Jaime Escalante dies

Jaime Escalante, the “Stand and Deliver” calculus teacher, died March 30 of cancer at the age of 79. A Bolivian immigrant, Escalante began teaching calculus at Garfield High in 1978: Most of his students came from low-income Mexican families. By 1987, Garfield students took more AP calculus exams than all but four high schools, public or private, in the country.  People started to think that low-income, minority kids could learn calculus, if properly taught.

Often in conflict with other teachers and administrators, Escalante left Garfield High in 1991 to teach at a Sacramento High School, Reason reports. He’d created a math enrichment program to get students from basic algebra to calculus. The other math enrichment teachers left too. Garfield’s calculus program collapsed.

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  1. Thanks for writing this. Definitely a teacher I care about!!

  2. Richard Aubrey says:

    Another review refers to the usual suspects reigniting the math wars, pushing the usual crap that doesn’t work and lowering standards.
    And saying that teaching well is hard work and many teachers in CA are opting instead for the lazy hackery of social activism.
    Right? Wrong? Some of each?
    Need more Escalantes, though.
    They’d probably have to keep their heads down until they get tenure.

  3. He showed that kids that everyone else had written off could succeed in a subject that was considered impossible, and did it well enough that it was huge success at his school. And then it died as quickly as it bloomed, which means, I guess, that there was a statistical anomaly of gifted kids passing through that school, or that the school administration and teachers didn’t like being shown that they were doing a terrible job. I know which one of these I think it was…

  4. Escalante is my role model – as a Calculus teacher, I go with the same philosophy he did – anyone can learn Calculus if they have the “ganas.”

    Escalante also didn’t play by the rules. He did things his way, because he knew his way worked. He also put in countless hours, helping his kids get ready for the AP Exam. Many schools hate people who do not play by the school’s rules – that’s probably why he left each one. He did, however, change the lives of the many students he taught, showing them that there was a way out of their current living situation if they just wanted it badly enough and were willing to work hard. He was one of a kind and will be truly missed.

  5. I wish I could find the essay he wrote on “ganas.” It was excellent.

    Thanks for the link to reason.com. In our profession, the best and the brightest are often run out of town.


  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by kriley19, JoanneLeeJacobs. JoanneLeeJacobs said: New blog post: Jaime Escalante dies http://www.joannejacobs.com/2010/03/jaime-escalante-dies/ […]

  2. […] but willing to work hours off the clock and able to convince students to do the same.  Indeed, as Joanne Jacobs notes, Garfield’s calculus program collapsed entirely after Escalante’s […]