02 August 2009

Leave and Wither ~ Escalante vs Unions & Idiots

Thanks to Christian Bailey for spotting this 2002 piece by Jerry Jesness in REASON on Stand and Deliver Revisited: The untold story behind the famous rise -- and shameful fall -- of Jaime Escalante, America's master math teacher. Together with key colleagues, Escalante built up a multi-year mathematics program at Los Angeles-based Garfield High, including most famously calculus and preparation for the advanced placement test. Wonderful stuff, dramatized in the great Stand and Deliver movie, except...
"It is less well-known that Escalante left Garfield after problems with colleagues and administrators, and that his calculus program withered in his absence. That untold story highlights much that is wrong with public schooling in the United States and offers some valuable insights into the workings -- and failings -- of our education system. By 1990, Escalante's math enrichment program involved over 400 students in classes ranging from beginning algebra to advanced calculus. Escalante and his fellow teachers referred to their program as "the dynasty," boasting that it would someday involve more than 1,000 students. That goal was never met. In 1991 Escalante decided to leave Garfield. All his fellow math enrichment teachers soon left as well. By 1996, the dynasty was not even a minor fiefdom. Only seven students passed the regular ("AB") test that year, with four passing the BC exam -- 11 students total, down from a high of 85. In any field but education, the combination of such a dramatic rise and such a precipitous fall would have invited analysis. If a team begins losing after a coach is replaced, sports fans are outraged. The decline of Garfield's math program, however, went largely unnoticed."
Why did this happen? As Jesness documents in his piece, it's a sad story of idiot administrators, anti-education unions, jealous colleagues, and worse.

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