Garfield High School (California)

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James A. Garfield High School
5101 E. Sixth Street


Coordinates34°1′32″N 118°9′28″W / 34.02556°N 118.15778°W / 34.02556; -118.15778Coordinates: 34°1′32″N 118°9′28″W / 34.02556°N 118.15778°W / 34.02556; -118.15778
Motto"A clear head, a true heart, a strong arm"
School districtLos Angeles Unified School District
PrincipalMario Cantu
Enrollment2,531 (2016-17)[1]
Color(s)White, Blue, & Crimson             
RivalsRoosevelt High School[2]

James A. Garfield High School is a public, year-round high school founded in 1925 in East Los Angeles, an unincorporated section of Los Angeles County, California. The school was made famous by the film Stand and Deliver about a teacher named Jaime Escalante.


The James A. Garfield High School Building was built in 1925.

During World War II, the students of James A Garfield High School worked on war aircraft and other war related machining and assembly projects to support the War Effort, for school credit and pay. The efforts and details about the program of Garfield High School appeared in a film created for the Army and Navy servicemen and women in 1944 by the Army-Navy Screen Magazine.[3][4]

Garfield was one of the five schools to initiate student protests known as the East L.A. walkouts in 1968, and contributed to the walkouts in 2006, in protest to the HR 4437 bill.


On May 20, 2007, an arsonist set fire to the school's 82-year-old auditorium. The building was completely destroyed.[5]

A benefit concert was held collaboratively with Los Lobos,[citation needed] and a donation was given by boxer Oscar De La Hoya.[citation needed] L.A. Unified contends that the 1925 auditorium needs to be rebuilt from the ground up to meet state building codes, but nine insurers insist that the walls are salvageable and could support a new building, district officials said.[citation needed] Garfield's main administration building, which is attached to the auditorium must be retrofitted to meet earthquake standards, and officials have not determined the level of demolition needed.[6]

Jaime Escalante

On March 31, 2010, a day after the death of Jaime Escalante, the Los Angeles Unified School District announced that the new auditorium under construction at Garfield High would be named in his honor. On April 1, a memorial service honoring Escalante was held at Garfield High, where he taught from 1974 to 1991. Students observed a moment of silence on the front steps. About 200 attended, said Principal Jose Huerta.[7] A wake was held on April 17, 2010 for Jaime Escalante in the lecture hall where he taught calculus.[8]

In July 2010, while the school was closed for the first summer vacation since 1991, the Administration Building and the remains of the original Auditorium were demolished.[citation needed] By the start of the school year in September, the entire building was leveled. Only a small power plant remains of the building. The school's 300 building is the final structure that dates back to the school's opening in 1925.

On April 5, 2014, Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) officials cut the ribbon on Garfield High's Auditorium project.[9] The new facility includes state-of-the-art upgrades and the new Jaime Escalante Memorial Plaza.

The school is known for its murals. In 2006, due to structural damage, many of the murals were removed.[10]

Year-Round Calendar[edit]

2016-2017 Undergraduate Ethnic Breakdown [11]
Black/African American 0.5%
Asian or Pacific Islander 0.2%
White 0.5%
Hispanic/Latino 98.5%
American Indian or Alaskan Native 0.1%
Other 0.2%

Garfield was on a year-round, multi-track schedule to relieve overcrowding from July 1991 to June 2010. Initially, there were four tracks. The students were, for the most part, randomly assigned to one of three tracks, and alternate two-month vacations. Only two-thirds of the student body were on campus at any given time. In 2010, the School announced that because of the opening of the new Esteban Torres High School, the school would revert to a traditional September–June calendar starting in September 2010.


From the 1930s through the 1950s, Garfield High was predominantly White. However, since the 1960s, the majority of student body has been Hispanic.[12] The school had a total of 4620 students in the 2005–2006 school year; 99.26% of the students were identified as Hispanic.[13] Students enrolled in the 2009–2010 year are a total of 4,603.


Before the term of Henry Gradillas as principal in the 1980s, the average reading level of 10th grade students (sophomores) was equivalent to that of a student in the second month of the fifth grade, or a 5.2.[14] The total number of AP tests taken at Garfield each year before the Gradillas's term was 56. During Gradillas's term, the average reading level of a 12th grade student (seniors) was the tenth grade level, and the number of AP tests yearly increased to 357.[15] The increase in the reading level was due to required reading and remedial English courses for students at least three grade levels behind and a reading laboratory.[16]

Small Learning Communities (SLCs)[edit]

There are small learning communities (SLCs) in which the student body is divided into smaller academies: Career and Performing Arts Academy, Computer Science Magnet, Global Academy, Humanitas Academy of Leadership and Law, and University Preparatory Program.[17] These are all separated within buildings throughout the campus, each student is divided into each.[citation needed] SLCs were introduced to LAUSD around 2005 to combat dropping out of school.[18]

Advanced Placement[edit]

Garfield achieved fame because of Jaime Escalante who, in the 1980s, along with the administration of Henry Gradillas built an exceptional advanced placement program. In 1982, 18 of his students passed the advanced placement calculus test. The College Board suspected cheating and required the students to re-take the examination. Further testing showed that the students had actually learned the material.[19]

