With dreams of winning a seventh consecutive national Academic Decathlon title for L.A. Unified, 58 teams will compete Saturday in the second half of the brain-busting contest as they test their knowledge of India.
Some 500 students will gather at the Roybal Learning Center for a grueling day of tests – seven objective exams in topics including art and science, math and literature. At 4 p.m., students will participate in the oral Super Quiz, the only event open to the public. Those results will be tallied with scores from the essay, speech and interview events held last weekend. The winners will be announced during a Feb. 12 awards ceremony at Hollywood High.
“These are the most phenomenal decathletes I’ve seen in my 16 years with the program,” said Cliff Ker, the District’s Academic Decathlon coordinator. “The speeches and interviews last weekend were just wonderful, and I know that we’re going to see great results.”
L.A. Unified is considered an Academic Decathlon powerhouse, winning 16 of the 31 national titles since the prestigious event was launched in 1982. El Camino Real High has a record six championships. The current title-holder, Granada Hills High, has four national awards.
Ker said the District’s chances look good again this year, based on the results of a national scrimmage held in November. Marshall High, which won the top award in 1987 and 1995, took first place, with Franklin, El Camino and Granada Hills High schools taking the next three spots.
Students spend all year studying for the decathlon, in which teams test their intellectual skills against those from other schools. They are tested in 10 categories: art, economics, essay, interview, language and literature, mathematics, music, science, social science and speech. The theme of this year’s study is India – from the pre-Colonial era to the present.
Countywide decathlons are held across California, with the winners competing for the state title. Because of its size, L.A. Unified has its own event. The winner of the state decathlon in March will represent California the following month at the national finals in Anchorage, Alaska.
“The kids are studying really hard because the subject matter is so difficult and so complete,” Ker said. “But these kids really love it. They think it’s really cool.”