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Film Blamed for Lower Test Scores of Students of Famed Teacher

August 19, 1988

EAST LOS ANGELES (AP) _ ″Stand and Deliver″ celebrated on film the success of a real inner-city high school calculus teacher and his students, but in an ironic twist the film apparently led to a drop in the latest test scores.

The dip in the James A. Garfield High School scores wasn’t dramatic, but bore out instructor Jaime Escalante’s concerns, according to his principal.

″He said the kids saw the movie so many times they thought passing the test was going to be as easy as the movie made it out to be,″ Principal Maria Elena Tostado said Thursday. ″He said they didn’t know it was so much hard work.″

The Warner Bros. film, starring Edward James Olmos as Escalante, told the story of the instructor’s phenomenal success in teaching calculus to average students at Garfield in 1982, and their triumph over accusations that they cheated on the advanced placement exam.

According to College Board results, 55 of the 119 Garfield students who took the rigorous mathematics exam in May got a passing score of 3 or higher on a scale of 1 to 5.

That represents a passing rate of 46 percent, down from 65 percent last year.

This year’s percentage was the lowest in the nine years the test has been offered at Garfield. However, more students took the test this year than in any previous year except 1987.

″We went a little down, but that’s OK, considering all the confusion and activity we had all year long,″ Ms. Tostado said.

In interviews after the movie opened, Escalante said constant interruptions by visitors - including Vice President George Bush - were distracting and that ″the kids are paying for it.″

The school, which serves a poor community where few parents have college educations, ranked sixth in the nation among all schools that had passing scores on the beginning calculus exam and 59th among schools that had passing marks on the advanced calculus test.

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