How the system destroyed Stand and Deliver – in real life

It Takes Ganas: Jaime Escalante’s secret to inspired learningIt Takes Ganas

Great teachers are typically unknown beyond the immediate circle of their students, colleagues, and families. That was not the case with Jaime Escalante. Escalante taught calculus with outstanding success at Garfield High, in a tough Hispanic neighborhood of East Lost Angeles. Escalante’s success was portrayed in the 1988 film Stand and Deliver, for which Edward James Olmos, who played Escalante, received an Oscar nomination. At its height, Escalante’s program at Garfield saw 85 students pass the Advanced Placement calculus test, more than at any but a handful of high schools across the nation.

Most people these days, if they remember Escalante, immediately think of Stand and Deliver. That film ended on a high note, celebrating Escalante’s achievements and fame. But few people know what happened thereafter. Escalante’s brilliant math program at Garfield High did not survive his departure in 1991. Within a few years, math scores at the school had settled back into the realm of low expectations where they had stood before his arrival there.

So what happened? It Takes Ganas reviews how Escalante achieved his unprecedented success — indeed, a success that to this day remains unmatched. But it also recounts the largely untold story of the forces of entropy and inertia that quickly returned Garfield High back to the status quo.More.

What puts this book by William Dembski and Alex Thomas at the head of the class, in short, is that it confronts the facts others avoid:  First, despite all the tax-funded blather about excellence, mediocrity is normal by definition. All kids are not above average and never will be.

That part is just life. But steady declines in test scores and sinkholes of predictable low achievement are not normal patterns. They are usually caused events. All we know for sure is that throwing more money at the problems seldom has any influence because lack of money was never a driver in the first place.

You can read the book by clicking on the chapters.

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