Education: The Good Teacher

The course called "Refresher Math" at James Lick High School in San Jose, Calif, (pop. 150,000) is a dumping ground for the supposedly unteachable—and the untaught. The math ability of its students runs to about fifth-grade level; their IQs are the school's lowest. This year a phenomenon startling enough to be called a "miracle" by James Lick Principal William Baker is taking place: Refresher Math students are beginning to learn math. Catalyst of the change is a wiry, tireless 36-year-old Turk named Tanju Ergil, who does not own a teaching certificate.

Ergil was hired on a provisional basis last fall to teach...

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