Jaime Escalante

Jaime Escalante passed away today.   He was a reformer before it was cool to be one.   LAT obit here.

Update: Here’s Jay Mathews, not surprisingly it’s powerful.

18 Replies to “Jaime Escalante”

  1. Very sad. He was an inspirational figure and will be remembered by all in the education community.

  2. Of course, what Escalante did required years of work. He studied his students and the system for some time before making his moves. Unfortunately, whatever it was he did has not been passed on to the educational system at large.

    Perhaps we don’t really need larger than life heroes. Medicine doesn’t. Bus driving doesn’t. Who doesn’t like Jaime? Well, a lot of his former colleagues. And some of his former students. But nowhere I know of has his approach been implemented on a large scale, like him or not. Modern medicine achieves miracles without any one doctor being the super-doc, inspiring lesser doctors to great heights. I don’t think human psychology really works that way. He went out to prove a point. Point made. But not every teacher can be a Jaime. So what are we to do?

  3. He also kicked kids out who did not perform well and left other teachers to pick up the slack. This is the same strategy employed by KIPP, YES, and other so-called “high-performing” charter schools. Let me kick out the kids who don’t do show up, cause trouble, and don;t do homework, and I can turn any school in the US into a high-performing one within three years.

    This is not to downplay his efforts, but rather a kick in the butt to those like Andy who play the PR game and intentionally mislead rather than be transparent with the good and the bad of different efforts.

  4. Yes, Jaime Escalante was an authentic reformer who reminded us that poor kids can achieve at the highest levels. He also emphasized the importance of student engagement and parental support and admitted that “administrative turnover” and “cultural differences” could affect learning. We’ve lost a very wise man.

  5. Oops! I forgot Jaime’s greatest reform. His greatest “reform” is the fact that he chose to teach high school for many years, even though he had the skills necessary for a technical job at higher pay. Today’s “reformers” would “die” if they had to teach for more than two years, or accept a teacher’s low pay. And right there is the American problem in education.

  6. Billy Bob… what do you actually know about how YES Prep operates? Have you been to a campus, meet kids, families and teachers? Or are you just making irrational assumptions? Having taught and served as an asst. principal at YES Prep, I can tell you from experience that your accusations are wholly false and unfounded and I think it is a slap in the face of our teachers who work their butts off to ensure that students from all neighborhood have a chance at a great education.

  7. Jeremy–I base my “accusations” on actual . . wait for it . . . wait for it . . STUDENT DATA. God forbid someone look at the actual student data for these schools. The low-performing kids and the high-performing kids stay.How hard is it to be “high-performing” if that happens?

  8. Jeremy–watch out, because the actual data on these schools in Texas will soon be released and people will see through the smoke and mirrors.

  9. Billy Bob reminded me of something. Last year I was surprised to find out that a local high school had suddenly become one of the top schools in the United States. I was puzzled by this because the school had previously been quite average. I looked it up and lo and behold it had become a magnet school for the gifted and talented! Yes, the recipe for a “good” school, whether it’s Harvard University or Community Elementary, is to have an entrance exam and admit the highest achievers. This is no secret so let’s stop pretending that it is.

    I am not against selective schools as I sent my own sons to them, but I am very much against pretending that these schools somehow do a better job than the traditional public schools with their unique challenges. Perhaps the very best thing we can do for American education is to admit the truth that should be obvious to all of us.

  10. Want some data? Here’s some data on the students at my YES Prep campus (total of 396 students in 3 grade levels, 6-8): 93% free and reduced lunch (86% free), and 52% Limited English Proficiency, and the current 6th grade class coming in this year on average reading slightly below a 3rd grade level. We have no entrance exam – show up at our door because you don’t want to attend the local traditional public school and you’re in. We take the same kids, with the same problems, the same issues, from the same apartment complexes, as any traditional public school. We hold them to extremely high expectations for their work and behavior and operate in a system that requires teacher collaboration in a true professional learning community, continual parent communication, and constant reflection on our practices and student achievement data to inform all instructional decisions. There are no shortcuts in pushing our students to achieve greatness in the face of adversity. Only through hard work, determination, and finding ways to reach every single student who walks in our door regardless of where they’re starting will we get them to the ultimate finish line: a four-year university. We understand that the path is not an easy one, and we require excellence. When students are simply not ready, we put it upon ourselves to ready them – both academically and socially – to be a productive and successful member of a community. That is the essence of YES Prep, and that is why we are successful. Bring on the data – we’re ready to prove to the rest of the country that regardless of where a student is from or the color of their skin, with excellent teachers and high expectations, all students can achieve. I see it every day.

  11. I am writing in to honor Jaime Escalante. He was a fine educator who made a difference in many people’s lives. I am an African American woman who entered education, partially because of his example. I thought that this blog would be a place where we honor him and all of those educators who work long hours, who spend their own money on supplies, and who go the extra mile to lift up their students (Yes, this includes many reformers), not a place for people to come and fight because they have differing political beliefs. It is sad, that we can’t stop the political bantering for just one moment to pause, reflect and to pay our respects. Really?

  12. Djphoenix. Thank you for humbling me. Jaime Escalante was an amazing teacher who set the bar for excellence in inner city education. His dedication and determination paved the way for the reason I am able to fight the fight I am fighting today. Sadly and ironically, we read an article about Jaime with our 6th grade class on Tuesday afternoon to raise awareness about Jaime’s work with our students and to praise him for motivating so many people to join in the efforts to give underpriveledged children the chance they deserve to succeed. We set up a fundraiser to raise money to help him beat his cancer, and unfortunately, he passed away that evening. The money we are raising will go to help others suffering from the same cancer that took his life. I appreciate your comment as it has reminded me why I read this blog in the first place.

  13. Jaime Escalante was one of a kind! Two weeks before he passed away, I had the privilege of adding a discussion thread about an inspirational movie on my school post. I chose ‘Stand and Deliver’ for this mini-project. I am inspired by this reformer from whom many highly effective teachers had found their inspiration.

  14. His most enduring lesson is that all children can learn and excel–as long as they have the right teacher. And we must all speak up to get the right teachers in the classroom for all our children.

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