December 31, 1930|
La Paz, Bolivia
|Died||March 30, 2010
Roseville, California, U.S.
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 Edward James Olmos.
Escalante was born to two teachers of Aymara ancestry  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". He taught mathematics and physics for 12 years in his mother country before immigrating to the USA. After immigrating, "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, 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".
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".
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 skills tests. One of Escalante's students remarked about him, "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. To this end, 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 and instead frequently told his students to press themselves as hard as possible in their assignments.
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. Fourteen of those who passed were asked to take the exam again. Twelve of the fourteen agreed to retake the test and all twelve 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. 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.
In 1988 a book Escalante: The Best Teacher in America by Jay Mathews and a movie Stand and Deliver were released 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.
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. 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, 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. Even students who failed the AP went on to become star students at California State University, Los Angeles in large numbers.
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 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 AP 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.
Later life and death
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 local California schools.
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, Cochabamba, and taught at Universidad Privada del Valle. He returned to the United States frequently to visit his children.
As of March 2010[update], 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. He died on March 30, 2010, aged 79, at his son's home while undergoing treatment for bladder cancer.
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 campus.
Another tribute to Escalante occurred in Portland, OR, where an unnamed artist replaced real street signs with fake ones as a prank, including "N Jaime Escalante Ave".
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.
- Unspecified Year: Escuela Normal Simón Bolivar, School Teacher Degree
- 1955: University Mayor de San Andres, Licentiate in Mathematics
- 1969: Associate of Arts, Pasadena City College
- 1973: Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics, California State University, Los Angeles
- 1977: Standard teaching credential, California State University, Los Angeles
- 1982: Standard teaching credential, California State University, Los Angeles.
- 1984: Standard teaching credential, Florida State University, Florida
- 1988 – Presidential Medal for Excellence in Education, awarded by President Ronald Reagan 
- 1988 – Hispanic Heritage Awards Honoree
- 1989 – Honorary Doctor of Science – University of Massachusetts Boston 
- 1990 – Honorary Doctor of Humanities – California State University, Los Angeles 
- 1990 – Honorary Doctor of Education – Concordia University, Montreal 
- 1990 – Honorary Doctor of Laws – University of Northern Colorado 
- 1990 – Award for Greatest Public Service Benefiting the Disadvantaged, an award given out annually by Jefferson Awards.
- 1998 – Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters – Wittenberg University 
- 1998 – Free Spirit Award, from the Freedom Forum
- 1998 – Andrés Bello prize, from the Organization of American States
- 1999 – Inductee National Teachers Hall of Fame 
- 2002 – Member, President's Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans 
- 2005 – The Highest Office Award – Center for Youth Citizenship
- 2005 – Best teacher in North America – Freedom Forum
- 2014 – Foundational Award Winner, posthumously given to Fabiola Escalante – Escalante–Gradillas Best in Education Prize 
- 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.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
- Michigan State University Newsroom – MSU spring commencement speakers reflect dedication to education
- Anne E. Schraff , Jaime Escalante: Inspirational Math Teacher (ISBN 978-0766029675), p. 12-13
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- Anne E. Schraff , Jaime Escalante: Inspirational Math Teacher (ISBN 978-0766029675), p. 12
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- Mathews, p. 297
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- Raquel Maria Dillon, Associated Press (2010-03-30). "Teacher Who Inspired 'Stand and Deliver' Film Dies". ABC News. Retrieved 2010-03-30.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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- Garfield High pays tribute to Jaime Escalante
- Honoring a legendary teacher and his legacy
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CSU/CSLA honorary doctorate awarded to alumnus Jaime Escalante '73, '77, '82 at 43rd Commencement.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
-  Archived August 21, 2006 at the Wayback Machine
- "University of Northern Colorado Honorary Degrees Conferred" (PDF). University of Northern Colorado. Retrieved March 31, 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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