College Tournaments Using High School Questions

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College Tournaments Using High School Questions

Post by DumbJaques » Fri Sep 14, 2007 10:42 pm

Sorry to disappoint everyone, but this is not a thread to debate college tournaments run on high school questions. There can be another thread about that, if so desired. I don't support running college tournaments on high school questions but it seems like it's going to happen (I think it's important for it to happen along with, not instead of, collegiate level tournaments in the immediate region, but that's another issue).

What makes running these tournaments most troubling to me is that they tend to be run on NAQT IS (or A series, what the fuck), which more and more high school teams are starting to complain about as being too easy, too trashy, etc. If you insist on running a tournament on high school questions, why not think about mirroring one of the better house-written tournaments? Thomas Jefferson, Richard Montgomery, and Governor's School all run well-written, 20/20 style tournaments that are obviously appropriate for new players but which are a considerably better prep for college than NAQT. I would like to ask everyone who has announced a college NAQT IS tournament on this board to consider mirroring one of the better high school tournaments instead. I would really like to ask you not to run college tournaments on those questions, but I can see why you would argue with me about that. I don't see a good reason not to do this.
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Post by Bigfoot isn't the pr » Tue Sep 18, 2007 10:10 pm

I agree that the house-written 2006-2007 season Thomas Jefferson tournament was a solid question set. It started off at about the level of NAQT IS but did advance to HS nationals (which is above Undergrad tournaments in the NAQT difficulty scale, iirc) and perhaps beyond. Well written and (for the most part) well distributed.
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Post by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) » Wed Sep 19, 2007 7:55 am

But still for high schoolers.
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Post by BuzzerZen » Wed Sep 19, 2007 9:11 am

Deesy Does It wrote:But still for high schoolers.
I dunno; the question on "autoerotic asphyxiation" I let slip in somehow wasn't really high school appropriate, I don't think...
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Post by Philip Marschall » Wed Sep 19, 2007 1:45 pm

That was completely high school appropriate.

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Re: College Tournaments Using High School Questions

Post by NoahMinkCHS » Wed Sep 19, 2007 4:55 pm

DumbJaques wrote:If you insist on running a tournament on high school questions, why not think about mirroring one of the better house-written tournaments? Thomas Jefferson, Richard Montgomery, and Governor's School all run well-written, 20/20 style tournaments that are obviously appropriate for new players but which are a considerably better prep for college than NAQT. I would like to ask everyone who has announced a college NAQT IS tournament on this board to consider mirroring one of the better high school tournaments instead. I would really like to ask you not to run college tournaments on those questions, but I can see why you would argue with me about that. I don't see a good reason not to do this.
Sorry to bring this back on topic but I see a couple reasons why one might not want to do this:
  • Uncertain quality - I don't doubt that the programs you listed and many others have the experience and skill to put together good tournaments. But it goes back to the basic economic role of branding. NAQT is a known quantity; love it or hate it, hosts and players know exactly what to expect. We know there's a certain level of quality we can expect, and while NAQT isn't perfect, one assumes (generally correctly) that question sets get vetted enough times by enough smart people to catch any problems. With a house-written set, you don't personally know the writers and editors, and you don't know the constraints they had (say, they got the raw questions late and didn't have much time to edit). Obviously, this happens with mirrored college tournaments all the time, but part of why I think we live with that is because there isn't a ready-made "branded" alternative. (Other reasons exist, of course, but if there were a hypothetical vendor who sold college invitational level questions, I imagine the number of packet-sub/house-written college tournaments would go down.)
  • Appearance - Of course, people here know that "IS" means "high school" and generally criticize tournaments run on those questions. But NAQT doesn't call them that; NAQT recommends them for use at "high school, community college, juniorbird, CUT-style and other events." If you're marketing a tournament to college teams -- probably less-experienced college teams -- do you think you'll get more bites saying "We're using NAQT Invitational Series 74" or "We're mirroring Richard Montgomery High School's tournament"? (Assume for the sake of argument that your team primarily consists of people who have never been to [or heard of?] HSNCT.)
  • Timeliness - I think (perhaps wrongly, of course) that most college IS tournaments are early-season affairs, and would be likely to happen before many of the good high school tournaments have been written. You can't use last year's tournament because there's a non-trivial possibility someone in your target audience went to that tournament, plus the questions might have included information that is no longer accurate. So you're limited to when you can host an event mirroring a HS tournament, and given the other disadvantages, is it worth the wait?

