Stand and Deliver

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Stand and Deliver
Stand and deliver.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Ramón Menéndez
Produced by Tom Musca
Written by
  • Ramón Menéndez
  • Tom Musca
Music by Craig Safan
Cinematography Tom Richmond
Edited by Nancy Richardson
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release dates
  • February 13, 1988 (1988-02-13) (Miami)
  • March 11, 1988 (1988-03-11) (United States)
Running time
102 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $13,994,920

Stand and Deliver is a 1988 American drama film based on the true story of high school math teacher Jaime Escalante. Edward James Olmos portrayed Escalante in the film and received a nomination for Best Actor at the 61st Academy Awards.[1] The film was added to the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress in 2011.


Jaime Escalante becomes a math teacher at James A. Garfield High School in Eastern Los Angeles. The school is full of Hispanic students from working-class families who are way below their grade level in terms of academic skills and have a lot of social problems. Escalante seeks to change the school culture to help the students excel in academics. He soon realizes the untapped potential of his class and sets a goal of having the students taking AP Calculus by their senior year. Escalante instructs his class under the philosophy of "ganas", roughly translating into "desire" or "motivation". The students begin taking summer classes in advanced mathematics with Escalante having to withstand the cynicism of other faculty, who feel the students are not capable enough. As the students struggle with the lower expectations they face in society, Escalante helps them overcome the adversity and pass the AP Calculus exams. To his dismay, the Educational Testing Service questions the success of the students, insisting there is too much overlap in their errors and suggests the students cheated. Escalante defends his students, feeling that the allegations are based more on racial and economic perceptions. He offers to have the students retake the test months later and the students succeed in passing the test again despite only having a day to prepare, dispelling the concerns of cheating.


Historical accuracy[edit]

Ten of the students agreed to sign waivers, and the College Board could show Jay Mathews, author of Escalante: The Best Teacher in America, their exam papers. Mathews found that nine of the ten had made "identical silly mistakes" on free-response question Number 6. Mathews heard from two of the students that there had been passed around a piece of paper with that flawed solution during the exam.[2] Twelve students (including the nine with the identical mistakes) retook the exam, and most of them got 4s and 5s on the 5-point exam. In 1987, 27 percent of all Mexican Americans who scored 3 or higher on the calculus AP exam were students at Garfield High.[2] 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"[3] and that her real name was not used.

Escalante actually first began teaching at Garfield High School in 1974 and taught his first AP Calculus course in 1978 with a group of 14 students. Only five students remained in the course at the end of the year, and, of the five, only two passed the AP Calculus exam.[4] Reason (magazine) stated that "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 these 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]

After having viewed the film, Escalante praised it, saying it was 'Ninety per cent truth, ten per cent drama.'


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.[6] 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."[6]

In popular culture[edit]

A part of the plot and Escalante is parodied (a Latino-American teacher named Julio Estudiante who worked with inner city students to choose math over inner-city gang violence) in the Simpsons episode "Special Edna".

The episode of South Park entitled "Eek, a Penis!" borrows heavily from the plot of Stand and Deliver, with Cartman assuming a similar role to that played by Edward James Olmos, although where in the film, the students were falsely accused of cheating, in the episode, the students actually did cheat and got away with it.[7][8]

In one episode of the seventh season of How I Met Your Mother, entitled "Field Trip", Ted takes his students on a field trip to teach them about how great being an architect is, and Barney reminds him that he can't "Stand and Deliver" his students. At the end of the episode, the movie is mentioned again when Barney says he saw it on television, and they argue about whether the actor's name is Jacob James Olmos or Edward James Olmos.

In a March 2013 episode of the sketch comedy series Portlandia, an Escalante-like teacher (played by Fred Armisen) is shown teaching middle-class college students, and being in turn "inspired" by them to give up teaching in order to become a social media marketing professional.[9]

American senator Rand Paul (R-KY) was accused of plagiarizing near-verbatim portions of the plot summary from the Wikipedia article on Stand and Deliver in two speeches on immigration.[10][11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Variety film review; 17 February 1988
  2. ^ a b "Jay Mathews: Retest D.C. Classes That Had Dubious Exam Results in '08". Washington Post. 2009-09-14. Retrieved 2012-01-16. 
  3. ^ "Jay Mathews:Lessons For a Lifetime". Los Angeles Times. 2010-04-04. Retrieved 2015-11-12. 
  4. ^ Woo, Elaine (2010-03-31). "Jaime Escalante dies at 79; math teacher who challenged East L.A. students to 'Stand and Deliver' - pp. 1-2". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2012-01-16. 
  5. ^ "Jerry Jesness:Stand and Deliver Revisited". Reason. July 2002. Retrieved 2015-11-12. 
  6. ^ a b "2011 National Film Registry More Than a Box of Chocolates". Library of Congress. December 28, 2011. Retrieved December 29, 2011. 
  7. ^ "South Park: "Eek, A Penis!"". The A.V. Club. 10 April 2008. Retrieved 5 May 2009. 
  8. ^ "South Park: "Eek!, A Penis!" Review". IGN. IGN. Retrieved 5 May 2009. 
  9. ^ "'Portlandia' Flips 'Stand And Deliver' Story Upside Down (VIDEO)". Huffington Post. March 25, 2013. 
  10. ^ "Rand Paul Has Given Speeches Plagiarized From Wikipedia Before". Buzzfeed. 29 Oct 2013. Retrieved 30 Oct 2013. 
  11. ^ "More Wikipedia copying in Rand Paul Speeches". The Rachel Maddow Show. 29 Oct 2013. Retrieved 30 Oct 2013. 

External links[edit]