Thursday, February 02, 2006

Jaime Escalante

Every math teacher has seen the movie Stand And Deliver, and probably most math students have, too! Teacher Magazine recently interviewed the real Jaime Escalante and posted the interview here. The web site background makes the interview very difficult to read, but here are some interesting snippets:

Q. After leaving Garfield in 1991, you went to Hiram W. Johnson High School in Sacramento, where you taught for seven years. How long did you stay in the United States after retiring?

A. It was only one year. This is what happened. I had a grant from the National Science Foundation. I had this problem with UTLA [the United Teachers Los Angeles union]. I had no choice; I had to leave [Garfield]. My wife picked Sacramento. I had about $35,000 left [from the grant], and I brought that money [to Johnson High] to continue my program. We did the AP calculus for one year. Next, we applied again for the grant. The Clinton administration cut [it] completely. And when we asked, “Why are you cutting this kind of program that had such tremendous success at Garfield High School when we could do the same kind of thing here at Johnson High School?” they said, “We’re not interested in that.”

Q. Which program was that?

A. The one I had at Garfield High, the math enrichment program, the one that created so many good students. Clinton cut it completely. That’s the reason we went back to Bolivia.

Q. What do you think of the No Child Left Behind law that has fostered so many state tests?

A. If the test is going to be like we used to do—to see how this kid’s doing ... at the beginning of the school year ... and then at the end of the semester—I do agree with that. But the other thing ... you have to do is analyze the things in the curriculum. You have to emphasize the basics. Like, for instance, a kid knows fractions, knows arithmetic, I guarantee this kid’s going to have success in algebra.

Q. Do you think it’s good for the schools to be judged by the results of the state tests?

A. I would say yes. You have to go according to the curriculum, especially in the achievement tests. It’s a good gauge. If the kids go through that, you know you’re teaching. If the kids don’t do well, you’re wasting time. That kind of test [is] going to make [an] evaluation of the kinds of schools we have.

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