Canyon High School takes the Orange County Academic Decathlon championship

OCADCanyon High School in the Orange Unified School District has earned top honors in this year’s Orange County Academic Decathlon.

With 50,675.50 total points, the Canyon squad was announced as the Overall Team Winner by the Orange County Academic Decathlon Association and OCDE on Tuesday night, drawing a round of uproarious applause in front of a packed crowd at Santa Ana High School’s Bill Medley Auditorium. Along with a plaque and scores of individual medals, the school picked up a $3,000 travel stipend to take on the best teams from 38 counties at the California Academic Decathlon in March.

And Canyon High isn’t the only local school that punched its ticket to the state contest.

By earning team scores that were among the highest in California, Valencia High School in the Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District, Woodbridge High in the Irvine Unified School District and Westminster High in the Huntington Beach Union High School District also received invitations to compete at the state level. (Westminster was last year’s champion.)

Here’s a breakdown of this year’s winning Orange County teams by division:

DIVISION 1

  • 1st Place: Canyon High School, Orange Unified School District    
  • 2nd Place: Valencia High School, Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District  
  • 3rd Place: Woodbridge High School, Irvine Unified School District
  • 4th Place: Westminster High School, Huntington Beach Union High School District
  • 5th Place: Trabuco Hills High School, Saddleback Valley Unified School District

DIVISION 2

  • 1st Place: Fountain Valley High School, Huntington Beach Union High School District
  • 2nd Place: Esperanza High School, Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District
  • 3rd Place: Corona del Mar High School, Newport-Mesa Unified School District
  • 4th Place: Sonora High School, Fullerton Joint Union High School District
  • 5th Place: El Dorado High School, Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District

DIVISION 3

  • 1st Place: Cornelia Connelly School, Private School
  • 2nd Place: Foothill High School, Tustin Unified School District       
  • 3rd Place: Yorba Linda High School, Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District
  • 4th Place: Santiago High School, Garden Grove Unified School District  
  • 5th Place: Saddleback High School, Santa Ana Unified School District

Organized at the county, state and local levels, Academic Decathlons are scholastic contests in which nine-member teams battle for the highest scores on multiple-choice exams, speeches, interviews and essay assignments. Each team must include three “Honor” students (those with GPAs of 3.75 or above), three “Scholastic” students (GPAs of 3.00 to 3.74) and three “Varsity” students (GPAs of 2.99 or below). Each 10-event contest culminates with the popular Super Quiz Relay, which is held in front of a live audience. (You can learn more on the OCDE’s Academic Decathlon 101 webpage.)

Kristin Rigby, an OCDE program specialist of academic events, told us that Canyon High just rejoined the Orange County Academic Decathlon last year after a lengthy hiatus. The team is coached by teacher Khoa Dao, a former decathlete from Westminster High School, which advanced to the state competition when he participated.

The Orange County Academic Decathlon program is sponsored by the nonprofit Orange County Academic Decathlon Association and administered by OCDE. It’s also supported by the generous donations of community members and sponsors, including NuVision Federal Credit Union, C2 Education, Del Taco LLC, the Orange County Register, Learning.com, Aeries Software, Inc. and Teacher Created Materials.

In the news: The 2016 Orange County Academic Decathlon concludes with a flourish

SuperQuiz5.jpgIn case you missed it, the Orange County Register published a fun recap — with nearly a dozen pictures — of Saturday’s Super Quiz Relay, which was the final event of this year’s Orange County Academic Decathlon.

You can find the newspaper’s online coverage here, and be sure to click on the accompanying photo slideshow.

Academic Decathlons are 10-event scholastic contests staged at the county, state and national levels, each culminating with the Super Quiz Relay, which is held in front of a live audience.

Next up, we learn which students and schools were the big winners. The 2016 OCAD Awards Ceremony is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 16 at Santa Ana High School.

OCDE in 30 Seconds: We break down the Orange County Academic Decathlon in half a minute


What is the Orange County Academic Decathlon? Well, if you’ve got 30 seconds, we’ll tell you.

“OCDE in 30 Seconds” is a new feature that asks — or challenges — a staff member to describe an Orange County Department of Education program or service in less than half a minute.

For the video above, we reached out to Kristin Rigby, a program specialist in charge of academic events, to talk about the OC Academic Decathlon, which happens to be timely. The 10-event scholastic competition wraps up this Saturday with the always-entertaining Super Quiz Relay.

If you want to learn more about the Decathlon, you can check out this recent story from the OCDE Newsroom or visit the OCAD webpage.


Is there an OCDE program or service you’d like to see explained in 30 seconds? Send us a request at communications@ocde.us.

