Saturday, December 20, 2014

Just Words

College and career ready. High standards. Lifelong learners. Critical thinkers.

Those are just words, mere buzz phrases.  Notice there's nothing in there about intellect, about achievement.

And it shows.  In an entire neighboring county, only two schools apply to compete in an academic decathlon:
Roseville High School senior Robbie Short and his eight teammates have spent hundreds of hours this year studying and meeting weekly in hopes of winning their third straight Placer County Academic Decathlon in February.

They may not have the chance.

Last week, the Placer County Office of Education told coaches it had canceled the annual competition because of a lack of interest. Placer County schools chief Gayle Garbolino-Mojica said only Roseville High School and Western Sierra Collegiate Academy had signed up by the Dec. 5 deadline. The county office requires four teams to hold a competition, she said.
The story goes on to tell how hard the students have worked since May in order to prepare.  But let's read further and see where the problem lies:
Garbolino-Mojica said the dwindling number of teams stems from a lack of student interest in the academic decathlon, as well as budget cuts that left some schools without stipends to pay coaches. The county superintendent said PCOE staff “tried to drum up participants” and contacted district superintendents for help.

“We just got feedback that they weren’t interested,” she said, noting that some high school officials called the event an “antiquated program.” School officials reported that students are moving toward competitions that have to do with “robotics or something to do with technology,” she said.

The Placer County event, which includes the competition and an awards banquet, requires a great deal of staff time, recruitment of volunteers and $15,000 to put on, Garbolino-Mojica said...

Rocklin High’s Michael Knight, who was a competitor in high school and has coached at Roseville and Rocklin since 2002, agreed: “The academic decathlon has not received as much support in the past few years as it has previously.”
We don't want smart kids. That's why we have to dumb everything down.

Update, 12/27/14:  The Placer County students will be allowed to compete in Sacramento County:
Sacramento County’s Office of Education has offered to host Placer County high school students at its academic decathlon competition on Feb. 7 after the competition in their county was canceled. 
“It’s what we do to help each other out,” said Sacramento County schools chief David Gordon. “That’s what we need to do for our colleagues, so they aren’t shut out of the competition"... 
Sacramento County education officials decided Friday to add the Placer County teams, including one from Rocklin High that didn’t make the Dec. 5 deadline. The highest scoring team from each county will go on to the state contest, as will some high-scoring teams that do not win. 
The three teams from Placer County will compete with the 28 Sacramento County teams, although they will be scored separately. Their scores will be tallied and sent to the Placer County Office of Education, which will announce the individual winners and team winner at a banquet on Feb. 10, said Kindra Amalong, PCOE spokeswoman. 
Gordon said adding the teams will mean “some extra work” for his staff, but “it’s a wonderful experience for the kids and they should have the opportunity to do it.”


Auntie Ann said...

I wonder what the format is these days. When I did AD back in the early 80's, you couldn't fill your team with straight-A students. I think we had 6 team members, and some had to have C averages. So the school with the best underachievers, the kids that were smart but for whom school was a bad fit, could do really well.

maxutils said...

As far as I know, the format is still the same … 2 each of A, B, and C students. The strategy was to find the smartest lazy C students you could … my high school was exceptionally good at that. However, for the number of teachers who needed to be involved, and the amount of work required of the students for minimal gain … I can totally see why students (and teachers) would not be interested in it. It's a cool competition but it's broad to the point of oppressiveness. Not sure we can chalk this up to dumbing things down.

Jerry Doctor said...


That's consistent with what I saw in the 90's. I was really excited when they decided to get our school in the Academic Decathlon program. I quickly soured on it when I discovered the perfect team member was a really smart kid that didn't give a damn.

The really good teachers in the science department went back to preparing kids for Physics and Chemistry Field days, the state science fair... programs aimed at the brightest and best, not jerks.