2015 Middle School History Bowl Discussion

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2015 Middle School History Bowl Discussion

Postby Rabbinator » Mon May 25, 2015 4:40 pm

Hello everybody!

First off, I want to thank all of the people who helped make Sunday such a huge success. We had over 50 staffers throughout the day helping with reading, site captaining, scorekeeping, stats, etc. The tournament itself could not have been possible without each individual who volunteered their Memorial Day weekend to make middle school students from all over the country have a memorable experience.

Special thanks goes out to Andrew Feist and Andrew Ibendahl for doing statistics, to Charles Hang for helping me track down top-notch staffers once I realized our need, and of course to my colleagues David Madden, Nolwenn Madden, Raynell Cooper, Victor Brady, Eric Huff, and Nick Clusserath for the countless contributions they made. This was certainly a team effort (a Bowl effort if you must, instead of a Bee effort, har har) not only by our organization, but by the quizbowl community as a whole, which always makes me smile.

Just in case you were unaware, I was the Director for this year's Middle School division of the History Bowl. We worked hard to make the Middle School Bowl more visible in a variety of ways, from adding it as a division to existing High School events, to running it alongside MS Bee Regional Finals and as standalone competitions. We'll certainly discuss improvements at the regional level in the future, but for now I'd like this post to focus on the overall impression of Nationals this year and ways to make next year's Nationals even better.

While I have a lot of experience in running different academic competitions of various levels (including 3 years of the World Scholar's Cup, some regional Academic Decathlon, the Arizona Quizbowl Association, and of course the past couple years with NHBB), this was my first time being in charge of certain aspects of a Nationals competition. I'm aware some things (like my personal staff coordinating/training and communication with Site Captains) were below satisfactory, but I do think that overall everything went smoothly. The chaos of Sunday morning was mostly lent to last-minute team drops (and therefore changes in the schedule), as well as a kind of awkward idea of what would be most beneficial for staffers (I thought it might be a good idea to have all the staffers hear exactly what we were telling the kids, but I realize now that time was better spent going over more details with them).

Anyway, I'd be very interested to hear what you thought went well and what could be improved on, as well as suggestions on how to do so. We tried a brand new format for finals (and planned a new format for tiebreaks using Anderson's 32-person Elite System we sadly didn't get to try :sad: ) that we're hoping will work well at HS Nats next year. I remembered some of the suggestions from HS Nats in terms of moderator training (like what to do if you mess up a third quarter question) and made a sort of FAQs sheet for all the moderators. I also made sure (with Jason Thompson's help) that an electronic scoreboard was up-and-running for all the Ballroom VI finals games (though the visibility wasn't great for all the spectators).

All in all, we had 72 teams of hopefully-future-high-school players, the majority of whom expressed at least some level of satisfaction with the tournament. The kids seemed to have a great time, which is always personally one of my main goals! Thanks in advance for your comments/suggestions. :)

If anyone has input about the tournament that they'd rather not share on the forums, they can email me at bunnie@historybowl.com.
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Re: 2015 Middle School History Bowl Discussion

Postby Great Bustard » Tue May 26, 2015 12:44 pm

I'll begin by echoing Bunnie's thanks to everyone who made this tournament possible. Over the past four years, our middle school History Bowl Nationals has gone from 12 to 28 to 51 to 72 teams, and next year, we should be at or near 100 or more. For those interested in stats, these were maintained and are still accessible at: http://www.historybowl.com/bowl_ms/ Thanks to Andrew Feist and Andrew Ibendahl for their work as stats directors, and to Andrew F in particular for building the playoff bracket function into the stat page.
Regarding the way playoffs worked, I thought that things went over almost perfectly. In the morning, we had a tiebreak packet ready if needed in the event of a pool breaking 4-1, 4-1, 4-1 among the top 3 teams, but this did not happen in any of the 12 pools. In the afternoon, as mentioned, no pool broke 2-1, 2-1, 2-1, 0-3, so we didn't need the 3-way buzzer for the intragroup tiebreak, and in the event, 4 of the 6 pools had a second place team at 2-1, so we used the 2 two-team tiebreak contingency, and once again didn't need the 3-way buzzer. We'll probably make use of the 3 way buzzer at the Olympiad somehow, but we're a ways away from finalizing playoff formats there, so no guarantees yet.
The draft seemed to be a big hit - Trinity Prep, who was the "normal" 5 seed got picked by River Trail, the "normal" 2 seed, and then upset River Trail. The other higher seeds won their matches. Longfellow picked Trinity Prep for the semifinals and won both that match and their final match over Boy Scout Troop 46 (basically this was a homeschool team that played under the moniker of their scout troop, to which all students also belonged) with ease. Longfellow is thus the first team to win 2 National History Bowl Middle School National Championship titles. Teams did have a limited amount of both time and statistics to use in their draft picks; at HS Nationals next year, teams in the draft will have all of Saturday night, so that will solve that issue at least there.
Bunnie and/or I will post our plans for next year in the Middle School History Bowl at a later date, but for now, the Bowl seems to finally be getting a solid footing at the middle school level. Thanks to everyone who competed for their support this year!
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Re: 2015 Middle School History Bowl Discussion

