Jaime Escalante

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This name uses Spanish naming customs: the first or paternal family name is Escalante and the second or maternal family name is Gutierrez.
Jaime Escalante
Jaime Escalante.jpg
Jaime Escalante
Born (1930-12-31)December 31, 1930
La Paz, Bolivia
Died March 30, 2010(2010-03-30) (aged 79)
Roseville, California, U.S.[1]

Jaime Alfonso Escalante Gutierrez (December 31, 1930 – March 30, 2010) was a Bolivian educator well 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 Edward James Olmos.

Career[edit]

Escalante was born to two teachers of Aymara ancestry [2][3] on December 31, 1930 in La Paz, Bolivia. He was proud of his Aymara heritage and as an adult would proudly proclaim "The Aymara knew math before the Greeks and Egyptians".[4] He taught mathematics and physics for 12 years in his mother country before immigrating to the USA.[3] After immigrating, "he had to work many odd jobs, teach himself English and earn another college degree before he could return to the classroom."[5] In 1974, he began teaching at Garfield High School. Escalante was initially so disheartened by the lack of preparation of his students that he called his former employer and asked for his old job back. Escalante eventually changed his mind about returning to work when he found 12 students willing to take an algebra class.[6]

Shortly after Escalante came to Garfield High, its accreditation became threatened. Instead of gearing classes to poorly performing students, Escalante offered AP Calculus. He had already earned the criticism of an administrator who disapproved of his requiring the students to answer a homework question before being allowed into the classroom. "He told me to just get them inside," Escalante reported, "but I said, there is no teaching, no learning going on".[citation needed]

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 the jobs would be in engineering, electronics and computers but they would have to learn math to succeed. He said to his students "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".[citation needed]

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. This opposition changed with arrival of a new principal, Henry Gradillas. Aside from allowing Escalante to stay as a math teacher, Gradillas overhauled the academic curriculum at Garfield, reducing the number of basic math classes and requiring those taking basic math to concurrently take algebra. He denied extracurricular activities to students who failed to maintain a C average and new students who failed basic skill tests. One of Escalante's students remarked about him, "If he wants to teach us that bad, we can learn."[citation needed]

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. To this end, Escalante recruited fellow teacher Ben Jiménez and taught calculus to five students, two of whom passed the A.P. calculus test. The following year, the class size increased to nine students, seven of whom passed the A.P. 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 advanced calculus. He rejected the common practice of ranking students from first to last and instead frequently told his students to press themselves as hard as possible in their assignments.[6]

National attention[edit]

In 1982, Escalante came into the national spotlight when 18 of his students passed the challenging Advanced Placement Calculus exam. The Educational Testing Service found these scores to be suspicious, because all of the students made exactly the same math error on problem #6, and also used the same unusual variable names. 14 of those who passed were asked to take the exam again. 12 of the 14 agreed to retake the test and all 12 did well enough to have their scores reinstated. In 1983, the number of students enrolling and passing the A.P. calculus test more than doubled. That year 33 students took the exam and 30 passed. That year Escalante also started teaching calculus at East Los Angeles College.[citation needed] By 1987, 73 students passed the A.P. calculus AB exam and another 12 passed the BC version of the test. This 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 similar programs upon his return.[citation needed]

1988 saw the release of a book Escalante: The Best Teacher in America by Jay Mathews and a movie Stand and Deliver detailing the events of 1982. During this time teachers and other interested observers asked to sit in on his classes. He shared with them: "The key to my success with youngsters is a very simple and time-honored tradition: hard work for teacher and student alike". Escalante received visits from political leaders and celebrities, including then-President Ronald Reagan and actor Arnold Schwarzenegger.[7]

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.
  • In no case was a student who didn't know multiplication tables or fractions 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 not without its own price. Tensions that surfaced when his career began at Garfield escalated. In his final years at Garfield, Escalante received threats and hate mail from various individuals.[8] By 1990, he had lost the math department chairmanship. At this point Escalante's math enrichment program had grown to 400+ students. His class sizes had increased to over 50 students in some cases. This was far beyond the 35 student limit set by the teachers' union, which in turn increased criticism of Escalante's work. In 1991, the number of Garfield students taking advanced placement examinations in math and other subjects jumped to 570. That same year, citing faculty politics and petty jealousies,[citation needed] 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 University of Southern California in such great numbers that they outnumbered all the other high schools in the working-class East Los Angeles region combined.[9] Even students who failed the AP went on to become star students at California State-Los Angeles in large numbers.[8]

Angelo Villavicencio took the reins of the program after their departure and taught the remaining 107 A.P. students in two classes for the next year. 67 of Villavicencio's students went on to take the A.P. exam and 47 passed. Villavicencio's request for a third class due to 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 A.P. calculus students at Garfield who passed their exams dropped by more than 80 percent. 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.[8]

Later life and death[edit]

During the mid-1990s, Escalante became a strong supporter of "English-only" education efforts. In 1997, he joined the "English for Children" initiative, which was a campaign against bilingual education in California schools.

