Tuesday, March 19, 2013


FHS had the third highest score in the nation in this weekend's Academic Decathlon competition

By David Fonseca, . Highland Park-Mount Washington, CA Patch http://bit.ly/Ym8MrW

Franklin's 2013 Academic Decathlon Team Credit Sam K.

March 18, 2013   ::  Benjamin Franklin High School students made history in Sacramento on Saturday, earning first place in the super quiz portion of the statewide Academic Decathlon competition for the first time in school history.

According to the LA Daily News, the hard fought super-quiz portion of the competition came down to the wire, with votes being recounted by officials deep into Saturday evening.

The 90-minute super quiz comprises 36 questions and is the only part of Academic Decathlon held before a public audience.

Samuel Kullens, coach of FHS' Academic Decathlon team, said the victory was thrilling, especially given the extra financial challenges Franklin's team faces as a public school in a district that has routinely cut funding to after-school programs.

"The win in super quiz feels absolutely amazing.  We've never placed higher than second in that portion of the competition, and it was beyond cool to receive a standing ovation from all of our competitors when we were announced and went on stage.  Standing ovations in decathlon don't happen frequently, but all of our competitors know the odds facing our team--mainly socio-economic--and appreciate the underdog role we've played for the last four years," Kullens said. "I can't tell you how many decathletes and coaches in Sacramento told us, 'good luck, we're rooting for you,' for that very reason."

Though FHS' overall score in the weekend competition was good enough for third highest in the entire country, they won't be eligible to compete in next month's national competition in Minneapolis. Kullens explained that only the top two teams from every state can compete at that event, and Franklin just so happens to share a state with the nation's two highest scorers--Granada Hills High Charter and El Camino Real Charter.

Instead, FHS will represent California in the US Academic Decathlon Online National Championship, which invites the top 15 teams across the country not competing in the national championship in Minneapolis.

"While we're undoubtedly disappointed not to make the trip to Minneapolis, we are extremely proud of our achievements.  We knew we were facing an uphill battle all year long, but we gave it our all anyway, Kullens said.  "As a coach, you can't ask for anymore.  We're excited to participate in the E-National Championship, as we get the opportunity to represent not only Highland Park, Los Angeles, but all of California, in this national competition.  There is also over $10,000 in scholarship money available to individual winners and teams in the competition, so we'd like to get our hands on some of that cash as well. We're going to get started prepping for it once we get a little bit of rest."


2cents smf: Every Academic Decathlete is a winner; the work is hard and demanding; the competition grueling.

Franklin’s success cannot be denied or their achievement underestimated.

Franklin is a solid Title One traditional comprehensive high school serving a predominantly Latino working class inner-city neighborhood. FHS is not a charter school in an affluent middle class enclave; It does not host a gifted or highly gifted magnet program. It has declining enrollment and charter schools attempt to peel-off ‘surplus’ classrooms for their own purposes.

For at least the last 5 years, Franklin has been in a state of Program Improvement Plus – part of the guaranteed-to-fail No Child Left Behind expectations.

Franklin is relatively new to Aca-Deca competition in LAUSD where Aca-Deca is as hard-fought and vigorously-contested as high school football in Texas.   It is not like LAUSD subsidizes Academic Decathlon or after school and extra-curricular programs focusing on scholastic excellence.  No good deed ever goes unpunished: Every year the District cuts funding to Aca-Deca.

Obviously it it isn’t about money, it’s about achievement and pride

The SAT vocab word is “hardscrabble”. Franklin’s Arc of Excellence cannot be denied. There is no past tense at Benjamin Franklin High School in Highland Park. FHS is not a school with State and National Aca-Deca championship banners hanging in the library. The library at Franklin is a low-ceilinged affair – but the sky’s the limit …and there will be room for those banners when they start coming in!

¡Onward/Adelante Panthers!

1 comment:

samthar said...

That you for your article. You hit on a lot things the media can't, or won't touch - like socio-economics, and the backgrounds of our various institutions.

I am beyond proud of the work put forth by the Franklin Decathlon team. They are proof that regardless of where you come from, you can compete in this world. You may not end up with a fairy tale ending, but you can definitely make a name for yourself, your family, your school, or your community.

Panther Pride!

Sam Kullens
Coach, FHS Decathon