Postby TylerV » Tue May 26, 2015 2:45 pm

Since this weekend had a multitude of events I'll give feedback on them as separate entities.

USGO Test: All I did for this was hand out the test, keep time, and made sure everyone was being honest. Everything ran on time(as far as I could tell) and the students seemed to enjoy the test.

Subject Exams/Side Events: Again all I did for this was proctor the exam. The content on the tests seemed both accessible and slightly challenging. I can't speak so much for the other tests but I know the Military History one was a huge hit with the students. As for the Side Events the students seemed to enjoy them quite a bit and the only complaints I head among the staffers were that they weren't sure if they were supposed to be reading or not(This wasn't very clear and I know in my case that I wasn't scheduled to staff either but ended up doing it anyway.)

History Bee: This was actually my favorite part of the weekend. The logistics ran extremely well, the questions played well, and everybody seemed to enjoy themselves.

Now onto the History Bowl.

The History Bowl did not run nearly as well as any other event. My biggest issue was with the set which not only lacked any and all alternate answerlines, but also contained repeats and suffered from an overall lack of quality writing. Furthermore some of the answerlines were entirely too hard for the field and any answerline that wasn't history(mainly science and literature) suffered from being pure biobowl. I understand that at the *History* Bowl that everything has a *history* aspect to it but having half the toss up dedicated to things that are of little importance to *insert lit answerline here* makes the question enjoyable.

Additionally the set had a serious issues in regards to alternate answerlines/prompts/do not accepts. From my understanding it was up to the student to protest if they though their answer was correct. This doesn't seem very fair to the student and only serves to clog up the protest hotline.

The only other issue I had was relatively minor. Staffers were only given 45 minutes for lunch which in a very crowded downtown Louisville led to many of us eating on the go.

The measures all the TDs took to make sure that both the parents and students knew where to go and when to go there to be very impressive. Furthermore I'd like to praise all the other staff at the tournament including the numerous local volunteers who formed a very important scorekeeping backbone to help the tournament run smoothly. Overall I found the weekend to be an enjoyable one and would gladly staff any future NHBB tournaments.
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Re: 2015 Middle School History Bowl Discussion

Postby MissIrene » Tue May 26, 2015 2:52 pm

Let me just say that both my husband and I had a GREAT time staffing these events. I so enjoyed reading to the elementary aged players on Saturday. They were so intense and nervous, and literal, and sweet, and very intelligent! The parents are as nervous as the kids at those matches. When I told the kids to take a deep breath at the start, I saw all the shoulders of the parents and grandparents rise and they expelled a relieved breath with their children.

I will admit the Saturday 9pm meeting for us elderly (LOL) folks was a challenge, especially after a good meal and knowing the BlackHawks were playing, but we are flow-goers!

I look forward to helping out any time you may need us in the future. Thank you all for making two newcomers feel welcome.

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Re: 2015 Middle School History Bowl Discussion

Postby Rabbinator » Tue May 26, 2015 3:40 pm

MissIrene wrote:I will admit the Saturday 9pm meeting for us elderly (LOL) folks was a challenge, especially after a good meal and knowing the BlackHawks were playing, but we are flow-goers!
Irene Ducharme


I'll definitely agree with you there. I think you could all tell that I was tired, too, so it was kind of hard for us to trudge through.

Thank you so much for rolling with it! [Also, an aside. I sat next to a lady on my plane from Louisville to Chicago who knew you. :) ]
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Re: 2015 Middle School History Bowl Discussion

Postby RexSueciae » Tue May 26, 2015 4:29 pm

I might have missed the memo, but will the question set(s) be made publicly available? I can't remember what NHBB policy is for middle school questions.

