante placed a high priority on pressuring his students to pass their math classes, particularly calculus. He rejected the common practice of ranking students from first to last but frequently told his students to press themselves as hard as possible in their assignments. NATIONAL ATTENTION In 1982, Escalante came into the national spotlight when 18 of his
students passed the challenging Advanced Placement
In 1983, the number of students enrolling and passing the calculus test more than doubled. That year, 33 students took the exam, and 30 passed. That year, he also started teaching calculus at East Los Angeles College . By 1987, 73 students passed the AB version of the exam and another 12 passed the BC version. That was the peak for the calculus program. The same year, Gradillas went on sabbatical to finish his doctorate with hopes that he could be reinstated as principal at Garfield or a similar school with a similar program upon his return. In 1988, a book, Escalante: The Best Teacher in America by Jay
Mathews , and a film,
Escalante has described the film as "90% truth, 10% drama." He stated that several points were left out of the film: * It took him several years to achieve the kind of success shown in the film. * No student who did not know multiplication tables or fractions was ever taught calculus in a single year. * Escalante suffered inflammation of the gall bladder , not a heart attack. Over the next few years, Escalante's calculus program continued to
grow but at a price. Tensions that surfaced when his career at
Garfield began, now escalated. In his final years at Garfield,
Escalante received threats and hate mail from various individuals. By
1990, he had lost the math department chairmanship. Escalante's math
enrichment program had grown to more than 400 students. His class
sizes had increased to over 50 students in some cases. That was far
beyond the 35 student limit set by the teachers' union, which
increased its criticism of Escalante's work. In 1991, the number of
Garfield students taking advanced placement examinations in math and
other subjects jumped to 570. The same year, citing faculty politics
and petty jealousies, Escalante and Jiménez left Garfield. Escalante
found new employment at Hiram W. Johnson High School in Sacramento,
California . At the height of Escalante's influence, Garfield
graduates were entering the
Angelo Villavicencio took the reins of the program after their departure and taught the remaining 107 AP students in two classes for the next year. Sixty-seven of Villavicencio's students went on to take the AP exam and forty-seven passed. Villavicencio's request for a third class because of class size was denied, and the following spring, he followed Escalante and quit Garfield. The math program's decline at Garfield became apparent following the departure of Escalante and other teachers associated with its inception and development. In just a few years, the number of AP calculus students at Garfield who passed their exams dropped by more than 80%. In 1996, Villavicencio contacted Garfield's new principal, Tony Garcia, and offered to come back to help revive the dying calculus program. His offer was rejected. LATER LIFE In the mid-1990s, Escalante became a strong supporter of English-only
education efforts. In 1997, he joined
In 2001, after many years of preparing teenagers for the AP calculus
exam, Escalante returned to his native Bolivia. He lived in his wife's
hometown,
In early 2010 , Escalante faced financial difficulties from the cost
of his cancer treatment. Cast members from
He moved to
DEATH AND LEGACY He died in 2010, at 79, at his son's home while undergoing treatment for bladder cancer . On April 1, 2010, a memorial service honoring Escalante was held at the Garfield High School, where he had taught from 1974 to 1991. Students observed a moment of silence on the front steps of the campus. A wake was held on April 17, 2010 in the classroom at Garfield High School. Another tribute to Escalante occurred in
Escalante is buried at
AWARDS AND HONOURS * 1988 – Presidential Medal for Excellence in Education , awarded
by President
SEE ALSO *
*
REFERENCES * ^ Woo, Elaine (March 31, 2010). "
EXTERNAL LINKS * Hall of Fame profile * Jaime |