We interrupt science and Home Ec blogging to do a little mommy bragging. My daughter has been a stress monster as she and her team prepared for Academic Decathlon competition. Unlike competitive athletics, where performance over an entire season determines who goes on to compete at the next level, AcaDec has just one competition spread out over two Saturdays: subjective events the first week, multiple choice subject exams and Super Quiz the next. It's a great deal of pressure. I wish there was a longer season so that a single bad day doesn't stop a team.
We won't have the total results until February 12, but early indications are good. They tied for first in the "Super Quiz" team competition event. Inexplicably, the LA Times article mentioned that Redondo Union had tied for first, but only quoted other teams.
AcaDec is the kind of integrated curriculum that I favor. Each year has a theme such as the First World War. They study and take tests in the music, art, literature, social science and economics of the era. Math and science themes also vary, but do not necessarily have anything to do with the main theme. This year, the kids are tested on algebra/trigonometry and genomics. Last year's math test focused on statistics and another science topic.
According to the LAT article, the co-winning Super Quiz team held 24 hour weekend practices and studied until 10 or 11 o'clock at night. Iris' coach believes in keeping it fun and held optional after-school practices until 5:30 once or twice a week. Kids could and did study independently, but her philosophy is not to pressure kids out of their childhood.
Many schools find enough money to pay for multiple coaches for different subjects. However, Redondo and the highly ranked Torrance teams have just one coach. Redondo's is an English teacher so the older kids who have already taken the math and science classes teach the younger kids. It's really quite cute and Montessori-like. I helped coach math a few afternoons a month.
For context, it's important to note that Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) and Los Angeles County outside of LAUSD hold separate competitions. The populations of Los Angeles, the county, and Los Angeles, the city are 11 and 4 million respectively. Although LAUSD draws from a smaller pool, their teams are VERY competitive, winning state and nationals more often than not. LAUSD is a huge school district. Not surprisingly, some of their schools are among the best and worst in the nation.
Los Angeles County excluding LAUSD tends to be the second most competitive league in the nation, so just placing in the top ten is an honor. If LA county (excl LAUSD) were a state, it would have about 7 million residents--more than Washington state, the 13th most populous state. Whatever their final ranking in the league, we are very proud of her and their entire team.
Of course, the kids want to go all the way to nationals because they are held in Hawaii this year. ;-) But, when I helped out at practice, and saw the sunset over the ocean outside the classroom, I think these kids are already living the dream. Their school is situated on a hill above King Harbor, with spectacular views of the Santa Monica bay. How many kids dream of living in a southern California beach town with views like that?