Also, out of curiosity, how were the questions for the Middle School National History Bowl produced this year?
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Re: 2015 Middle School History Bowl Discussion

Postby Great Bustard » Tue May 26, 2015 7:29 pm

TylerV wrote: The History Bowl did not run nearly as well as any other event.

It seems as if your biggest issue here was with the difficulty of the set (more on my responses below), but I just wanted to clarify here regarding logistics, since "running well" usually implies logistics more than question quality. Personally, I thought the Bowl ran quite smoothly. The only major exception was one instance where a score was tabulated incorrectly on the scoring poster in one consolation group, and this was not caught until after the first quarter of Round 6. However, the four affected teams were then sorted out, and the backup packet was then used as needed to redo the first bit of that round. From a timing standpoint, we ran 11 games plus a rebracket and two tiebreaks in a venue that was new to us and included two hotels separated by a 5-10 minute walk ending at 5:02pm (stated end time was 5:00). Combined with the facts that many teams were brand new to the Bowl, that we were using a totally different playoff structure for the first time, and the fact that Bunnie had to fill slots in the draw both the night before and the morning of due to teams dropping, and I was very proud of how this ran.

TylerV wrote:My biggest issue was with the set which not only lacked any and all alternate answerlines,

This is patently untrue. If you'd like, I can send you Round 3 as an example, if you'd like, which alone has 8 alternate answerlines, and numerous directives to the moderator regarding prompts and do-not-accepts. The set itself will be posted in late June. I'm not denying that here and there, some prompts/alternate answerlines should have been added (fwiw, this is also true in the Bee where Tories was not given as an alternate answer for Loyalists, though I, who ran protests, obviously accepted both) but this was not half the problem in the Bowl set you're making it out to be.

TylerV wrote:but also contained repeats and suffered from an overall lack of quality writing. Furthermore some of the answerlines were entirely too hard for the field and any answerline that wasn't history(mainly science and literature) suffered from being pure biobowl. I understand that at the *History* Bowl that everything has a *history* aspect to it but having half the toss up dedicated to things that are of little importance to *insert lit answerline here* makes the question enjoyable.

I will agree with you here to a point. The set itself could have been more polished, though it went through multiple editing passes. It ended up playing somewhat harder than would have been ideal, but the overall scores (with the exception of the 5th and 6th place consolation groups) were actually fine, and were certainly no worse than NHBB HS Nationals was in this regard in the HSAPQ era (as an aside, at HS Nationals this year, there was more differentiation throughout the HS Nationals from prelims to playoffs, and scores were thus more consistent, and prelim scores were much higher than in past years). Some questions themselves were no doubt too difficult, though on the other hand, we also had a 6th grader first-lining a 6-line tossup on Thomas Young and a tossup on Stamford Raffles getting converted, so "entirely too hard" is relative. The afternoon rounds in particular could have been toned down a bit, especially for the consolation pools - we'll fix that for next year. For what it's worth, the Bowl set scaled up much more for the playoffs than the Bee questions did. If the Bowl overall was somewhat too hard, the Bee playoff questions played a bit too easy from what I saw. The Bowl questions also went up to 6 lines, while Bee questions were capped at 4. Bringing both Bee and Bowl closer to 5 lines next year (Bee prelims can stay at 4), is probably a good idea too, with the exception perhaps of the final rounds of Bowl playoffs, where some 6 liners seem appropriate to me. One last point: one reason why the scores were lower than ideal had to do with the number of solo teams in the draw (there were at least 10) which of course keeps scoring lower than it would normally be. Shout out, though, to Brandon Yu of Parkway Elementary, who playing as a 4th grader and a solo team picked up 2 morning wins and then won his afternoon consolation pool. Remember his name - he's got a long quiz bowl career ahead!

As for the oft-heard complaint on stuff not being historical, if there were certain questions that you remember were particularly problematic for this, please let me know so I can look them over. On the other hand, we didn't hear this (at least not yet) as a complaint from any students or coaches, so I'm not sure the players necessarily felt this way. We'll look through the post-tournament surveys and keep an eye out for this though.

TylerV wrote:Additionally the set had a serious issues in regards to alternate answerlines/prompts/do not accepts. From my understanding it was up to the student to protest if they though their answer was correct. This doesn't seem very fair to the student and only serves to clog up the protest hotline.

This is how protests work (if the student doesn't protest who should?) and from what I saw, the protest committee was hardly "clogged up" during the day. In the 3 final rounds I watched/read not a single protest was filed, though of course, that's a small sample.

