What is it? The SPHS Academic Decathlon team is part of the Minnesota and United States Academic Decathlon. Each year, a new curriculum is presented for study, with competitions focusing on testing in ten academic areas: Language and Literature, Math, Art, Music, Science, Social Science, Economics, Essay, Interview and Speech. The curriculum is organized around some broad theme: For 2014-2015, the theme centers around Energy and Innovation.
Leveled Competition - Academic Decathlon is not just for A students. There is a place for anyone who enjoys reading and knowing things. Students compete at three different levels, based on their grade point averages in academic subjects (as determined by the U. S. Academic Decathlon) for the previous two years. Those with GPAs of 3.75 or higher compete in the Honor's Division. The Scholastic Division includes students with GPAs of 3.0 to 3.74. Students with GPAs of 2.99 and lower make up the Varsity Division. When testing at local, regional, state and national levels, students are competing only with students in their own division. A team is made up of three students at each division, with additional alternates possible. The team score in competition is derived from the top two overall scores in each division.
Who are the Alternates? Students "make the team" by being one of the top three scorers in each division at a pre-season "scrimmage," normally held in November or December. Some consideration may also be given to the student's talent for the "performance" categories of Speech, Essay and Interview, which are not part of the scrimmage process. Students who do not finish in the top three may choose to be team alternates, meaning they might be asked to step in for a team member unable to compete at regional or state events. Alternates normally do all the objective tests, but do not participate in Speech, Essay or Interview. If the team advances to national competition, the alternates are not included.
Isn't there a class? Yes, students also have the option to enroll for the Academic Enrichment elective class which uses the curriculum of the Academic Decathlon as its focus each year. This way, a student can prepare for the Decathlon and earn credit at the same time. Since the curriculum changes each year, student can earn credit each year. This course is listed under Gifted & Talented in the registration guide, but is open to all students. Students may select a pass/fail grading option for this rigorous course.
Attendance Policy - The team typically meets after school one day a week. This is often increased to two days a week during the winter months. Attendance at after-school practices is encouraged, but not required. Decathlon is more an individual competition than a team event, and the most effective way to earn top scores is to read and study, which are not easily done in a group. The after-school sessions do provide opportunities for practice testing and review games, also for Speech and Interview practice. Students earn points toward lettering by attending the after-school sessions. Students must be present at 3:00 and stay until 4:00 in order to earn participation points on a given day.
Dress Code - For most AD events, school-appropriate dress is fine. At state competition, students need to dress up for the Speech and Interview events. Men should wear dress pants, a shirt and tie and dress shoes. A suit jacket is very appropriate as well. Women should also have a businesslike appearance -- conservative pants or a skirt and blouse or suit as one would expect a professional to wear. HIgh-heeled shoes, low necklines and exposed midriffs would be extremely inappropriate. If the team decides to design a t-shirt, everyone is expected to order one.
Code of Conduct - Decathletes are expected to conform to the USAD Code of Conduct document which they sign at the beginning of the school year.
Selection of Captains - Academic Decathlon usually does not have a team captain. All experienced team members are expected top help out and especially to provide leadership and support for the younger members.
Lettering Policies - Students may earn an activity letter for Academic Decathlon by accumulating 16,000 points. It usually takes two years of participation to do this. Points are earned in competition and by attending after-school practices. Some special awards have been named after past SPHS decathletes who were the first to achieve the following:
The Aaron Nicket Award - for earning a double letter (32,000 points)
The Ted Bolstad Award - for earning a triple letter (48,000 points)
The Magdelena Morrow Award - for earning a quadruple letter (64,000 points)
The Dan Obermiller Award - for earning a quintuple letter (80,000 points)
The Yoshi Ludwig Award - for earning a medal in national competition
The Karl Hailperin Award - for setting the school record for national medals
The Claire Thoemke Award - for earning an almost perfect score
The Devin Bjelland Award - for participating in national competition for three years
Responsibilities to the Team - Once a student has secured a spot on the Academic Decathlon team, he or she has an enormous responsibility to the rest of the team. Specifically, he or she owes it to the others to:
1. Commit time to the reading and study of the curriculum.
2. Prepare and practice a speech.
3. Be available for the scrimmages and testing events.
4. Be connected to the team by reading and answering email and attending after-school practices as much as possible.