UConn To Host Academic Decathlon for High Schools, February 24 (Released: 02/06/01)
By Sherry Fisher, Office of University Communications
STORRS, Conn. -- They won't be judged on a 20-foot jump shot or a 400-meter run, but these high school students will put as much heart and soul into their game as any Olympian when they compete at an academic decathlon at the University of Connecticut.
Students from public and private high schools from around the state in grades 9 through 12 will participate in the Connecticut Chapter of the United States Academic Decathlon, a national scholastic competition to be held at the Storrs campus on Feb. 24. The competition, running from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., will take place in South Campus. Awards will be presented at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center's Konover Auditorium.
Connecticut schools participating in the event are: Bridgeport Central High School, Hamden Hall Country Day School, Norwalk High, Montville High, Rockville High, and New Fairfield High.
The decathlon provides opportunities for students of all ability levels to meet the challenges of rigorous academic team and individual competition. Emphasizing reasoning and interpersonal skills, it is designed to give students a greater respect for knowledge.
"It's a wonderful experience for the students," says Jennifer Tebbs, state executive director of the Connecticut Academic Decathlon, who also works for the University's honors program. "It's not just the competition, it's the whole process that goes on for months. It stimulates students throughout the year. Their efforts go over and above what they do in the classroom."
The curriculum is developed by national experts, on relevant, current, critical and cultural topics. The 10 components are: art, economics, an essay, an interview, language and literature, mathematics, music, science, speech, and an oral "super-quiz."
Each team consists of three "Varsity"; three "Scholastic"; and three "Honors" students, encompassing the entire GPA range. All team members take the same tests and are awarded gold, silver and bronze medals in their own category for each component.
The chairperson and coordinator of competition day is education major Jessica Feraci. She is using the event as her "hands-on" honors thesis. "I'm studying special education, and this competition really drew my attention," she says. "It allows for all kinds of students, including those with disabilities. That does wonders for students' self esteem."
Tebbs agrees. "The competition brings in underachievers -- and boy, do they achieve," she says.
Hosting the competition at UConn gives the University an opportunity to showcase the campus and recruit exceptional students, Tebbs says. Two students from Rockville High School, who participated in last year's decathlon and will take part again this year, have been offered full four-year scholarships to the University beginning in the fall. David Agrawal has been offered a Nutmeg Scholarship and Jessica Daniels a Day of Pride Scholarship.
Tebbs hopes to see more Connecticut high schools participate in the program.
Last year's winning team represented Connecticut at the Decathlon's 19th annual national finals in San Antonio, Texas. This year's finalists will go to Anchorage, Alaska, for the national competition.
Joseph S. Renzulli, Neag Professor for Gifted Education and Talent Development at UConn and director of The National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented, has high praise for the competition: "Academic Decathlon deserves the attention of every school district and high school in Connecticut. The rigorous process energizes students from all achievement levels, emphasizing both individual and teamwork. And the enriching, interdisciplinary curriculum embraces critical and creative thinking, problem solving, decision making and a host of cooperative and learning style skills."