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Stand and Deliver (1987) - Overview, Synopsis, Critique

students jaimie school test

Principal social themes: education/literacy, racism/civil rights

Warner Brothers. PG rating. Featuring: Edward James Olmos, Lou Diamond Phillips, Rosana de Soto, Andy Garcia, Will Gotay, Ingrid Oliu, Virginia Paris, Vanessa Marquez, Mark Eliot, Patrick Raca, Lydia Nicole, Daniel Villarreal, Carmen Argenziano, James Victor, Michael Goldfinger, Rif Hutton, Betty Carvalho, Karla Mintana. Written by Ramon Menendez and Tom Musca. Cinematography by Tom Richmond. Edited by Nancy Richardson. Music by Craig Safan. Produced by Tom Musca. Directed by Ramon Menendez. Color. 105 minutes.


Stand and Deliver is an exceptional motivational story based on the incredible success of mathematics teacher Jaimie Escalante. Since 1982, he prepared a number of average students from Garfield High School, a rundown urban school in a poor area of East Los Angeles, to pass the very difficult Advance Placement Test in Calculus. Edward James Olmos worked closely with the real-life Jaimie Escalante to capture his style and technique of motivating students.


Jaimie Escalante is a successful computer expert who decides to leave his high-paying job to take a teaching position at Garfield High School in East Los Angeles. When he reports to work, he learns that budget cuts have eliminated funding for school computers. Instead, he is asked to teach basic math, and he agrees. His students, all Hispanics, seem uninterested and even frightened of basic math. Jaimie experiments with new techniques to stimulate them. For example, he dresses like a chef and slices up apples, which he distributes to the class. He uses them as props to explain fractions. Some of his students are gang members, but Jaimie inspires one of them, Angel Guzman (Lou Diamond Phillips), into becoming one of his best students. At teacher meetings, Jaimie notices that the teachers are discouraged. The test scores are Garfield are low, and the administration is afraid the school might lose its accreditation. To inspire morale, Jaimie proposes a radical idea. He asks to prepare his math class to take the national Advance Placement Calculus Test, one of the most challenging of all preparatory tests that can earn early college credits for students who pass. Success in this area would capture the attention of the state. The head of the math department is aghast because calculus is not even taught at Garfield. She resigns when Jaimie’s idea is approved. He convinces eighteen students to enroll in this special project. He asks them to sign contracts to attend extra classes with him before and after regular school hours to prepare for the test.

The students begin to make exceptional progress. Jaimie overextends himself, however, when he starts to teach evening literacy classes for adults and suffers a heart attack. A substitute teacher carries on for him, and Jaimie returns to work sooner than expected, ignoring his doctor’s suggestion to take several weeks of rest. Jaimie continues to drill his students, sometimes in unorthodox ways, but they all seem to respond. When they take the test, the results are extraordinary. All eighteen pass with flying colors, the highest number of successful students from any school in southern California. The national board that oversees the test, however, sends each student a letter that questions the results. They suspect cheating. A two-person investigating team grills all of the students. Jaimie and the students are insulted by this turn of events. Jaimie calls on the investigators, accusing them and the board of racism (in spite of the fact that one investigator is black and the other Hispanic). The students volunteer to take the test again, but are only given twenty-four hours to prepare. Jaimie runs an all-night review session to help. The two investigators administer the test, which is more difficult than the original exam. Nevertheless, all the students pass. As Jaimie walks proudly down the school corridor after hearing the results, an end scrawl reveals that each year, an increasing number of Garfield High School students take Jaimie’s challenge seminar, and by 1987, the success rate is amazing, as a total of eighty-seven students take and pass the Advance Placement Calculus test.


Stand and Deliver is a unique film, concentrating its efforts on making the simple act of learning seem like an exhilarating adventure. Although widely acclaimed, several teachers’ organizations voiced criticism of the film since the hero, Jaimie Escalante, enters the educational system as a virtual outsider, whose accomplishments far exceed those of dedicated teachers who devote a lifetime to their craft. Since the story and Escalante’s achievements are true, these complaints ring hollow. Some of Escalante’s approaches to teaching are undoubtedly unconventional, but they merit study. He praises math to his class as “the great equalizer” before which no student has any advantage despite their ethnic background. In fact, Escalante tries to install a sense of pride since many Hispanics have Indian blood in their backgrounds and the Mayans invented the concept of zero, an idea that eluded both the Greeks and Romans. He also tries to form his mathematical examples on relevant topics that might engage the students and make the subject seem exciting? He uses humor, pep talks, biting satire, and games to raise the enthusiasm of his class. However, he is also very demanding, using frequent quizzes and insisting that his students come to class prepared. If any of his students need help, Escalante is also willing to take an extra step to aid them. When a promising student announces that her parents are planning to take her out of school, he visits them to plead her case in person. He manages to gain the students’ respect, and they respond by studying hard and achieving far beyond their normal level. They also respond in other unexpected ways. When Jaimie’s car is stolen, Angel and his old gang members track it down and repair the car so it seems better than new. There are drawbacks as well to Escalante’s methods and personality. He sometimes loses patience and drives some people too hard (including himself). His own family often feels neglected when Jaimie becomes too obsessed with his work. His temper, when aroused, is terrible. He even threatens the investigators when he feels his students are being discriminated against because of their ethnic background. Edward James Olmos gives a dynamic performance as Jaimie, warts and all. His single-minded dedication to excellence is refreshing and an inspiration.

Standards and Imaging Materials - Importance of Standards, Specifications, Test methods, American National Standards Institute, The Institute’s role, The Institute’s governance [next] [back] Stance, Emanuel(1843–1887) - Soldier, Chronology, Wins Congressional Medal of Honor

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almost 6 years ago

Wow! Thank you for this article! I understand more the film!