Friday, April 30, 2010

The irksome myth about Garfield after Escalante

Mathews dispels a myth about Escalante and Garfield High School:

There is a widespread myth that Garfield High School in East Los Angeles went downhill academically after its superstar math teacher, Jaime Escalante, left the school in 1991.

It is important to understand why this is false. Galvanizing school cultures are maintained by many people, not just hero teachers. Great teachers like Escalante can create such cultures, but the test of their validity is what happens after that teacher leaves.

Over the years I assumed the myth would fade away. But after Escalante died of cancer on March 30, it popped up in several articles…

…That critical mass of hard-working educators has kept Garfield among the elite of inner-city schools for the last two decades. You have to spend some time at Garfield to appreciate what a feat that is. The school is overcrowded. Its average test scores on state tests are at the bottom of the heap, as they were when Escalante was there. No one has found a way to turn every student in inner-city schools into Ivy League prospects. But the people at Garfield have done a better job than the vast majority of teachers elsewhere. With or without Escalante, that deserves some credit.


The irksome myth about Garfield after Escalante

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