Q: Is it OK to offer Academic Decathlon as a class?
A: Several Georgia schools do and have very successfully offered the decathlon curriculum as an elective course in the last few years. The number of schools offering the curriculum as an elective course is growing. Some schools do not because few kids would be able to fit it into their schedule due to AP and Fine Arts classes.
Q: What kinds of materials should a team purchase?
A: A successful team can simply purchase the basic USAD materials (around $700 for a license to download the materials for unlimited students at one school). Additional materials are also available from USAD and some outside vendors. Many coaches find purchasing the practice tests and some other study materials helpful, but not necessary. Occasionally, books and other resources can be found and purchased from the bookstore that relate to the topic (e.g., the year we studied the Lewis and Clark Expedition, a nice Lewis and Clark diary from Borders was snagged for $2.99).
Q: What kind of outside resources should a team acquire?
A: Other than the USAD materials just use the library/internet to independently research most things.
Q: How can coaches know what is going to be on the tests?
A: You can never really know for sure what will be on the tests other than the published allocated percentages for subcategories (e.g., 20% of Art is fundamental concepts). Sometimes there are questions that surprise the kids. The practice and scrimmage tests (USAD packages) are helpful to know the format of the questions for each subject area. Coaches are never to administer the tests, see the tests, or be in the same room with any of the tests, even if it is after the administration.
Q: Are there places to obtain additional resources?
A: The official website www.usad.org is a good resource. Images of all of the art pieces are available online as are several other resources including curriculum outlines.
Q: How does “Academic Decathlon” as an Independent Study course work?
A: Students who are identified as gifted in their school records can take a course during 9-12 grades called “Directed Study”. The one-semester class gives gifted students a chance to independently study a topic of interest to them. They select the curriculum and they keep track of their progress and even calculate their own grade (with teacher oversight of course). Students can weave the Academic Decathlon curriculum into their Directed Study curriculum contract quite easily.
Q: How can you prepare students for the nebulous/vague topics (e.g. calculus)?
A: Other than paying attention to the types of questions on the practice/scrimmage tests, the best thing you can do is to make sure that the students really understand the basic concepts. Some students may have thorough knowledge of several subjects from previous courses and they can be assets to their teammates.
Q: How do you recruit students for the team?
A: Advertise your team meetings, mention things in your classes, get students to bring other students, and always have food available. The minimum number of students you need for a legal team is six (6) students, the maximum number is nine (9). Finding the right students is the key. The final team must have two-three students whose USAD GPA fits into each of the Honor, Scholastic and Varsity categories.
Q: How often does your team practice?
A: Meet at least twice a week for about 2 hours each time. Some teams meet before school and on weekends; others rarely do. However, this is very common in other states like CA, TX, AZ, MA. Much of what the students need to know, they can learn independently. The more time the team spends practicing together, the better they will know the material and the better they will do at the events.
Q: How do you prepare students for the various subject areas?
A: Use the personal resources available to you in your school and family. The areas that teams often need outside help for are Music and Art. Preparing for the performance areas (speech, interview, essay), however, is very rewarding. It is really nice to observe a shy student develop confidence in him/herself as they get better and better at public speaking. After all, this is one of the purposes of Academic Decathlon.