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Post by Sima Guang Hater » Wed Sep 19, 2007 5:49 pm

House-written. Works every time.
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Re: College Tournaments Using High School Questions

Post by Gautam » Wed Sep 19, 2007 11:39 pm

NoahMinkCHS wrote: Uncertain quality - I don't doubt that the programs you listed and many others have the experience and skill to put together good tournaments. But it goes back to the basic economic role of branding. NAQT is a known quantity; love it or hate it, hosts and players know exactly what to expect. We know there's a certain level of quality we can expect
I think we should be discussing three qualities here.
1: The quality of the question itself, i.e. how the question is written, relevance of clues, pyramidalty, etc. NAQT sets have been pretty good at that. I will say that the power-marks for some questions have been ridiculously placed, and I've seen soe questions with about 2.5-3 line powers. That is a tad too much.

2: The quality of the answer space, i.e., what gets written about. Some of the questions in the IS packets (heck, even the HSNCT set) were about really terrible things. e.g. Aly and AJ, Vera Wang, Jackelope, and many others that didn't merit my attention.

3. The quality of the overall distribution, i.e. how many questions are written about a particular category, etc. I haven't measured this statistically, but from what I've seen, I feel that there has been an increased presence of trashy (sports included) stuff. That should be minimized, really. Like, we don't write too many academic questions for trash tournaments, why include too many trash questions for academic tournaments? 11.5% trash is excessive. the number should be somewhere near 4-5%. That said, I don't see why NAQT doesn't adopt a fixed distribution, since its only fair for the players to know what to expect in each packet. People have complained about how excessive trash questions in a certain packets have cost them the round (or something like that) and that is a relevant issue that NAQT should address, IMO.

The Eden Prairie team practised/played on about 20 sets of IS series packets, and I'm pretty sure we all agree that the overall quality (the combination of the aforementioned 3) of the recent packets has wavered quite a bit.
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Post by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) » Thu Sep 20, 2007 12:07 am

Just FYI Ive read through older NAQT packets and they have some pretty awful questions from all time periods. I would say in a lot of ways the quality has improved. I think the questions at HSNCT were much harder and well written in general compared to their early sets, and the bonuses were better i think. The problem is that they havent gotten rid of the crap that they've always had, although even then sometimes its better written/a better answer selection within the "crap" category.
Not that I'm an apologist, as you all know.
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Post by No Rules Westbrook » Thu Sep 20, 2007 2:02 am

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Post by First Chairman » Thu Sep 20, 2007 7:46 am

On a theoretical level, running a high school tournament on college-level questions is tricky. If we're talking Freshman/Sophomore level, it might be slightly tough but should be fine. Normal college answer space otherwise is too broad.

On a practical level, I worry because sometimes college freshman/sophomore may be a bit discouraging for some of the younger high school quiz bowl students. It takes tweaking to get the right difficulty level, but it is something to keep in mind.

