California Academic Decathlon Association

Reviewed by the Sacramento Region Community Foundation

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$5,000 Goal

California Academic Decathlon promotes academic excellence and life-long learning development to Sacramento area students during and beyond their high school education.

For the past 43 years, CAD has provided learning skills and support to over 500,000 of California’s high school students so they can succeed in school and beyond.  Through CAD’s program, students work collaboratively and learn the importance of academic success, rewarding them for their efforts. Students of all achievement levels participate in a variety of demanding and challenging academic events while building teamwork and a competitive spirit.  Our state competition is expanded to offer a Heptathlon which is an individual competition for students not participating in the championship. 

Academic Decathlon works in teams of student members, known as Decathletes.  Each team consists of Honor decathletes (GPA 3.80-4.0), Scholastic decathletes (GPA 3.20-3.79), and Varsity decathletes (GPA 0.0-3.19).  Each team spends months working together in preparation for a rigorous competition season against other high schools. 

The Decathlon is one of the most rigorous and challenging academic competitions of its kind.  Students from all academic success levels prepare yearlong by studying for ten different testing events, including Art, Economics, Essay, Interview, Literature, Math, Music, Science, Social Science and Speech.  The California Academic Decathlon is excited to announce that the overall curricular theme for 2022–2023 is The American Revolution and The New Nation. 

Giving Activity


The California Academic Decathlon (CAD) Association is a non-profit organization designed to engage and reward learning and academic excellence among high school students of all achievement levels by providing a rigorous, standards-based, multidisciplinary academic program which prepares them for college and their career.

Through team participation, students develop confidence and better study skills which prepare them for higher education. CAD’s focus on academic preparation and reduction of barriers to higher education combine to ensure more students are able to enter and remain in college.

Teams consist of student members, known as Decathletes. Each team consists of Honor decathletes (GPA 3.80-4.0), Scholastic decathletes (GPA 3.20-3.79), and Varsity decathletes (GPA 0.0-3.19). Each team spends months working together in preparation for a rigorous competition season against other high schools.

All decathletes participate by taking 30-minute multiple-choice tests in the subject areas of art, literature, mathematics, music, science, and social science. Each area, except for mathematics, is based on an annual theme.

In addition, each decathlete is required to perform a planned 4-minute speech on a topic of their choice, a 2-minute impromptu speech, a 7-minute interview, and to write an expository essay within a 50-minute period.

After scores for all test, interview and speech, and essay scores are cumulated, individual and team award medals are presented at an awards ceremony. The overall winning team from the Academic Decathlon regions are invited to participate in the statewide California Academic Decathlon. There are also opportunities for additional teams to receive an invitation to the state competition based upon their overall team score.

The Academic Decathlon season involves 4 rounds of competition. Round 1 is a non-scoring scrimmage typically held in November. Round 2 consists of regional competitions held in early February. The winners of Round 2 plus a limited number of invited teams then compete in Round 3 which is the State Championship held in mid-March. As a result of the State Championship, California sends five top teams onto Round 4, the United States Academic Decathlon (USAD) Nationals held in late April.

The Academic Decathlon embodies businesses, foundations, and individuals in cooperation with the education community.


The success of the Decathlon depends solely on the financial and personal commitments of organizations that realize the importance of lifelong learning student success and academic excellence. Our program’s costs continue to increase at a time where we need to make the program as affordable and accessible to all. Continued partnerships are essential to our continued success.

The ongoing financial needs of California Academic Decathlon include communications and postage, duplicating and printing, day-to-day office supplies, rentals, leases and repairs, travel and conferences expenses, Annual Charter with United States Academic Decathlon & USAD State Director’s Association membership dues, outsourced competition services, awards, competition supplies & materials, scholarships, college entrance programs, and direct support & Indirect Costs

Equity Statement

Ensuring all participating decathletes have access to the benefits of academic competition materials and activities. True to the very philosophy of the California Academic Decathlon, the California Academic Decathlon Association serves as the model for all prestigious Academic Decathlon events that now exist at the state and national levels. Academic Decathlon provides inclusion no matter race or ethnicity, age, income level or ability, physical capabilities, or achievement levels. Academic Decathlon equitably provides a rigorous, standards-based, multidisciplinary academic program which prepares decathletes for college and their career to have access to programs, facilities, places and spaces that make their lives and communities greater. California Academic Decathlon truly builds lifelong learning leaders, teams and communities – communities for all.

Organization Data


Organization name

California Academic Decathlon Association

Year Established


Tax id (EIN)


Mission Category


Operating Budget


Organization Need

Funding: Program, Technology

Demographics Served

Youth & Children

BIPOC Leadership

Executive Director/CEO

Local Counties Served

El Dorado, Placer, Sacramento, Yolo

Equity Statement

Equity Statement



Service areas

Sacramento, CA, US

Elk Grove, CA, US

Folsom, CA, US

Galt, CA, US, 95632



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