Academic Decathlon

Course Requirements & Policies


First… some basic information…

Until fourth quarter, we’ll be focusing on a different part of the Academic Decathlon curriculum.  For the most part, that focus will change each week so we can cover the 8 different subjects.  In order to digest all of this material, three days a week we’ll be working actively with the reading material through class discussions, written work, workbooks, and team projects.  One day a week will be a “reading day,” a day when you can spend the 45 minutes just reading and studying the material on your own.  The last day of each week will be a testing/Jeopardy day.  We’ll keep to a set schedule each week (shortened weeks—like Thanksgiving week—excepted).  Here’s the basic weekly schedule:








The difficulty of this course lies in your ability to be disciplined about your reading and study time.



You will be graded in three ways in this class.  Each type of grade is weighted as follows: 

                                    Participation                                       35%

                                    Class Work                                        35%

                                    Tests/Jeopardy (1st sem.)                    30%

                                    Tests/Critical Responses (2nd sem.)   30%

Participation involves actively engaging in class and small group discussions, coming to class prepared, working equally within your small groups/teams, and reading/studying the class material on reading days.

Class Work includes speech preparation and practice, interview preparation and practice, essay preparation and practice, completing workbooks, completing small class assignments based on the readings, and completing team projects. (Psssst! For all you seniors out there getting ready to apply to colleges, the speech preparation we do will be invaluable when it comes time to write those annoying personal statements and other essays.)

Tests/Jeopardy are meant to see how well you’re learning the material (and yes, you’ll need to read the material more than once to do well on the tests).  You are *not* expected to get 100% on these tests, especially at the beginning of the year; however, I do expect your test scores to increase from quarter to quarter, and I will be factoring this “increase” into your 2nd and 3rd quarter grades.  The *good* thing about these tests is that they are graded on a curve—whomever gets the highest score gets “100%” for that test, and everyone else’s grade is determined from this highest score.  Tests will be given on the Decathlon material during quarters 1, 2, and 3.

Critical Responses will only occur during the last part of 3rd quarter and all of 4th quarter.  These will be written responses (and perhaps some oral response…. we’ll see…) to the films and other texts we encounter during this time.  I expect that as the year draws to a close that your critical responses will improve both in terms of content (how well you are able to analyze a text) and in form (how well you communicate your thoughts).


How can I get a guaranteed A? (for the first 3 quarters)

Despite the above breakdown of grades, there are two ways you can get a “guaranteed” A in this class.

1.      If you can secure yourself a place on the Academic Decathlon team, you will earn an A in this class.*  Whether you choose to compete on the team or not doesn’t matter (although, quite honestly, if you’re working this hard and are that brilliant, why wouldn’t you be on the team?).  As long as your test scores are good enough to beat out other people (including some sophomores who aren’t in this class), you will get an A.  (*Note to team members:  This means you need to stay competitive in class to keep your A.  If you get on the competing Decathon team by Winter Break, that doesn’t guarantee that you’ll get an A unless your test scores remain high.)

2.      If your test scores improve by 35% or more from first quarter to second quarter, you will earn an A for first semester.  (That is like going from an average of 450/1000 on your tests to 610/1000.)  If your test scores improve by 30% or more from second quarter to third quarter, you will earn an A for third quarter.  (Side note:  Don’t purposely “fail” your tests first quarter to accomplish this.  I cannot justify giving a student a D or F first quarter and then an A at the semester.)


Late Work Policy

All assignments are to be finished and turned in on the date due when collected during class.  While our schedule and due dates may be fluctuating depending on the needs of the class, when an assignment has a specific due date, it must be in.




When you are absent it is your responsibility to bring me a note from a parent or guardian explaining why you were absent.  IF I DO NOT SEE A NOTE, your absence is unexcused. If you know ahead of time that you will be absent for several days in a row, please notify me so I can give you assignments you might miss.  You lose the right to make up work if you are absent due to cuts, an unexcused reason, or in-school/out-of-school suspensions (unless you make arrangements with me before your suspension).


School Functions, Sign-Out Policy

Please adhere to the 5 day notice rule about signing out for field trips and other activities.

If you are interested in attending a school function (like a football game or a play), DO NOT BUY YOUR TICKET and then expect to be signed out of this class.  Before I even consider signing you out, you must have a minimum 70% C.  Also, excessive numbers of sign-outs will not be allowed no matter how good your grades are.

Please note that missing class for a school function is not an excuse for turning an assignment in late or missing a test or quiz.  Make arrangements to see me before you go to turn in your work, pick up work, or take tests/quizzes you might miss.

At any point, I reserve the right to not sign you out.  Academics come first.


Contact Information

Here is where/how you can find Ms. Spachman.

            Free periods: 1, 3, 5, 7, and I will usually be around 9th period as well. 

          (I am not available Thursdays after school.)

            Location during free periods:  9 times out of 10, I’ll be in the English office (242) or 262.

            English office phone: 773-535-2138



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