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  • Time to Stand and Deliver Education Reform: A Tribute to Jaime Escalante

    Former East Los Angeles high school teacher, Jaime Escalante, whose exemplary teaching led to the inspiring film Stand and Deliver, passed away last week. As a math teacher at Garfield High School, Escalante was able to motivate inner-city students to achieve top scores on advanced placement calculus. His influence on the school’s math program and its students led to its becoming one of the top public high schools in the country for the number of advanced placement calculus students it produced. Only four other public high schools nationwide could boast greater success. Not even the neighboring, upscale Beverly Hills High outpaced them. Today we would say that Mr. Escalante was closing the achievement gap.

    Then why was he ousted as the head of the school’s math department in the early 90s? Andrew Coulson reports in the Wall Street Journal that it was due to the opposition of teacher’s unions. Not wanting to turn students away, Escalante would fill his classroom with upwards of 50 students, whereas the union only allowed 35. However, because his students still excelled it lowered the union’s bargaining power and created resentment. As a result, Escalante left the school. Its math program no longer achieves near the same level of success.

    An educational system that sacrifices the education of its children at the hands of powerful interests groups is a broken system.

    A most recent example of this dysfunction is the opposition to the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program. Similar to Mr. Escalante’s success, this program has helped inner-city students in D.C. succeed. This program provides children from low-income families in D.C.–one of the lowest-achieving school districts in the nation–with a scholarship to attend a private school of their choice. The latest study results show that these students are outpacing their peers in the public schools. Furthermore, the scholarships cost less than half of the price taxpayers spend to send a child to a failing D.C. public school. Yet, Congress has blocked new students from entering the program and wants to shut it down, again due to opposition from teachers’ unions.

    Instead, the Obama administration is proposing similar, top-down approaches that have failed in the past. The most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress report shows that American students’ math and reading scores have remained relatively flat, despite continual increases in federal education spending. Greater control at the federal level will only lead to more constraints that discourage innovators like Escalante and programs like the DC Opportunity Scholarship, as well as other ground-breaking successes, such as the KIPP charter schools around the nation.

    Florida can also be looked to as an example of success when states innovate outside the bureaucratic boxes handed down from Washington. A variety of school reform options have been put in place there–including school choice options–and unlike student scores in the rest of the nation, children from the Sunshine State are improving their test scores. Once again these innovations have led to a diminishing achievement gap, with Hispanic and African American students making the greatest gains. Hispanic students in Florida now outpace or tie the reading scores of all students in 30 states; and fourth-grade African American students in the state outpace or tie all children in 8 states.

    If the United States wants to improve education and help children succeed, it can no longer afford to bend to the will of special interest groups. Driving away the talent of those like Mr. Escalante and blocking programs that pull D.C. children out of failing schools and up to greater achievement, are reprehensible. As did Jaime Escalante, we need to stand for children and deliver them the best educational options.

    Posted in Education [slideshow_deploy]

    16 Responses to Time to Stand and Deliver Education Reform: A Tribute to Jaime Escalante

    1. MJF, CT says:

      Maybe it's time the teacher's union does some bending to the will of the People and the students! The teacher's union, as with all other unions, have out grown their usefulness. They (all unions) harbor incompetent employees from being released, dumb the members down so it becomes useless to try to excel (why bother when the person next to you is a waste and gets paid the same as you). Unions have driven up the price of products and services with their excessive raises and recently pulled a 'back room deal" on the ObamaCare issue.

    2. Jim Blockey, Las Veg says:

      If you watched the movie or his career you should have noticed one thing… the first thing he did was immediately remove any student that was disruptive. Discipline was the FIRST rule and his HIGHEST expectation and that is why he could handle 50 students.

      He was a great teacher and great motivator, but the first thing he realized was… If you have a cure for cancer and no one listens, you have nothing. It was ultimately the student’s decision to want a better life for themselves and to be respectful to themselves and other s around them.

      That is a quote from the book "Teachers… It Ain't Your Fault." The author of this book was terminated the same week it was released.

    3. Paul Dibble, Ada, MI says:

      A good article, but I am not as optimistic as the author that meaningful reforms will come from the public school system, even if managed at the state or local level. I would like to see Heritage place more emphasis on private and home schools. Students in these schools consistently out-perform their public school counterparts. As a bonus, these children (and parents) don't look to the government for the answers or for help. In the great tradition of America, they look to themselves.

    4. The Screaming Eagle, says:

      This mans life should be a rally cry to let teachers TEACH, and to get the government and the unions OUT of education!!!!

      Reposted this story here to help spread the word! http://bit.ly/cyutWE

      We need smaller government so we can have more larger than life people!!

    5. Paul, Delaware says:

      The NEA needs declawing. Its generations overdue!

    6. Aaron, Indiana says:

      What we need is to get rid of the Federal Dept of Un-education. Every state has a Dept of education.

    7. John Tripp says:

      I view the K-12 system of education in the U.S. to be the most pressing problem in our domestic policy agenda. The University system has always been a quagmire of socialism or worse, but if the graduates reaching that level could think for themselves, instead of repeating the indoctrintion speaches of their lower ed. faculty, the debate would be much more "educational" to the students sitting on the fence. No longer could these Columbia U. types and the Ward Churchills of the system get away with flunking a student for not adhering to their viewpoints. We need vigorous debate, but only if it is on a two way street.

