Date: Jun 2, 1995 3:14 PM
Author: David Scott Powell
Subject: Re: J. Escalante and L. Lieber

>Date: Fri, 2 Jun 1995 13:12:22 -0600
>To:"Alfred Barron (908) 704-4102" <BARRON%ALLOY.BITNET@pucc.PRINCETON.EDU>
> (David Scott Powell)
>Subject:Re: J. Escalante and L. Lieber
>Alfred Barron wrote:

>>I recently completed the book, 'The Best Teacher in America', which as some
>>of you may know is the story of Jamie Escalante, who was, and presumably still
>>is, a high school math teacher in California. What is interesting about this
>>guy was that he taught calculus to a group of "basic math" kids, relatively
>>impoverished (and presumably incorrigible ?) ones at that. Looking back on my
>>own lmited experience, I'm certainly impressed with his accomplishment. For
>>one it seems to cut across many of the preconceptions which I believe are held
>>sacrosant by many educators and academics. I wonder, for example, how well
>>modern educational modeling methods would do with data from Escalante's East
>>LA schools ? Maybe treat them as outliers ? Any thoughts ?

>Al, to be fair I must say I didn't read the book but I still have some
>observations(I did see the movie "Stand and Deliver") that maybe should be
>thought about.
>(1) Personality: It seems to me that part of the reason Mr. Escalante had
>such great success(at least in terms of his goals) is because of his very
>stricking personality. He seemed to almost will those students to learn and
>nearly died from exhaustion doing it. I personally have never met him but I
>have taught with a teacher who was very similar as far as results and how much
>he could get out of a particular student. I would only caution a comparison
>with him in that not many of us are like that or have enough time in our lives
>to be able to do something like he has done. How many other Escalantes have
>you heard about?
>(2) Situation. Mr. Escalante seemed to be the right person at the right time
>in the right place. Could anyone walk into an east LA highschool and do what
>he did? Could a white teacher get the same results out of those kids? Could
>a teacher who had been in the school for 20 years get the same results? Could
>a young teacher with a family get the same results? I am not trying to say
>what he has done is not great, but it seems like he was THE man to do it.
>Remember, in the movie he gave up his summer(no pay I think) to teach these
>kids. How many of us would be willing and how many kids could we get to do
>(3) Goals. Mr. Escalante had definite goals in mind. Taking kids with not
>much success and training them to be great calculus students. If that is the
>goal of every teacher, would we really be doing our students a favor? He also
>seemed to be able to do what he wanted within the department(possibly because
>of his dominating personality). How many teachers of any age or experience
>would get that sort of power?
>There are many other questions but I think if we start comparing ourselves to
>isolated examples we will never find a true measure(did that make sense at
>all?) of our own abilities, goals and attributes as teachers.
>One persons humble opinion.

Scott Powell
1776 University Ave.
University Lab School
Honolulu, Hi, 96822