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EDUCATION : Escalante Will Stand and Deliver at Garfield 2 More Years

April 12, 1990|JEORDAN LEGON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Celebrated calculus instructor Jaime Escalante, who announced in late February that he would leave Garfield High School, has decided "after some thought" to stay there for at least two more years.

"Everything is cool now," the 59-year-old Escalante said. "For the time being, I will stay here. This is where I belong and the kids appreciate what I do."

Escalante's success at teaching calculus to inner-city Latino students was the subject of the 1988 movie "Stand and Deliver."

The Bolivian-born educator had told reporters he would leave Garfield, possibly at the end of this school year. His reasons for leaving, he had said, were frustration over parents who do not value academic achievement, jealousy and lack of recognition on the part of fellow teachers and inadequate administrative support.

"All those things accumulated, and I decided it was time to pack my bags and be on my way," Escalante explained.

But after speaking to district officials and receiving more than 500 letters asking him to stay at Garfield, Escalante said he had a change of heart and decided not to leave. He said he turned down a number of job offers, including one from Pasadena City College and another from USC. Escalante also said that President George Bush and Gov. George Deukmejian both called him and asked him to work in some facet of federal or state education.

A major factor in his decision to continue teaching at the school, Escalante said, was supervising a National Science Foundation program in East Los Angeles College, which draws about 1,000 students every year. The program teaches mainly low-income Latino students accelerated mathematics, science and English classes and trains teachers in Escalante's methods.

"If I left, I couldn't do that program," he said, adding that 85% of its students "are from East L.A., mostly from Garfield. If I left the school I would lose my recruitment network and I would have to give preference to my new job."

"I have a three-year commitment to the National Science Foundation, and I've only completed one year," he said. "After some thought, I knew I could not leave the program halfway through. But I cannot predict what will happen in the future."

Escalante said his original announcement was primarily the result of three letters he received from parents whose children wanted to drop advanced math classes. To date, Escalante said only one of the students has dropped the class and the other two have apologized. "We had a misunderstanding," he said. "Those parents who wrote the letters were not allowing me to achieve my goals as an educator. We all have to work together to give the kid a good education, but we weren't doing that."

In 1982, the results of the advanced placement calculus test at Garfield High were so stunning that the Educational Testing Service, which administers the exam, accused Escalante's students of cheating. After taking the exam a second time, most of his students passed.

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