Area high school teams prep for the 48th annual Orange County Academic Decathlon

SuperquizgymOver the next two Saturdays, more than 500 students from 43 local high schools will participate in the 48th annual Orange County Academic Decathlon, which concludes with the rousing Super Quiz Relay on Feb. 6.

Schools will once again be competing for top honors – and an invitation to represent Orange County at the California Academic Decathlon in March. Last year, Westminster High School won the county championship; Irvine’s Woodbridge High placed second but finished eighth overall at the state contest in Sacramento.

OC decathletes will kick off the communications portion of the county competition on Saturday, Jan. 30 by presenting prepared and impromptu speeches, participating in personal interviews and writing essays at Tustin High School.

One week later, they’ll take 30-minute multiple-choice tests in the subject areas of art, literature, mathematics, music, science and social science at Westminster High School. Each of these areas, with the exception of mathematics, will be based on the 2015-16 theme, “India.”

As in the past, the event culminates with some of the most compelling drama. The Super Quiz Relay is a perennial crowd favorite that resembles a quiz show and sounds like a sporting event, with parents and classmates boisterously cheering on their favorite squads from the sidelines. The relay, which is open to the public, will begin at 2:30 p.m. in the Westminster High School gymnasium, located at 14325 Goldenwest St. in Westminster.

Founded in 1968 by former Orange County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Robert Peterson, Academic Decathlons are 10-event scholastic contests staged at the county, state and national levels.

Nine-member teams compete for the highest scores on multiple-choice exams, speeches, interviews and essay assignments. Each team must include three “Honor” students (those with GPAs of 3.75 or above), three “Scholastic” students (GPAs of 3.00 to 3.74) and three “Varsity” students (GPAs of 2.99 or below). Competitions culminate with the Super Quiz Relay, which is held in front of a live audience.

On average, Orange County decathletes report spending 20 to 25 hours a week preparing for the Academic Decathlon. About 10 of those hours involve working with coaches and teammates at afterschool meetings; the remaining practice time is spent studying alone or with teammates outside of school.

Along with logging long hours, teamwork plays a crucial role in each team’s success. Students create tests and quizzes for one another, host scrimmages and analyze the prepared and impromptu speeches and interviews of their classmates. Students who are stronger at one academic subject often tutor and coach their teammates.

“Decathletes often refer to their decathlon team as their second family because of the countless hours spent together experiencing the rigors of competition,” says Kristin Rigby, an OCDE program specialist of academic events. “The constant engagement in communication, along with the ability to collaborate with others, are important skills needed to succeed in the 21st century. For each Orange County team, the camaraderie and commitment towards achieving one common goal shines brightly.”

This year’s Orange County Academic Decathlon is supported by the generous donations of community members and made possible by sponsors including NuVision Federal Credit Union, C2 Education, Del Taco LLC, the Orange County Register, Learning.com, Teacher Created Materials and Aeries Software, Inc.

Top honors, medals and scholarships will be awarded at the OCAD Awards Ceremony at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 16 in the Bill Medley Auditorium at Santa Ana High School.

For more information, go here, or contact Orange County Department of Education Program Specialist Kristin Rigby at (714) 966-4435 or krigby@ocde.us.

Finalists announced for the Innovation in Education Awards

Project Tomorrow Innovation in Education logoBack in April, we helped spread the call for nominations for the Innovation in Education Awards presented by Project Tomorrow and the OC Tech Alliance. Check out our prior post to read more about the awards and the prize breakdown for finalists and winners. The nine finalists who are now in the running for the awards were announced today.

Finalists for this year’s awards are:

Innovative School-wide Program

  • Stoddard Elementary School, Anaheim City School District, Stoddard STEAM Academy
  • Foothill High School, Tustin Unified School District, Foothill Engineering and Technology (FEAT)
  • The Prentice School, Santa Ana, Assistive Technology Tools

High Impact Teacher

  • Dwynn Famalette, 10-12th grade science teacher, Aliso Niguel High School, Capistrano Unified School District
  • Sharon McCubbin, 3rd grade teacher, Springbrook Elementary, Irvine Unified School District
  • Suzy Hardy, 6-8th grade mathematics/technology teacher, St. John’s Episcopal School, Rancho Santa Margarita

Emerging Student Innovator

  • Anna Lou, rising junior, Oxford Academy, Anaheim Union High School District
  • Ruoxi Michelle Chen, rising senior, Sage Hill School, Newport Coast
  • Sean O’Bannon, rising senior, Foothill High School, Tustin Unified School District

Award winners will be announced at the 22nd annual High-Tech Innovation Awards dinner reception on Thursday, Oct. 8 at The Westin South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa.

