Dec. 7 this year was the 30th anniversary of a story in the metro section of the Los Angeles Times that transformed my career.
The headline was: "14 STUDENTS RETAKE TEST AFTER SCORES ARE DISPUTED - PRINCIPAL CHARGES MINORITY BIAS."
I read it at the breakfast table of my home in Pasadena, Calif. and decided to steal it.
In 1982, I was the Los Angeles bureau chief of The Washington Post.
The bureau was just me and an assistant in a small office in West L.A., but I was good at presenting myself as more important and talented than I was.
That included jumping on stories where some other reporter, in this case Keith Love of the Times, had done the hard work. I just had to add some national perspective on the science and math teaching crisis to make it suitable for The Post.
The story was about 18 Advanced Placement calculus students at Garfield High School in East Los Angeles.
Fourteen of them had scored well on the AP exam but had been accused of cheating by the Educational Testing Service.
Twelve retook the exam under the sharp eyes of two proctors and again did well enough to earn college credit.
Garfield Principal Henry Gradillas told Love that it was a triumph of poor Mexican-American kids over a testing company that didn't think they could handle a tough exam.
The cheating issue was interesting, but I wanted to know how a school like Garfield, with more than 80 percent of students low-income, could have 18 students with enough algebra, geometry and trigonometry to take AP Calculus.
My suburban high school had only four students who reached that level my senior year.
The story said the Garfield calculus teacher was Jaime Escalante. How did he do it?
I found Escalante that day in his third-floor classroom.
He was stocky, with a large square head and a thick Bolivian accent. He also taught algebra to make sure his students started right.