TylerV wrote:The only other issue I had was relatively minor. Staffers were only given 45 minutes for lunch which in a very crowded downtown Louisville led to many of us eating on the go.

For this we apologize, though at some level, lunch needed to be tight given the fact that we had to get through 11 plus rounds and we had to finish by 5 since many people had evening flights. I hope this wasn't too much of an inconvenience, and I hope that our staff enjoyed helping us out both for the Bowl and throughout the weekend. Thanks again!
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Re: 2015 Middle School History Bowl Discussion

Postby Great Bustard » Tue May 26, 2015 7:34 pm

RexSueciae wrote:I might have missed the memo, but will the question set(s) be made publicly available? I can't remember what NHBB policy is for middle school questions.

Also, out of curiosity, how were the questions for the Middle School National History Bowl produced this year?


Every question that we used this weekend will be posted online, since students in future years need some guidance in terms of what the events will look like, though this won't happen until late June for most events. The MS History Bowl Nationals set this year was created from our question archive (roughly 20 people's questions were included) and I along with other NHBB staff spent about 40 hours editing it in total to make it work for MS Nationals. This wasn't ideal, but especially given the difficulties we faced this spring (like all our sets, Matt Weiner was supposed to have written this...) and the fact that we had the archive to turn to for this at a time when the writer corps we relied on for HS Nationals was busy with HSNCT/NSC/NASAT/recovering from our A Set Blitz/HS Nationals, this approach worked reasonably well.
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Re: 2015 Middle School History Bowl Discussion

Postby TylerV » Tue May 26, 2015 10:00 pm

First of all I would like to apologize to some of the wording I used in my previous post. I was extremely frustrated by isolated cases of lacking answerlines and this caused by wording to flat out say it lacked alternate answerlines which is untrue.

As for the difficult I found it to be mainly on target except for the outliers. I don't think that one child getting a toss up means its not "entirely too difficult for the field" but again that was an example of my wording being too harsh.


This is how protests work (if the student doesn't protest who should?) and from what I saw, the protest committee was hardly "clogged up" during the day. In the 3 final rounds I watched/read not a single protest was filed, though of course, that's a small sample.


This part I disagree with wholeheartedly. If a student is too timid to protest or have managed to convince themselves that they are wrong("Oh I remembered the name wrong!") then they end up losing points that they shouldn't have. I'm not saying that protests as a whole are flawed I am saying that lacking answerlines(again of which I only noticed a few) causes this problem. As for "clogged up" I didn't mean it so much as to say that they were literally overworked dealing with constant protests, but rather that they could have been doing other things than answering needless protests.

I'll restate that overall I thought the entire weekend ran wonderfully and that I was happy to staff it.
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Re: 2015 Middle School History Bowl Discussion

Postby TheDoctor » Wed May 27, 2015 1:19 am

Great Bustard wrote:
TylerV wrote:Additionally the set had a serious issues in regards to alternate answerlines/prompts/do not accepts. From my understanding it was up to the student to protest if they though their answer was correct. This doesn't seem very fair to the student and only serves to clog up the protest hotline.

This is how protests work (if the student doesn't protest who should?) and from what I saw, the protest committee was hardly "clogged up" during the day. In the 3 final rounds I watched/read not a single protest was filed, though of course, that's a small sample.


I think the problem Tyler is trying to communicate is that causing unnecessary protests by not ensuring that a set's answerlines are complete is just not good policy, and could have unwanted consequences. I'm sure many middle schoolers were confident enough to lodge their protests wisely, but I'm equally certain that, if the answer space was as sparse as I've heard, a not inconsequential number of kids lost points that they weren't confident enough to pursue.
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Re: 2015 Middle School History Bowl Discussion

Postby Rococo A Go Go » Wed May 27, 2015 1:31 am

On the answerline space issue: there were problems with some of the answerlines, but the set wasn't completely devoid of alternate answers. There were principles that I know NHBB to hold that were somewhat inconsistently applied in the case of alternate answers. The set was not perfect, nor was it as polished as it could have been, but this is still at least partially due to fallout from Matt Weiner bailing out. Hopefully next year there will be a good team in charge of NHBB question production with plenty of time to craft and edit the set; specific improvements could include checking for answerline issues, checking for repeats, and copy-editing.

However I don't want to make it sound like this thing ran poorly, it was overall a really great event! Staffing this tournament was one of the most enjoyable quizbowl experiences I've ever had; everything ran pretty much on time and the questions were adequate. I heard a lot of positive feedback from students and parents, and I think the outreach that NHBB is doing on the elementary and middle school levels is an incredibly exciting expansion project that will pay many dividends for the future of quizbowl.

