Edward James Olmos remained close friends with Jaime Escalante until Escalante's death on March 30, 2010. Olmos even led a campaign to help pay for Escalante's medical bills, a campaign which included cast members from the film and former students of Escalante.
Selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Registry in December 2011 as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."
Jaime Escalante was actually impressed by the movie, stating that it was 'Ninety per cent truth, and ten per cent drama.'
According to Edward James Olmos, he wrote all of his dialogue with Jaime Escalante, and much of it was verbatim what Escalante had said in the real-life situations that were depicted in the film. For instance, Olmos said the dialogue in the scene where Escalante confronts the ETS investigators about the cheating allegations was word for word what Escalante told the ETS in real life.
Although the film is set at Garfield High School in East Los Angeles, most of the scenes were filmed at Roosevelt High School in Boyle Heights, Los Angeles. Ironically, Roosevelt and Garfield are cross-town rival high schools.
Edward James Olmos went through a hair thinning process and gained an estimated 20 pounds for the role of Jaime Escalante.
Andy Garcia was originally cast as one of the students in Jaime Escalante's class, but later convinced the director to give him the role of Dr. Ramirez. This was revealed by Garcia himself in a 1988 interview when the movie was released.