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Stand and Deliver

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Stand and Deliver
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRamón Menéndez
Written by
  • Ramón Menéndez
  • Tom Musca
Produced byTom Musca
CinematographyTom Richmond
Edited byNancy Richardson
Music byCraig Safan
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release dates
  • February 13, 1988 (1988-02-13) (Miami)
  • March 11, 1988 (1988-03-11) (United States)
Running time
102 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$1.6 million[1]
Box office$13.9 million[2]

Stand and Deliver is a 1988 American drama film directed by Ramón Menéndez, written by Menéndez and Tom Musca, based on the true story of a high school mathematics teacher, Jaime Escalante. For portraying Escalante, Edward James Olmos was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor at the 61st Academy Awards.[3] The film won the Independent Spirit Award for Best Feature in 1988. The film's title refers to the 1987 Mr. Mister song of the same name, which is also featured in the film's ending credits.

In 2011, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".



In the early 1980s, Jaime Escalante becomes a mathematics teacher at James A. Garfield High School in East Los Angeles. The school is full of Latino students from working-class families whose academic achievement is far below their grade level. Two students, Angel and another gangster, arrive late and question Escalante's authority. Escalante demonstrates how to multiply numbers using one's fingers and appeals to the students' sense of humor. After class, some gangsters threaten Escalante. After school, he stops the gangsters from fighting. He then introduces himself as a "one-man gang" with the classroom as his domain. Escalante tells the students that he has decided to teach them algebra.

At a meeting, Escalante learns that the school's accreditation is under threat, as test scores are not high enough. Escalante says that students will rise to the level that is expected of them. Escalante gives the students a quiz every morning and a new student joins the class. He instructs his class under the philosophy of ganas, roughly translating to "desire".

Escalante tells other faculty that he wants to teach the students calculus. He seeks to change the school culture to help the students excel in academics, as he has seen the untapped potential of his class. Other teachers ridicule him, as the students have not taken the prerequisites. Escalante states that the students can take the prerequisites over the summer. He sets a goal of having the students take Advanced Placement Calculus by their senior year.

The students sign up for the prerequisites over the summer. There is no air conditioning, but Escalante is able to teach the class, giving them oranges and telling them to focus so they can get good jobs and take vacations. In the fall, he gives the students contracts to be signed by the parents; they must come in on Saturdays, show up an hour early to school, and stay until 5pm in order to prepare for the AP Calculus exam.

Two weeks before the students' calculus exam, Escalante is teaching an ESL class to some adults. He suddenly clutches at his torso in pain, stumbles into the hallway, and falls. A substitute teacher is found for the students while Escalante recovers in the hospital, but the substitute teacher is a music teacher. Soon after, Escalante escapes from the hospital and shows up at school to continue teaching. After taking the AP calculus exam, the students head to the beach and celebrate. All 18 students who took the exam pass it. At a meeting to congratulate the students, a plaque of appreciation is presented to Escalante.

To the dismay of both Escalante and the students, the Educational Testing Service questions the students' exam scores. Escalante finds an anonymous letter of resignation in his school mail and has to walk home that evening, as his car has been stolen from the school parking lot. Dismayed, he confides in his wife that he regrets having taught the students calculus, because they did well but nothing changed for them. Fabiola reassures him stating that his students appreciate his efforts regardless; this is confirmed when some of them show up at his house with a surprise: they have fixed up his car as a way to thank him. Escalante meets with the investigators from Educational Testing Service, argues with them, but ultimately offers to have the students retake the test. Despite having only one day to prepare, all the students pass, and Escalante demands that the original scores be reinstated.

The film ends with captions indicating that in the summer of 1982 Escalante's entire class was able to pass AP Calculus and in subsequent years, his program became even more successful.



Historical accuracy


The film accurately portrays that students had to retake the AP exam, and that all who retook it passed.[citation needed]

The movie gives the impression that the incident occurred in the second year Escalante was teaching, after students from his first year took a summer session for the calculus prerequisites. In fact, Escalante first began teaching at Garfield High School in 1974 and taught his first Advanced Placement Calculus course in 1978 with a group of 14 students, and it was in 1982 that the exam incident occurred. In the first year (1978), only five students remained in the course at the end of the year, only two of whom passed the AP Calculus exam.[4] Writing in Reason, Jerry Jesness stated, "Unlike the students in the movie, the real Garfield students required years of solid preparation before they could take calculus. So Escalante established a program at East Los Angeles College where students could take those classes in intensive seven-week summer sessions. Escalante and [principal Henry] Gradillas were also instrumental in getting the feeder schools to offer algebra in the eighth and ninth grades."[5] In 1987, 27 percent of all Mexican Americans who scored three or higher on the AP Calculus exam were students at Garfield High.[6]

