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Jaimie Escalante, the former East Los Angeles math teacher whose ability to inspire inner city students to learn calculus inspired the movie Stand And Deliver, died yesterday of bladder cancer. He was 79.

According to the Los Angeles Times obituary this morning, “Escalante gained national prominence in the aftermath of a 1982 scandal surrounding 14 of his Garfield High School students who passed the Advanced Placement calculus exam only to be accused later of cheating. The story of their eventual triumph - and of Escalante's battle to raise standards at a struggling campus of working class, largely Mexican American students - became the subject of the movie, which turned the balding, middle-aged Bolivian immigrant into the most famous teacher in America.”

And, the Times writes, “Escalante was a maverick who did not get along with many of his public school colleagues, but he mesmerized students with his entertaining style and deep understanding of math. Educators came from around the country to observe him at Garfield, which built one of the largest and most successful Advanced Placement programs in the nation.”
KC's View:
Edward James Olmos, who played Escalante in Stand And Deliver, said quite appropriately that “"Jaime didn't just teach math. Like all great teachers, he changed lives.”

What strikes me here is that he was about raising standards and teaching more and better, not eliminating the senior year of high school or cutting back to four school days a week, proposals that have been made around the country as districts look to save money. He was not about dumbing down, but raising up ... and in so many ways, that seems contrary to the way things are going in this country. And therefore worth noting here.