Burbank High’s Academic Decathlon Team Plans to Keep Win Streak


By Mikayla Branch
Featured Writer

We all know that Burbank High School prides itself on its athletic achievements. However, placed on the gem of academics, lies a shining facet- the Academic Decathlon.

The Academic Decathlon team, founded at Burbank High School in 1984, has continually proved their smarts- even to this very day. Throughout the years, the BHS troupe has collectively placed high in divisions of county competitions, earned top-level spots in cut tests, and as of 2015, has been ranked 40th best the whole entire United States.

Far left: Supervisor Val Biedelman with some of the Varsity and Junior Varsity Academic Decathlon Team Members (Photo by Mikayla Branch)
Far left: Supervisor Val Biedelman with some of the Varsity and Junior Varsity Academic Decathlon Team Members (Photo by Mikayla Branch)

Every year, Decathlon teams across the nation, and this year even China, are assigned a completely brand new curriculum to analyze, contextualize, and aestheticize. Students will master this nation-wide curriculum and the Burbank High Academic Decathlon is especially intrigued because this year’s curriculum is India. Within the curriculum, there are ten subjects which include Math, Science, Economics, Indian Art, Social Science, Indian Literature, Indian Music, Speech, Essay, and Interview.

The 2015-2016 Aca. Deca. squad is comprised of 18 students. These bright students range from freshmen all the way up to the seniors.

Although all of the students work and compete together to ultimately represent the proud Burbank High School, the Academic Decathlon team contains two groups (Varsity and Junior Varsity- nine students in each group) and within each of those two groups, there are three divisions (A GPA, B GPA and C GPA -three students in each division). In order to calculate which group and which division the student will be placed in, the BHS Decathlon students will be required to take the “cut –test” in January.

To prepare them as best as possible for the cut-test, the students will have to undergo a series a subject testing. The subject or topic of these tests can range from something as pleasurable as Indian music all the way to something as enduring as Economics. These exams are given out frequently throughout the months leading up to the cut-test, and are essentially designed to challenge the students and ensure that the students grasp the context.

The cut test score is out of a whopping 7,000 points. Depending on how well the student performs on the test, as well as his/her cumulative GPA, he/she will then be assigned a group (Varsity or Junior Varsity) and a division (A, B, or C). According to usad.org, to be placed in the A division, the student’s GPA must be a 3.750 or greater, B division- at least 3.0 and below 3.75, and C division- below a 3.0.

Now I know what you may be thinking. “I thought students had to be super intellectual with only straight A’s to join an Academic Decathlon team!” On the contrary, BHS Academic Decathlon Supervisor Val Beidelman (as well as an English teacher at BHS) in fact encourages students from all GPA’s to participate and join the well-rounded team.

“In order to compose the team, we must have Honors Grade Point students (division A), Scholastic Grade Point students (division B), and we must have students with C or below grade point averages, or we cannot play.” said Beidelman.

(Photo by Mikayla Branch)
(Photo by Mikayla Branch)

Some may question if this organization inhibits teenagers from other extracurricular activities and obligations due to afterschool practice. Burbank High School Aca. Deca Varsity member Hiral Ashani (Class of 2017’) responds, “Not at all. On average, we only meet for about 2-3 hours afterschool. The Decathlon team understands students have other activities and they work around our schedules and have much flexibility with our hours.”

This year, the team has stated that they would like to have an Academic Decathlon team sweater. However to keep the price of these sweaters financially feasible, Decathlon kids will have to fundraise.

In an effort to raise some funding for the team, Supervisor Val Beidelman says, “In the past we participated in the Winter Festival here at Burbank High- but due to food restrictions, we could not continue. However, we try to participate in other funding methods any time we can. For instance, we sell the Burbank High School Bulldog cards.”

When Burbank High School Principal Bertram was asked if BHS supports the Academic Decathlon team financially Dr. Bertram clarified, “Clubs at BHS receive funding from two places. The ASB Funding and the actual school funding which is a little under $300,000 each school year.

Most of that is spent primarily on copy paper and ink for the school. What’s left of that is either allocated to the clubs or spent on school improvements- etc. For the 2014-2015 Academic Decathlon team, they were allocated a total of $5, 903 which was spent on sending the team to Sacramento to compete as well as covering Ms. Beidelman’s substitute for her English classes.”

As competition season is quickly making its arrival, the BHS Academic Decathlon team is gearing and plans to put their best foot forward. The team intends to maintain their five year streak of advancing to the state championship and perform even better. The team is very excited to represent the City of Burbank

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