That said, I don't know whether the improper use of NAQT questions for high school events is good for the "game" or bad. It's the TD's responsibility to find questions, and if that's the route, that's the route.
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Post by Sima Guang Hater » Thu Sep 20, 2007 11:56 am

Will Run PACE for Reese's wrote:running a high school tournament on college-level questions is tricky
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Post by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) » Thu Sep 20, 2007 2:54 pm

Mr. Chuck, am I misreading something? I'm pretty sure the discussion here is about whether colleges should use high school questions in tournaments, not whether high schools should use college questions.
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Re: College Tournaments Using High School Questions

Post by ecks » Wed Oct 17, 2007 12:00 am

DumbJaques wrote:Thomas Jefferson, Richard Montgomery, and Governor's School all run well-written, 20/20 style tournaments that are obviously appropriate for new players but which are a considerably better prep for college than NAQT.
Unless, of course, your school typically only goes to NAQT and CBI-level events. Truman State's program, for example, went through a nearly three-year period where we went to nothing but NAQT DII SCT- and CBI-level events. With a change in leadership (namely Kent and myself), we're trying to focus more on ACF/mACF events (to only mild complaints from some members; they were orginially fairly anti-ACF, but after going to EFT they're starting to like the increased difficulty level and question quality), but for a long time NAQT IS sets are really all that was needed to prepare members of Truman's quizbowl team for the college circuit.

Like I said, I personally prefer the ACF/mACF events, but for better or worse, you can have a moderately productive career on the "college" quizbowl circuit ("college" meaning "quizbowl tournaments held by universities"; whether or not the questions those tournaments run are truly appropriate for college is another matter) without ever going to events of that difficulty.
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Post by STPickrell » Wed Oct 17, 2007 7:10 am

If you played your HS career on (fill in bad vendor here), NAQT IS is a step up in quality. On the other hand if you have played NAQT all your HS career, by your junior and senior year your IS sets are going to be too easy. You may well be ready for more difficult questions; witness TJ and Maggie Walker starting to go to more low-end college tournaments -- and heck, winning them sometimes.

Remember there are vast swathes of this country which are completely absent on this board -- there are many coaches out there who for better or for worse consider NAQT to be some sort of swear-word or mark of the devil. I imagine I will be getting some angry letters from coaches in Missouri. The objections to long questions in Virginia seem to stem more from AD's wanting to pack in 6-7 matches on a school night -- I can't object to their spirit of wanting to give the teams more competition.

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Post by cvdwightw » Wed Oct 17, 2007 1:51 pm

STPickrell wrote:If you played your HS career on (fill in bad vendor here), NAQT IS is a step up in quality. On the other hand if you have played NAQT all your HS career, by your junior and senior year your IS sets are going to be too easy.
See, there's the problem right there. It's not like NAQT's going to come out with a "High School Masters" set that's about Div II Sectionals length and difficulty. If it did, I think this would be a halfway decent novice tournament. A significant portion of the country is either not on the pyramidal tossup bandwagon or has some interesting views on what pyramidal tossups constitute. Let's face it, someone going from CBI-only to more club-centric activities is going to have the same problems as someone from one of the more "backward" areas of quizbowl. Going from one-line speed-checks to six-line pyramidal tossups is tough. Something that's roughly ACF Fall difficulty but only 3-4 lines is right in the middle and would provide a decent transition period for both novices and previously CBI-only teams.

Now, if that's what's happening with all these well-written high school tournaments, that's great, that should be looked at. The main problem, as Noah alluded to, is marketing these tournaments to colleges. NAQT has a website that lists tournaments; under college tournaments it says something like "College" regardless of whether it's ICT or something on IS-sets. Regardless of the difficulty or whether it's appropriate for college, it markets itself as a college tournament. Now you say, "we're going to use questions written by Richard Montgomery High School". Well--that just doesn't look right to a lot of people, because it's blatantly billing itself as a high school tournament. CBI-only teams will go, "That's a high school tournament. We're too good to go to that" even if they've never actually heard a real physics question in their lives. NAQT is able to get around this. For now, no one else really is. Unless someone runs a tournament without revealing the source of the questions (almost impossible to do nowadays, but it used to be possible several years ago), I don't see how people can get around the apparent bias against "high school questions".

