Jaime Escalante, Inspiration for ‘Stand and Deliver,’ Dies at 79

BY jbreslow  March 31, 2010 at 1:11 PM EDT

Jaime Escalante, the former Los Angeles mathematics teacher whose work with low-income students inspired the 1988 film “Stand and Deliver,” died Tuesday after a battle with bladder cancer. He was 79.

Escalante was a strong advocate for education reform, pushing throughout his career for tougher standards for students and educators alike.

In 1982, he gained national attention after 14 of his students were accused of cheating on the Advancement Placement calculus exam. Twelve of the 14 were later vindicated after retaking the exam and passing for a second time. The story of their achievement, and Escalante’s role in helping them overcome the limitations of a struggling inner-city high school, became the subject of the award-winning film starring actor Edward James Olmos.

The Washington Post republished its 1982 account of Escalante’s attention-grabbing instructional accomplishments.

“Jaime exposed one of the most dangerous myths of our time — that inner city students can’t be expected to perform at the highest levels,” Olmos told the Associated Press. “Because of him, that destructive idea has been shattered forever.”

Here’s a clip from “Stand and Deliver”:

In an interview with the Futures Channel, Escalante discusses what it takes to be a successful teacher:

Escalante died at his son’s home in Reno, Nev. He is survived by his wife, two sons and six grandchildren.