Arizona Academic Decathlon seeks funding after cuts

March 10, 2010

By hammersmith

Arizona Academic Decathlon seeks funding after cuts


Ray Parker, Arizona Republic, March 1, 2010



For 25 years, Arizona’s Academic Decathlon has pitted the best and brightest students in a contest of the mind. This year, it will involve more than 1,000 students from 100 high schools across the state. But next month’s state finals may be bittersweet, and the next year’s may be just plain bitter.


The Arizona Department of Education has cut $82,400 from the program, or slightly more than half of the event’s total budget, which could kill scholarships or even sink the program entirely.


An anonymous supporter has promised $10,000 in matching contributions from any new donors by March 31, but in the current economy, $80,000 is a tall order.  “We have enough in reserves for this year,” said Anne Edelstein, the AAD executive director. “We’ll continue to fundraise for next year, maybe have team fees…but we may not be able to raise it.”


Schools of all forms participate, whether public, charter, private or parochial. Last year, about 170 Arizona students received nearly $150,000 in college scholarships.


Each year, the organization chooses a theme – this year it’s the French Revolution – and the students focus on the topic.


Decathletes, 50 percent of whom are minorities, are challenged to use analytical skills, performance abilities and test-taking in 10 subjects: art, economics, essay, interview, language and literature, math, music, science, speech and the Super Quiz (social science).


The program is both a class and an after-school activity for many participants, who are divided into three categories: students with a grade-point average of 3.75 or higher; 3.0 to 3.74; and below 3.0.

The competition culminates in the Super Quiz, where contestants go head-to-head in answering questions, while their supporters cheer them on.  “In 15 years of education, I have never found a program with the kind of potential… to push students to new limits,” said William Kibler, AD coach at Cesar Chavez High in Phoenix.


“To an outside observer, the tests may seem to be a mere compilation of trivia and facts about the year King Louis XVI was beheaded or the first book written by Rousseau or the primary patron of Joseph Haydn. In reality, Academic Decathlon uses these obscure details to teach students how to learn and learn at a greater depth than the students ever thought possible.”


The Arizona Academic Decathlon finals will be held March 12-13 at Sandra Day O’Connor High in Phoenix. Two events are open to the public on Saturday: the Super Quiz at 1:45 p.m. and the awards ceremony at 5:30 p.m.


The winning team will compete at the national competition on April 21-24 in Omaha, Neb.