Escalante himself described the film as "90 percent truth, 10 percent drama". He said that several points were left out of the film. He pointed out that no student who did not know multiplication tables or fractions was ever taught calculus in a single year. Also, he suffered inflammation of the gall bladder, not a heart attack.[7]

Ten of the 1982 students signed waivers to allow the College Board to show their exams to Jay Mathews, the author of Escalante: The Best Teacher in America. Mathews found that nine of them had made "identical silly mistakes" on free response question six. Mathews heard from two of the students that during the exam, a piece of paper had been passed around with that flawed solution.[6] Twelve students, including the nine with the identical mistakes, retook the exam, and most of them received the top scores of four and five. Mathews concluded that nine of the students did cheat, but they knew the material and did not need to.[6]

Mathews wrote in the Los Angeles Times that the Ana Delgado character "was the only teenage character in the film based on a real person"[8] and that her name had been changed.



On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the movie holds a score of 90% from 61 reviews. The website's consensus reads, "Stand and Deliver pulls off the unlikely feat of making math class the stuff of underdog drama – and pays rousing tribute to a real-life inspirational figure in the bargain."[9] Metacritic has given the film a score of 77 out of 100 based on 11 reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[10]


Award Category Recipient(s) in Result Ref(s)
Academy Awards Best Actor Edward James Olmos Nominated [11]
Golden Globe Awards Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama [12]
Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture Lou Diamond Phillips
Independent Spirit Awards Best Feature Tom Musca Won [13]
Best Director Ramón Menéndez
Best Male Lead Edward James Olmos
Best Supporting Male Lou Diamond Phillips
Best Supporting Female Rosanna DeSoto
Best Screenplay Ramón Menéndez
Tom Musca
Best Cinematography Tom Richmond Nominated



In December 2011, Stand and Deliver was deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" by the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.[14] The Registry said the film was "one of the most popular of a new wave of narrative feature films produced in the 1980s by Latino filmmakers" and that it "celebrates in a direct, approachable, and impactful way, values of self-betterment through hard work and power through knowledge."[14]

The film is recognized by the American Film Institute as #86 on its 2006 AFI's 100 Years...100 Cheers list.[15]

In 2016, the United States Postal Service issued a 1st Class Forever "Jaime Escalante" stamp to honor "the East Los Angeles teacher whose inspirational methods led supposedly 'unteachable' high school students to master calculus."[16]

See also



  1. ^ Klady, Leonard (January 8, 1989). "Box Office Champs, Chumps : The hero of the bottom line was the 46-year-old 'Bambi'". Los Angeles Times.
  2. ^ "Stand and Deliver (1988)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 3 September 2017.
  3. ^ "'Rain Man' Given 8 Oscar Nominations; Sigourney 2 : Hoffman Wins 6th Acting Nod". Los Angeles Times. 15 February 1989. Retrieved 3 September 2017.
  4. ^ Woo, Elaine (2010-03-31). "Jaime Escalante dies at 79; math teacher who challenged East L.A. students to 'Stand and Deliver'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2012-01-16.
  5. ^ Jesness, Jerry (July 2002). "Stand and Deliver Revisited". Reason. Retrieved 2015-11-12.
  6. ^ a b c Mathews, Jay (2009-09-14). "Retest D.C. Classes That Had Dubious Exam Results in '08". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2012-01-16.
  7. ^ "Jaime Escalante dies at 79; math teacher who challenged East L.A. students to 'Stand and Deliver'". Los Angeles Times. 2010-03-31. Retrieved 2022-12-07.
  8. ^ Mathews, Jay (2010-04-04). "Lessons For a Lifetime". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2015-11-12.
  9. ^ "Stand and Deliver". Rotten Tomatoes.
  10. ^ "Stand and Deliver Reviews". Metacritic.
  11. ^ "THE 61ST ACADEMY AWARDS - 1989". Oscars.org. Academy Awards. Retrieved 3 September 2017.
  12. ^ "Winners & Nominees 1989". GoldenGlobes.org. Golden Globe Awards. Retrieved 3 September 2017.
  13. ^ "32 Years of Nominees & Winners, 1986-2017" (PDF). FilmIndependent.org. Independent Spirit Awards. Retrieved 3 September 2017.
  14. ^ a b "2011 National Film Registry More Than a Box of Chocolates". Library of Congress. December 28, 2011. Retrieved December 29, 2011.
  15. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Cheers" (PDF). American Film Institute. Retrieved 2016-08-14.
  16. ^ "Stamp Announcement 16-26: Jaime Escalante Stamp". United States Postal Service. 2016-06-09. Retrieved 2022-05-08.