Stand Deliver Summary Essay



SUBJECTS — U.S./1945 - 1991, Diversity & California; Mathematics;
        Literature/Literary Devices: character development, symbols, subplot,
        foils and irony;
SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL LEARNING — Male Role Model; Self-Esteem; Education;
MORAL-ETHICAL EMPHASIS --- Trustworthiness;Responsibility; Citizenship.

Age: 12+; MPAA Rating -- PG; Drama; 1987; 105 minutes; Color. Available from

Description: This film is a dramatization of the efforts of a math teacher, Jaime Escalante, at Garfield High School in Los Angeles, whose motivational skills and teaching techniques brought academic success to students accustomed to failure. In 1982, eighteen of his students passed the Advanced Placement Test in Calculus, a success story muddied by charges of cheating when it was discovered that twelve of his students gave the same incorrect answer to one question on the test. The story reveals the response by the Educational Testing Service, the organization responsible for AP exams, and raises questions of racism. Not known to the moviemakers was strong evidence that cheating did, in fact, occur on the first AP Exam. However, when retested under strict scrutiny, the students passed a second exam. For information on this twist in the story, click here.

Rationale for Using the Movie: Stand and Deliver is inspirational to all students. It also shows how, with hard work, the barriers a disadvantaged background can be overcome. There is clear and obvious use of several literary devices.

Objectives/Student Outcomes Using this Learning Guide: Students will recognize and explain the literary devices of symbol, foil and irony and the use of these devices to elucidate theme. Students will exercise their writing skills.

Possible Problems: Smoking, alcohol use and allusions to sexuality are shown in the film. There are many incidences of profanity. The film telescopes four years of math study into one year and presents an inaccurate rendition of the facts relating to the dispute with the ETS.



Before showing the movie, tell students that the story of movie is pretty much true except in a few respects that you'll tell them about at the end of the movie. Tell students to watch how one of the characters, a boy named "Angel" dresses. What are the moviemakers trying to tell us about him through his clothing?

Post-Viewing Comments

When the movie is over, tell students that:

    (1) Mr. Escalante worked for six years before the breakthrough 1982 test in which 18 Garfield High students demonstrated that they had mastered calculus. He started by encouraging area middle schools to offer algebra in their eighth and ninth grades to help students acquire the background necessary to understand calculus. He taught summer school for student who wanted to upgrade their math skills.

    (2) There is strong evidence that the students did cheat. Twelve of them used an identical incorrect formula for the one of the problems and also made an identical mathematical error while simplifying a fraction, a task they had performed successfully thousands of times before. In interviews years later with a journalist, two of the students admitted that there was cheating on that one particular question, but later withdrew their admissions. However, they did know their calculus because a few months later, when they were tested again, under strict scrutiny, and they all passed. Teachers may want to have students read TWM's Stand and Deliver Handout (.doc) as homework after seeing the movie.

Jaime Escalante

In the movie “Stand and Deliver,” the story of Jaime Escalante who taught at the inner city school of Garfield High in East Los Angeles was brought to the big screen.  Mr. Escalante was a teacher who believed that every student could learn if given the right motivation.  His successes and hardships were dramatized through the use of this film.  During the 1980s, Escalante, a role model for many of us that were in education classes at that time, took a group of low functioning unsuccessful students and taught them calculus.  He was at a poor public school that received none of the funding or benefits of the richer private schools; yet, he successfully taught and had many of his students pass the AP Calculus test.  As we see in the movie, the state questioned the validity of the testing and insisted that the students retake the test.    His methods were unconventional and this got a lot of teachers and administrators angry.  His style of meeting the student’s needs and demanding 100% participation in his program were a bit too much for many to agree with.  He went these kids’ homes, had them in his home and became involved on a personal level.  It is questionable as to whether or not his methods would work in most communities.  If I started going into my student’s homes and demanding that they stay after school, come in early, and follow my program without question I would probably be fired in today’s educational systems.

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