By Mary Lynch
A team from Franklin High School in Highland Park is on its way to Sacramento this month to compete in the California state finals of the Academic Decathlon, a prestigious educational competition for high schools.
The team – six seniors and five juniors – advanced to the state competition by clinching a city level championship in February, when it scored higher than 54 other teams from high schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). It was Franklin’s first city championship after decades of being a strong contender.
In addition, Tina Wu, a senior on the Franklin team, won the city decathlon’s individual trophy for the highest score of all competitors from schools in LAUSD. Wu scored 9,104.3 points out of a possible 10,000.
The city competition, which took place on February 2 and February 3, required students to answer questions, write essays and give speeches related to the theme, “The 1960s: A Transformational Decade.” The topics ranged from economics, mathematics, science and social science to art, literature and music.
All of the competitors worked separately through the challenges, earning individual points, except on the last day – the Super Quiz – when they worked together to answer 14 questions in rapid succession. The Super Quiz is the only part of the competition that is open to the public; Franklin teachers, parents and students turned out in force to cheer on the Panthers. When the score from the Super Quiz was added to the individual scores to arrive at a team score, the Panthers had won, with 55,204.1 points out of a possible 60,000. In second place was Grant High School in the San Fernando Valley, with 54,559.7 points.
Teams for the Academic Decathlon have eight members and three alternates. Each team must have at least two members in each of three categories: Honors, Scholastic and Varsity. Honors team members have grade-point averages of 3.75 and above; Scholastic members have GPA’s of 3 to 3.74; Varsity members have GPA’s of 2.99 and below.
The coaches of the Franklin team are Yenny Yi, the coordinator of Franklin’s before- and after-school activities, and Patrick Dowd, a biology teacher at Franklin. The assistant coach is Steven Avalos, an English teacher at Franklin.
“The team loved learning about the 1960s,” said Dowd, adding that they were especially thrilled “to expand their musical tastes to include many of the great artists from that era.” Favorites included Bob Dylan’s Like a Rolling Stone and Barry McGuire’s Eve of Destruction.
The state competition, which will include 68 public, private, and charter high schools from across California, will take place March 22 and March 23. The state winner will compete on the national level in Bloomington, Minnesota from April 25 to April 27.