Stand and Deliver

Many of you may remember the inspiring movie, ‘Stand and Deliver ‘, which chronicled the work of Jamie Escalante who taught math to inner city students.  Escalante passed away last month at the age of 79.  In the April 21st edition of Education Week, Heather Kim Lanier pays tribute to Escalante , but offers a useful corrective to the myths that have sprouted around his notable achievements.  While the movie offers a snapshot of just one year, it takes some rather dramatic liberties.  The real success took more than eight years. Lanier rightfully argues that the underlying support and work of the school’s principal was essential in transforming the math department.  As Lanier writes:

Still, it took Escalante eight years to build the math program that achieved what “Stand and Deliver” shows: a class of 18 who pass with flying colors.  During this time, he convinced the principal, Henry Gradillas, to raise the school’s math requirements; he designed a pipeline of courses to prepare Garfield’s students for AP calculus; he became department head and hand-selected top teachers for his feeder courses; he and Gradillas even influenced the area junior high schools to offer algebra.  In other words, to achieve his AP students’ success, he transformed the school’s math department.

Lanier’s point is not to diminish the work of Escalante.  Rather, she offers a useful reminder that school reform requires significant time, resources and administrative support.

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