Feb 10, 2019
After a short time working at Garfield High School, Jaime Escalante was asked to take over Advanced Placement calculus. Advanced Placement is a type of examination which offers "college credit", meaning that those who pass have a reduced number of courses that they need to take to get a degree. It's a hard exam, basically.
Escalante wasn't sure about the programme at first, but soon became keen to take it over and expand it. He felt that it gives an objective view of his work and that of his students, and gives them something to strive towards and be competitive about.
Escalante worked hard to push his students. He used every tactic he could think of, from bribes to threats to guilt trips; and he extended study time to before school, after school, lunchtime, and summer break. He worked so hard that one day he had a heart attack, and worked right through it. This story did much to add to his mystique.
The calculus classes expanded: first 5, then 8, then 15, and in 1982 there were 18. That was a fateful year, when his students would be accused of cheating by the Educational Testing Service (ETS). The accusation would draw attention to this burgeoning calculus programme in what all had assumed to be an academic backwater, and national fame followed. But Escalante would not rest on his laurels.
Enjoy the episode.