    8. Billie says:

      When did public schools start DUMMYING DOWN the youth of America? When government unions became more prevalent! It is a stated fact everything that works, obama disregards, clearly stating, Obama does not want the youth of America to establish an IQ of success or free thinking or the ability to figure things out for themselves. Get government out of schools and unemploy the unions.

    9. Billie says:

      I'd also like to mention that taxpayers should expect all public school teachers to be this willed to make a difference in the education of his students.

      God bless you, Mr. Escalante. You are the kind of teacher necessary to advance the education of the youth.

    10. Terry, Idaho says:

      What a loss to our education system! Perfect proof how the unions and government can ruin a system out of laziness and greed. Ever wonder why home schooling is taking off in this country? My deepest sympathies to the Jaime Escalante family. He was a true hero for doing so much to help others achieve a better chance at life.

    11. Awsome report says:

      One of the finest pieces of work I have seen in a long tine and I as you Grandmother can say it makes me very proud to have had the chance to read it and make a copy for myself.

      Rachel I AM VERY PROUD OF YOU; Your grandma Ada Marie

    12. Mary says:

      Another example as to how the unions became a useless-abusive thing–Someone goes above and beyond the union low-standard and others are up in arms about their success. Shameful !

    13. Lisa says:

      What a well-written article.

      As you probably know, we homeschool our children. You also may or may not know that my husband is a public elementary school teacher.

      I think teachers like Mr. Escalante are amazing, and should be left alone to do what they do best. I think there can be frustration, though, in taking his experience and making that the expectation for all teachers. He taught an elective and had the freedom to dismiss students who did not want to be there, and distracted the other students. That isn't an option for all teachers. Classroom management is a huge issue in many schools. Not because teachers don't have the skills, but because there are so few options. One clown can distract several students. An elementary teacher doesn't have the power to send that child home, or often, even to the principal. More and more, a teacher may have several children with an Individual Education Plan, meaning that they have to make various and unique accommodations for each of those children. Also, more and more, children that are in special education classes are being put into regular classes. All of this without an aid to help with these extra needs.

      Often "people" talk of having low expectations or "dumbing down the curriculum". What is a teacher to do when he or she goes to present the scheduled material, and he sees that the majority don't know what he is talking about? He can't just plow on with his lesson, he has to slow down and back up. What is he or she to do when the focus of the district is giving all your "extra" time to the lowest students?

      Last point. While I am no fan of the unions, I can understand how teachers are a little concerned about charter schools and public-funded private schools. I would imagine that most children who go to these schools and use these programs come from homes where education is important to the parents, and they take an active role in it. I have not looked at statistics on this, so I could be wrong. That means that, most likely, the public schools will have a higher percentage of students who receive minimal support at home and who have the biggest behavioral issues. These classes and schools will then be compared to the charters and private schools, and be punished for not measuring up.

      These are some thoughts I have had for a while. Thanks for allowing me to share!

    14. Matt, Ca says:

      This man was a real teacher with a real purpose not just putting in time

      as a teacher. That is why there has to be some kind of incentive program

      in the public school system, where the best teachers are rewarded and

      those that don' t make it move on. Also the unions have ruined the system

      and you have far too many administrators who are paid outrageous salaries.

      Because the way the system is now, it will be almost impossibel to change

      it. The system is just too top heavy!!

    15. Matt, Ca says:

      This man was a real teacher with a real purpose not just putting in time

      as a teacher. That is why there has to be some kind of incentive program

      in the public school system, where the best teachers are rewarded and

      those that don' t make it move on. Also the unions have ruined the system

      and you have far too many administrators who are paid outrageous salaries.

      Because the way the system is now, it will be almost impossible to change

      it. The system is just too top heavy!!

    16. Melanie, NC says:

      Being a teacher for 11 years, I see that there are many flaws in every system. I taught in 3 other states before coming to NC. What needs to happen is a cleansing of the Central Offices. Superintendents do not need to make any more than $10,000 over the highest paid teacher in that particular county. My last superintendent was making $250,000 per year AND receiving a supplement pay around $300,000! What made them royalty??

      We, as teachers, work hard for the little we get paid and put back into our classroom monetarily because the district thinks paying that superintendent is more important than putting paper, pencils, and science experiment materials into their classrooms.

      Granted there are teachers out there that do not perform. That's why people are so upset. The few mess it up for everyone else. They want to tie my paycheck to testing of my students who could care less if they pass it our not. Is it fair for me to be held accountable when they are not?

      I do feel there needs to be a cleansing from the Dept. of Ed in DC down to the local districts. Unions do have some power in some states…. NOT ALL! The Dept. of Ed was created by Jimmy Carter. Up until then, I feel my parents who graduated in the 60's got a better education then some of the kids today.

      Lastly, there are great teachers out there who do not want the glamor and a ton of praise. If that teacher teaches your child, THANK THEM! That's all they want. Thankful parents and respectful children.

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