The Academic Decathlon is an educational competition designed for high school students from all academic achievement levels. Teams are comprised of 9 students, decathletes, who compete in 10 areas and an academic relay, Super Quiz, to demonstrate their knowledge and proficiency of a specific theme. Students participate in 30-minute objective tests covering Literature, Mathematics, Social Science, Science, Art, Economics and Music separately. There is also a 50-minute essay, 3.5-4-minute prepared speech, a shorter 1.5-2-minute impromptu speech and a 7-minute interview for each student. A new topic of study is selected by the United States Academic Decathlon each year.
Founded in 1968 by the late D. Robert Peterson, a former Orange County Superintendent of Schools, the Academic Decathlon continues to be an asset for all students involved. It provides a platform for students to utilize 21st century skills while challenging themselves and each other to be creative, think critically, communicate and collaborate to be a winning team. The program teaches practical life skills such as time management, organization, and interviewing.
The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), has been involved with Academic Decathlon since 1981, hosting both state and national competitions at various times. LAUSD has sent the greatest numbers of high scoring teams to state competition, 14 in 2018, and holds the record for the most state titles with twenty-three. District schools have won the National title nineteen times as well.
The success of the Academic Decathlon is shared by the students, their coaches and teachers, the supportive administrators at their schools and the understanding and flexibility of their families. Countless hours are spent learning, researching and practicing for the competitions.
The competitions are coordinated by LAUSD central office personnel. They are dependent on hundreds of volunteers to serve as speech and interview judges, essay readers, test and Super Quiz proctors. Schools are responsible for recruiting volunteers and central office works with alumni, District staff, community, and educational groups to ensure enough volunteers are present at each event. Schools are expected to recruit 4 volunteers, including one school administrator to serve as a volunteer during the 2 days of competition.