Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Real Heroes are Hard to Come By...

Jamie Escalante passed away Tuesday of cancer at age 79. Escalante was a math teach in Los Angeles who built up a math program in his low income school system that rivaled anyone else's in the state. In 1982, his students scored so high on their AP exams that ETS suspected that the students were cheating and forced them to retake the exams. There was a movie made about this incident called Stand and Deliver. The movie was a story of triumph. Unfortunately, what happened in real life after the movie takes place is an absolute tragedy. If you want to see everything that's wrong with education in America, have a look. Escalante should've been designing curriculum and programs for use all over the state, not railroaded out of town.

EDIT: "Absolute tragedy" link updated. As PB points out, it went to the wrong place.

5 comments:

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

You ain't kiddin'.

Just goes to show that, when it comes to education in this country, we don't have a student problem - we have an adult problem.

patsbrother said...

If you're going to cite to an article for the proposition that someone got railroaded out of town, it should be an article that says more than this:

"Escalante left Garfield in 1991, taught at schools in Sacramento and retired to Bolivia in 2001."

Do you have a more appropriate link? Because I would like to read it.

Dante said...

PB, sorry about that. Wrong article. The link has been updated: http://reason.com/archives/2002/07/01/stand-and-deliver-revisited/print

See specifically the "Death of a Dynasty" section.

And railroaded might've been a harsh way to put it, but with the results Escalante was getting, he should've been given the keys to the kingdom, not fought at every corner by rules about things like class sizes that were in place specifically to help get the results Escalante was already getting.

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

I wondered a little about that link, too, but I figured it was found on the Wikipedia. That article touches on those issues. When you deal with education, you start to recognize what isn't stated explicitly.

You are absolutely right this guy should have been given the keys to the kingdom. I do not know what terrible administrators have to just dump a spectacular and successful math program in a troubled school. I also don't know how whatever system administrators were responsible didn't tell the principal to pack his bags instead.

Regarding the rules about class sizes - Dante is exactly right. A teacher can credibly instruct large numbers of students who are into the lessons and primed to learn. Teacher-to-student ratios appear more a response to differentiated learning requirements than actual ability. I know every district has to have a standard operating proceedure, but at some point, results have to speak for themselves.

Improper resource management is a major factor destroying our schools.

patsbrother said...

(Gracias.)

That is horrifyingly sad.

At lovely Glynn Academy, in 1997-1998, we had maybe 38 students in two sections take AP calculus, most of them doing it for the extra GPA point. Only five to seven of us took the exam. I have no idea how to figure out the pass rate.

Personally, I cannot imagine a school administrator who would balk at a program that saw more than 100 students work overtime just to get into a course like calculus.

Perhaps there is something to cultural relativity after all: in China, that administrator would be shot.