The story of Jaime Escalante, a high school teacher who successfully inspired his dropout prone students to learn calculus.
Release Year: 1988
Rating: 7.2/10 (7,339 voted)
Stars: Edward James Olmos, Estelle Harris, Mark Phelan
Jaime Escalante is a mathematics teacher in a school in a Hispanic neighbourhood. Convinced that his students have potential, he adopts unconventional teaching methods help gang members and no-hopers pass the rigorous Advanced Placement exam in calculus.
Writers: Ramón Menéndez, Tom Musca
Edward James Olmos
(as Mark Eliot)
Heavy Metal Boy
Heavy Metal Boy
(as Rosana De Soto)
A true story about a modern miracle.
Release Date: 11 March 1988
Filming Locations: Garfield High School – 5101 E. 6th Street, Los Angeles, California, USA
Opening Weekend: $411,884
(13 March 1988)
Did You Know?
Selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Registry in December 2011 as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."
When Kemo returns home after thinking his car is stolen, you see that the front windows have curtains closed in them. Once Angel shows up with his car, Kemo goes to the window to see what is happening and the curtains are wide open.
Your husband comes into my restaurant, eats… and he insults me!
Excuse my husband, Mr. Delgado. He just wants what's best for Ana.
She can go to college, come back, teach you how to run the place.
[he leaves money on the table]
[shoves the money back]
I don't want your money. And I don't need your business.
Skip it. Tip.
Wonderful yet depressing movie
Why is this movie depressing? It's a true story about a high school
teacher who managed to motivate a group of struggling students to
attempt one of the greatest academic challenges a high school student
can undertake. It's the true story of the underdogs sticking it to the
system. It's the true story of a teacher fighting the system and
Or did he? Despite the success portrayed in the movie, 1987 was the
high water mark for the Garfield High School AP Calculus program. In
1987, the principal who had supported Escalante with his AP program
went on sabbatical and was replaced by an administrator with a
different academic focus. The teachers' union complained about
Escalante's class sizes and teaching assignments, and petty rivalries
and jealousies abounded, eventually forcing Escalante and his partner
teacher out of the school. Unable to find support for his unorthodox
methods, in 2001, Escalante moved back to his native Bolivia, where he
teaches calculus at a local university.
As much as I love this movie, every time I watch it, I become depressed
all over again. It's been over 25 years since Escalante began the AP
Calculus program at Garfield High, and one would think that the
educational system would learn from him–not only from his example as a
teacher, but also the factors that forced him to leave the school, but
ultimately the country.
It's not just Garfield High School, and it's not just advanced
mathematics. I hear the same words that the naysayer teachers and
administrators spoke in the movie spoken on a daily and weekly basis on
the public high school campus where I teach. I see the same objections
and doubts and obstacles thrown up by the administration and teachers'
union in the movie thrown up by administrations and unions today. I
work every day with the same underprivileged yet eager to be educated
students as Escalante had, students who just need someone to challenge
them and believe in them. And I see my students battle against the same
low expectations and prejudices as the students in the movie faced.
Which leaves me with the question–what has really changed in 25 years?
If this is such an outstanding, motivational movie, why has it not
produced a systemic change? Why are underprivileged yet bright students
routinely passed over and allowed to fail? Why are creative, energetic,
passionate teachers forced out of their schools and even their
professions by school systems unwilling to embrace unorthodox methods,
even if those methods are proved to promote student success? Escalante
poured everything he had into his job. Teaching was his life, his
passion–not only a vocation, but an avocation. He was willing to
sacrifice his personal relationships and his own health for the sake of
the students in which he believed… For what? Nothing has changed. 25+
years later, nothing has changed.
Yes, he made a difference in the lives of those students, and of
students for more years than just those portrayed in the movie, but
once he left, the program essentially left with him. Despite all of his
passion and sacrifice, he effected no systemic change.
And it's that knowledge that, to me, makes this such a depressing film.