In 2001, after many years of preparing teenagers for the A.P. calculus exam, Escalante returned to his native Bolivia. He lived in his wife's hometown, Cochabamba, and taught part-time at the local university. He returned to the United States frequently to visit his children.

As of March 2010, he faced financial difficulties from the cost of his cancer treatment. Cast members from Stand and Deliver, including Edward James Olmos, and some of Escalante's former pupils, raised funds to help pay for his medical bills.

Jaime Escalante moved to Sacramento, California, to live with his son in the city of Rancho Cordova. He taught at Hiram Johnson High School, a school very similar to Garfield High School.[10] He died on March 30, 2010, aged 79, at his son's home while undergoing treatment for bladder cancer.[11][12] He is survived by his wife Fabiola and his sons Fernando and Jaime Jr.[13]

On Thursday April 1, 2010 a memorial service honoring Escalante was held at the Garfield High School where he taught from 1974 to 1991. Students observed a moment of silence on the front steps of the East L.A. campus.[14]

Another tribute to Escalante occurred in Portland, OR, as an unnamed artist renamed a street "N Jaime Escalante Ave" in tribute.[15]

A wake was held on April 17, 2010 in the lecture hall at Garfield High School where he taught calculus.[16]

On Saturday, May 22, 2010, the California State University, Los Angeles chapter of Golden Key International Honour Society (GKIHS) honored Jaime Escalante by awarding him honorary membership at the New Member Recognition Ceremony. The award was accepted on behalf of the Escalante family by actress Vanessa Marquez, who appeared in the film Stand and Deliver, and LAUSD educator Elsa Bolado, who was a member of that first calculus class.

Escalante is buried at Rose Hills Memorial Park in Whittier Lakeside Gardens, Burial Section 18, Burial lot 3914, Grave 3, entrance 10. His date of death is March 30, 2010.

Education[edit]

Awards[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Woo, Elaine (March 31, 2010). "Jaime Escalante dies at 79; math teacher who challenged East L.A. students to 'Stand and Deliver'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 2, 2010. 
  2. ^ Anne E. Schraff , Jaime Escalante: Inspirational Math Teacher (ISBN 978-0766029675), p. 12-13
  3. ^ a b "Jaime Escalante Bio". The Futures Channel. Retrieved 2013-01-19. 
  4. ^ Anne E. Schraff , Jaime Escalante: Inspirational Math Teacher (ISBN 978-0766029675), p. 12
  5. ^ "Jaime Escalante biography". A+E Television Networks, LLC. Retrieved 2013-01-19. 
  6. ^ a b Mathews
  7. ^ Jay Mathews, Escalante: The Best Teacher in America (ISBN 0-8050-1195-1), p. 210
  8. ^ a b c Jesness, Jerry (July 2002). "Stand and Deliver Revisited". Reason.  (Archive)
  9. ^ Mathews, p. 297
  10. ^ Bates, Karen Grigsby (March 9, 2010). "Students 'Stand And Deliver' For Former Teacher". All Things Considered. NPR. Retrieved 2010-03-10. 
  11. ^ Raquel Maria Dillon, Associated Press (2010-03-30). "Teacher Who Inspired 'Stand and Deliver' Film Dies". ABC News. Retrieved 2010-03-30. 
  12. ^ Bermudez, Esmeralda (February 2010). "From his sickbed, Garfield High legend is still delivering". Los Angeles Times. 
  13. ^ Legendary East L.A. math teacher Jaime Escalante dies at 79
  14. ^ Garfield High pays tribute to Jaime Escalante
  15. ^ http://blogtown.portlandmercury.com/BlogtownPDX/archives/2010/04/01/prank-renames-interstate-ave-to-tonya-harding-ave
  16. ^ Honoring a legendary teacher and his legacy
  17. ^ "Schwarzenegger Convenes Education Summit". September 10, 2003. Retrieved March 31, 2010. 
  18. ^ Reid, Alexander (June 2, 1991). "UMass Speaker Stresses Need for Science, Technology Education". The Boston Globe. p. 42. Retrieved March 31, 2010. 
  19. ^ "History of Cal State L.A.". California State University, Los Angeles. Retrieved March 31, 2010. "CSU/CSLA honorary doctorate awarded to alumnus Jaime Escalante '73, '77, '82 at 43rd Commencement." 
  20. ^ [1][dead link]
  21. ^ "University of Northern Colorado Honorary Degrees Conferred" (PDF). University of Northern Colorado. Retrieved March 31, 2010. 
  22. ^ http://www.jeffersonawards.org/pastwinners/national
  23. ^ "'Hero' Teacher Escalante Addresses Students At Wittenberg Commencement May 9". Wittenberg University. April 13, 2004. Retrieved March 31, 2010. 
  24. ^ "Jaime Escalante: 1999 Inductee". National Teachers Hall of Fame. Retrieved March 31, 2010. 
  25. ^ "Presidential Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans". White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans. Retrieved March 31, 2010. 

Terry Lee Marzell, Chalkboard Champions: Twelve Remarkable Teachers Who Educated America's Disenfranchised Students, Wheatmark 2012

External links[edit]