I hope everybody else had as much fun coming to Kentucky as we had hosting the community this weekend!
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Re: 2015 Middle School History Bowl Discussion

Postby Great Bustard » Wed May 27, 2015 1:43 am

TheDoctor wrote:
Great Bustard wrote:
TylerV wrote:Additionally the set had a serious issues in regards to alternate answerlines/prompts/do not accepts. From my understanding it was up to the student to protest if they though their answer was correct. This doesn't seem very fair to the student and only serves to clog up the protest hotline.

This is how protests work (if the student doesn't protest who should?) and from what I saw, the protest committee was hardly "clogged up" during the day. In the 3 final rounds I watched/read not a single protest was filed, though of course, that's a small sample.


I think the problem Tyler is trying to communicate is that causing unnecessary protests by not ensuring that a set's answerlines are complete is just not good policy, and could have unwanted consequences. I'm sure many middle schoolers were confident enough to lodge their protests wisely, but I'm equally certain that, if the answer space was as sparse as I've heard, a not inconsequential number of kids lost points that they weren't confident enough to pursue.


I think we're all generally in agreement here on the following points:
1. The set could have used some additional answerlines.
2. Not every possible acceptable answer is necessarily always going to be anticipated.
3. In light of point #2, the onus is still on the player/coach to protest - it can't be up to the moderator to take an answer that's not listed on the page.
4. The protest committee (which in this case was Eric Huff and Nick Clusserath) was basically decompressing / tying up loose ends from Saturday throughout the tournament on Sunday. There wasn't any undue burden here, nor was there any sort of backlog that held up the tournament.
5. Next year's set will have multiple dedicated and experienced writers and editors and will not run into the same issues we did this year with set production needing to get totally overhauled in the weeks prior to the tournament given the bailing out of the original writer, and the lack of available other writers/editors on short notice who weren't engaged with other extensive projects.

Anyway, I'd be particularly interested in feedback from coaches and/or players to get their take. We'll be doing a survey in the next few days on the event, so that will give us further data to use on improvements for next year.
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Re: 2015 Middle School History Bowl Discussion

Postby Amiable Vitriol » Wed May 27, 2015 6:58 pm

I played the Bee and Rounds 2, 3, 4, and 5 of the Bowl. Overall, I thought it was a really well run event. The transparency in how people were placed in championship rounds was nice and I enjoyed the Twitter feed and live stat update. The technology was very convenient and a luxury you don't usually get at a quizbowl tournament. I didn't really have any protest problems or issues with answerlines in the Bee or Bowl, and, personally, I preferred the Bowl questions to the Bee in the rounds I got to attend. In my Bee rooms, going completely off of my cursory observations, there was a significant number of buzzer races on early clues, more so than Regionals this year or last and Nationals last year. I can imagine that this was partly due to a more skilled crop of middle schoolers ,but there definitely seemed to be a few clue placements that just didn't flow with the rest of the set difficulty wise. Otherwise, though, this event was awesome and a great experience in general.
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Re: 2015 Middle School History Bowl Discussion

Postby 1.82 » Tue Jun 09, 2015 4:40 pm

My thoughts on the whole echo Nick Conder's. I enjoyed my stay in Kentucky and would be glad to staff this event again should circumstances permit. The tournament ran smoothly from a logistical standpoint and I was very impressed with both the abilities and the demeanor of the competitors. From the perspective of a staffer, one thing I appreciated was the detailed instructions provided for replacement questions. While it did not affect me personally here, it was an issue that I had run into at high school nationals a month prior, and I was glad to see that thought had been put into this matter.

With regard to the question of difficulty, speaking as someone involved with the writing of the Bee, my understanding is that the thirteen rounds written and used for the Bee were not differentiated between prelims and playoffs and that all rounds were written to the same target difficulty, which would explain why the questions did not scale up. Obviously this was not an issue for the Bowl. I was reading consolation rounds for the Bowl in the afternoon, and I noticed that the questions tended to be too difficult for the teams competing, although perhaps this is unavoidable in the lower half. The playoff questions for the Bowl were very difficult—a very large number of them would not have been at all out of place at ACF Regionals—but given that they were generally converted I suppose this is a feature and not a bug.

I look forward to the growth of this event and of quizbowl at the middle school level in general in coming years.
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