Three student projects from OC earn medals at National History Day Contest in Maryland

Frances & Michelle Kroll

We’ve got results today from the Kenneth E. Behring National History Day Contest, which was held this week at the University of Maryland in College Park.

We’ll jump right to the good part: Of the seven California entries to earn medals, three were from schools in Orange County.

In the Junior Group Documentary category — “junior” in this case denotes the middle school division — first place honors went to Frances Kroll and Michelle Kroll of Sierra Vista Middle School in the Irvine Unified School District. (They’re pictured above.) Their documentary is titled “Henry Ford: Driving America Into the Future,” and their teacher was Jonathan Millers.

Sophia Burick, Kelly McDonald, Kate McKernanIn the Junior Group Website category, Sophia Burick, Kelly McDonald and Kate McKernan from Shorecliffs Middle School in the Capistrano Unified School District (and pictured to the right) took third place under the direction of teacher Fred Morris. Their site is called “Norman Borlaug: A Legacy of a Billion Lives.”

Finally, in the Junior Individual Exhibit category, Morgan Kopecky of Irvine Unified’s Lakeside Middle School placed third with her submission, “Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” Jon Pang was Morgan’s teacher.

Morgan KopeckyFor a complete rundown of this year’s winners, click here. 

More than 500,000 elementary, middle and high school students from the U.S. and beyond take part in National History Day competitions at the local, state and national levels each year, conducting extensive research based on a yearly theme before submitting complex projects in the form of papers, exhibits, performances, websites and documentaries. School competitions are held in the winter, followed by county and state contests.

In May, California’s National History Day event was held at William Jessup University in Rocklin, drawing more than 1,161 students from 25 counties — including 87 young historians from Orange County.

Fifteen of those students ultimately got the chance to bring their projects to the Kenneth E. Behring National History Day Contest, which was held June 14 through June 18. This year’s theme was “Leadership and Legacy in History.”

Fifteen OC students invited to compete at the National History Day competition in Maryland

California will send 36 of its best National History Day projects to Maryland next month for a final showdown on the national stage, and eight of those entries will travel from schools right here in Orange County.

Also expected to make the trip: The 15 local students who created them.

NHD2 51515That much was settled at the state-level National History Day contest, which was held May 8 and May 9 at William Jessup University in Rocklin, Calif. In all, more than 1,161 students from 25 counties competed, including 87 young historians from Orange County who brought 50 separate projects.

Each year, more than 500,000 elementary, middle and high school students from the U.S. and beyond participate in National History Day competitions at the local, state and national levels. They start by selecting a historical topic based on the year’s theme — it’s currently “Leadership and Legacy in History” — and conducting extensive research.

Some visit libraries and museums or seek out interviews to draw conclusions about their topics before presenting their findings in the form of a paper, an exhibit, a performance, a website or even a documentary. These are displayed and judged at school competitions in the winter, and county and state contests follow.

Now comes the culmination. The Kenneth E. Behring National History Day Contest will take place June 14 through June 18 at the University of Maryland at College Park. Here’s a list, by category, of the Orange County projects and students who have their tickets punched to compete.

ORANGE COUNTY JUNIOR CHAMPIONS (GRADES 6-8)

Junior Individual Exhibit

  • Augustus Caesar: His Leadership Through an Empire and Legacy of its Fall
    Lakeside Middle School, Irvine Unified School District
    Alina Guo
  • Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
    Lakeside Middle School, Irvine Unified School District
    Morgan Kopecky 

Junior Group Documentary

  • Henry Ford
    Sierra Vista Middle School, Irvine Unified School District
    Michelle Kroll and Frances Kroll

 Junior Individual Website

  • Florence Nightingale: The Lady with the Lamp
    Jeffrey Trail Middle School, Irvine Unified School District
    Mulan Homo

Junior Group Website

  • Norman Borlaug: A Legacy of a Billion Lives Saved
    Shorecliffs Middle School, Capistrano Unified School District
    Kate McKernan, Kelly McDonald and Sophia Burick

Junior Historical Paper

  • Harry Truman: A Leadership and Legacy in the Truman Doctrine
    Sierra Vista Middle School, Irvine Unified School District
    Miranda Wu

ORANGE COUNTY SENIOR CHAMPIONS (GRADES 9-12)

Senior Individual Documentary

  • Leadership in the Diplomatic Acceptance of Differing Ideologies: The Legacy of the 1972 Nixon Visit to China
    Acaciawood School (a private school in Anahiem)
    Paul Hudson 

Senior Group Documentary

  • The Legacy of Ed Sullivan: Bringing the Civil Rights Movement into America’s Living Room
    Woodbridge High School, Irvine Unified School District
    Cullen Darius, Garrett Moore, Josh Morrison, Mitchell Cronin and Scott Armstrong