What is the Idaho Academic Decathlon?

The decathlon is a ten-event academic competition for high school students in grades 9-12. The Idaho Academic Decathlon is a non-profit Idaho corporation that oversees the competitions for the State of Idaho. The IAD is run by an active Board of Directors and an Executive Director. One member of the Board is the liaison from the Idaho State Department of Education. It is supported by funds from educational entities, corporate sponsors, school registration fees, and by personal donations. Meets are held at member schools to help keep costs at a minimum.

How Does One Start a Team?

First of all, the coach must be someone who is most interested in working with students in preparation for an academic competition much like the coach of a football or basketball team for a game. However, the Academic Decathlon year begins with the study guide and some materials being available at the beginning of the summer months in preparation for the next school year competitions. The support of the school Principal is most important. He/she must endorse the competition in his/her school and provide for financial assistance for the coach and for purchase of study materials. All high schools, public and private, in Idaho are eligible to participate. The state director for Idaho is Jerry Helgeson who can best be reached by clicking here

Why is the Academic Decathlon Considered the Premier Academic Competition in America?

Any competition that helps a student become learned can be valuable. The Academic Decathlon prides itself in having two major differences from other academic competitions. The first is the variety of topics studied each year. Six subject areas plus a theme topic Super Quiz comprise much of the studies. In addition to the subjects, three communication events – Speech, Interview and Essay – round out the ten events. The second major consideration is the fact that the decathlon has the students competing against others in the same GPA category. The categories are Honors (3.75-4.00), Scholastic (3.00-3.749) and Varsity (under 3.00) and the GPA’s are based mainly on the academic subjects related to the topics of the decathlon. A full team consists of having three students in each of these categories.

How Long Has the Program Been in Existence?

The Academic Decathlon was founded in 1968 by Dr. Robert Peterson who was, at that time, Superintendent of the Orange County School District in California. In 1972, the competition went statewide in California and, in 1982, the United States Academic Decathlon held the first National Finals at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.

What is the Format of a Decathlon Meet?

In Idaho, we have three meets, one on the first weekend of December, the second near the end of January, and the third one is our state meet in the middle of March. For the first two meets we allow schools to bring all of their team members, which sometimes can be over 20. The overall winner of the state meet will represent Idaho at the USAD Nationals in April. Each meet will start out with the writing of the essay. Next are the six subject area exams. During those exams, students are called out randomly to go to a classroom and give their speeches or have their interview. Each exam is 30 minutes in length. The final event of the competition is the Super Quiz. It is usually held in a gymnasium with students answering one question at a time with the answer displayed after each question. Team scores are calculated using two of the three scores in each of the GPA categories.