In 1987, 73 students passed, while another 12 passed the second year calculus test. In 1988, a popular film titled Stand and Deliver starring Academy Award-nominee Edward James Olmos was made about the events of 1982. In 1990, there were over 400 students in Escalante's math program from algebra to calculus. In 1991, he had a falling out with the school administration and as a result left the Garfield school system. By 1996, only seven passed the basic calculus exam, with four passing the advanced exam. That was a total of eleven passing students, down from a high of 87 nine years earlier. In 2001, the school made a slight recovery in its calculus scores, with 17 passing the basic test and seven passing the second year test.[20]

In 2004, Newsweek ranked Garfield 581st top high school in the nation. The rank was based on the number of Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate tests taken by all students at a school in 2004 divided by the number of graduating seniors.[21]

Student performance[edit]

In 2005, according to the University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley) assistant vice chancellor for admissions and enrollment, Richard Black, Garfield had the highest number of combined Latino/Chicano and African-American students accepted by UC Berkeley.[22]


American football[edit]

East LA classic

Garfield High School participates in the "East L.A. Classic" the homecoming football game against Theodore Roosevelt High School, that traditionally draws over 20,000 fans.[23] The East LA classic has been held at the East Los Angeles College at the Weingart Stadium although it has also been held at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.[citation needed]

Other sports[edit]

Besides the football team playing a big role, there are also other sports who are significant in the annual classic such as: Drill Team, Cheer, and Band.[24] They are well-known and have won competitions throughout the year.[citation needed]

There is also Soccer, Baseball, Softball, Swim, Cross-Country, and Basketball.[25]

Notable alumni[edit]

See also[edit]


  • Jesness, Jerry (coauthor). "Preface." Gradillas, Henry and Jerry Jesness. Standing and Delivering: What the Movie Didn't Tell (New Frontiers in Education). R&L Education, November 16, 2010. ISBN 1607099438, 9781607099437.


  1. ^ "James A. Garfield Senior High". National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved February 15, 2019.
  2. ^ Mario Villegas , A 'Classic' for many reasons, ESPN Los Angeles, November 4, 2010
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ Khalil, Ashraf (May 21, 2007). "Fire destroys auditorium at Garfield High". The Los Angeles Times.
  6. ^ Rivera, Carla (September 28, 2009). "Insurance dispute takes center stage in auditorium drama". The Los Angeles Times.
  7. ^ "Garfield High pays tribute to Jaime Escalante". Los Angeles Times. April 1, 2010.
  8. ^ Leovy, Jill (April 17, 2010). "Honoring a legendary teacher and his legacy". Los Angeles Times.
  10. ^ Landsberg, Mitchell. "Murals Get Brushoff at Garfield." Los Angeles Times. February 27, 2006. Retrieved on March 29, 2014.
  11. ^ Los Angeles Unified School District All Youth Achieving/ir/CommonDataSet
  12. ^ Robertson, Tatasha (May 17, 2004). "In school, Latinos find fewer resources, ethnic isolation". The Boston Globe. Archived from the original on March 17, 2005.
  13. ^ LAUSD Enrollment Summary
  14. ^ Jessness, p. ix.
  15. ^ Jessness, p. x.
  16. ^ Jessness, p. ix-x.
  17. ^ "SLCs." Garfield High School. Retrieved on April 14, 2016.
  18. ^ DiMassa, Cara Mia. "Schools' Dropout Remedy: Get Small." Los Angeles Times. March 26, 2005. Retrieved on April 14, 2016.
  19. ^ Jesness, Jerry. "Stand and Deliver Revisited". Reason. Reason Foundation. Retrieved March 27, 2015.
  20. ^ Jerry Jesness (July 2002). "Stand and Deliver Revisited". Reason. Archived from the original on February 3, 2005.
  21. ^ Mathews, Jay (2004). "The Complete List of the 1,000 Top U.S. Schools". Newsweek. May 16, 2004 issue. Archived from the original on November 30, 2006. Retrieved 2006-12-02.
  22. ^ Landsberg, Mitchell. "This King/Drew, a Magnet School, Is a Robust Success." Los Angeles Times. April 27, 2005. p. 1. Retrieved on April 16, 2014.
  23. ^ NFLHS.COM – State Stories Archived September 27, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  24. ^ Lavin, Enrique. "Best Friends--Until Friday : Garfield's Ramirez and Roosevelt's Gallegos Will Play in East L.A. Classic." Los Angeles Times. October 30, 1994. Retrieved on April 14, 2016.
  25. ^ "Athletics Events." Garfield High School. Retrieved on April 14, 2016. The drop-down menu under "Athletics" lists the sports at Garfield High School.
  26. ^ "First LGBT statewide leader". Los Angeles Blade. Retrieved January 20, 2019.
  27. ^ "Helena Viramontes, Professor, Graduate Faculty Member". Retrieved December 20, 2013.
  28. ^ "TORRES, Esteban Edward". US House of Representatives: History, Art & Archives. Retrieved January 3, 2019.
  29. ^ "Oscar De La Hoya set to fight Steve Forbes, battle for hometown crowd – New York Daily News". Daily News. May 2, 2008. Retrieved May 23, 2011.
  30. ^ "Happy Birthday: David Hidalgo of Los Lobos". Rhino Entertainment. October 6, 2014. Retrieved January 2, 2019.
  31. ^ Rivera, Carla. "East L.A.'s loss is personal." Los Angeles Times. May 22, 2007. p. 1. Retrieved on March 29, 2014. "Its alumni include an array of politicians, actors, comedians, musicians, artists and sports figures, including comic Carlos Mencia and boxer Oscar De La Hoya."

External links[edit]