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Greg Siskind on Immigration Law and Policy

JAIME ESCALANTE DIES

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Bolivian immigrant Jaime Escalante, the inspiration for the calculus teacher portrayed by Edward James Olmos in the film Stand and Deliver passed away yesterday at the age of 79. Escalante taught disadvantaged inner city Latino high school students in Los Angeles and was known for his innovative teaching techniques. And he produced some highly impressive results. According to the NY Times:


Mr. Escalante, a Bolivian immigrant, used unconventional techniques to
explain mathematical problems and to convince his students at James A. Garfield High School,
known for its dismal test scores and high drop-out rate, that they
could compete with students from wealthier schools. Rock 'n' roll
records played at full blast, remote-controlled toys and magic tricks
were all brought into play.


"Calculus need not be made easy," read one of the motivational signs in Mr. Escalante's classroom. "It is easy already."


In 1982, 18 students in the special calculus program that Mr. Escalante had created at Garfield four years earlier took the College Board's advanced placement test in calculus. Seven of them received a 5, the highest possible score; the rest, a 4.


Officials at the company administering the test suspected cheating and
asked 14 students to take the exam again. A dozen did, and their
performance validated the original results. 

*****

Beginning with five calculus students in 1978, Mr. Escalante developed
a program that eventually attracted hundreds of students keen to go on
to college. In 1988, 443 students took the College Board's advanced placement test; 266 passed.

Jaime Escalante was also the subject of the book Escalante: The Best Teacher in America. James Edward Olmos earned an Oscar nomination for his role in the Stand and Deliver.

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