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Post by vcuEvan » Wed Oct 17, 2007 2:21 pm

cvdwightw wrote: Something that's roughly ACF Fall difficulty but only 3-4 lines is right in the middle and would provide a decent transition period for both novices and previously CBI-only teams.
Has this ever been tried?

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Post by Deviant Insider » Wed Oct 17, 2007 2:55 pm

The marketing issue would be easy to fix if the high schools knew in advance that there was a market for their questions. The first year we hosted our high school tournament, we just said that we were using questions written by our students. By the second year, some of my team had recruited some college freshmen that used to be their competitors, and together they formed a company called Aegis. So, we said we were using questions written by Aegis even though the two people who were to a large extent in charge were the same two people, and they were still in high school. (Apologies to Mr. Laird and a few others.)

If RM thought that there was a market for their questions, they could just say that their questions are written by the Writing Rockets, state in announcements for their tournament that the Writing Rockets are students at their school, and offer colleges the opportunity to use Writing Rocket questions.
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Post by grapesmoker » Wed Oct 17, 2007 2:57 pm

Something that's roughly ACF Fall difficulty but only 3-4 lines is right in the middle and would provide a decent transition period for both novices and previously CBI-only teams.
Why is it that every time we have a discussion on this and related issues, someone must propose yet another "transition" tournament to help people adjust? There were calls for easier tournaments, so ACF Fall was invented. Then there were calls for still easier tournaments, so things like EFT came along. And then EFT turned out to be too hard, so it was made easier in its second year. And now we're talking about another intermediate tournament, for what purpose no one knows.

Enough already. The way to win people over to good pyramidal questions is not to lower the standards of good tournaments until they are indistinguishable from bad ones in hopes of playing a bait-and-switch on new or CBI-transitioning teams. It's a bad idea that's bad for quizbowl; if someone played EFT this year and still prefers CBI to real quizbowl, then I am going to shrug and not even think about convincing that person, because they can't be convinced. This is not even mentioning the fact that I've come to believe after many years of play that you cannot write a proper 3 line tossup that appropriately distinguishes between any but the coarsest levels of knowledge. It's doable in 4 lines by a good writer, but just barely.

While I understand the appeal and the motivations that lead people to host tournaments on IS sets, I'm firm in my belief that these sets undermine the practice of question writing and infantilize college teams by shielding them from supposedly "hard" material or formats. They also contribute to the regrettable shortness of attention span that seems to plague all tournaments these days, as well as repeated complaints about questions that are "too long." I don't see any of those as good things.
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Post by Captain Sinico » Wed Oct 17, 2007 4:32 pm

grapesmoker wrote:
Something that's roughly ACF Fall difficulty but only 3-4 lines is right in the middle and would provide a decent transition period for both novices and previously CBI-only teams.
Why is it that every time we have a discussion on this and related issues, someone must propose yet another "transition" tournament to help people adjust? There were calls for easier tournaments, so ACF Fall was invented...
Actually, I think if you look at the original ACF Fall (as I did last night,) you'll see that its questions were a lot shorter than those in subsequent versions (or certainly than those in either EFT.) So, this is a call for something like a return to the original ACF Fall. I don't see anything wrong with that.
Further, I'll say that my hypothesis is that the calls for still "easier" tournaments are an effect of ACF Fall getting longer. What I see is that, right or wrong, longer questions are perceived as harder regardless of their actual difficulty vis a vis what their answers are. It is clear to me that no amount of argument (or preaching or whatever) on my part or on the part of anyone else is going to change that perception.
So, when we come to talking turkey, the question then is whether a tournament with 4-5 line pyramidal tossups on relatively easy subjects is really that objectionable. I don't find it so and I really can't see why anyone would, actually.

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Post by No Rules Westbrook » Wed Oct 17, 2007 6:59 pm

Jerry's point here is one that I think needs to be taken to heart more often. There's way too much intimation these days that players need to be either: a.) patiently coaxed and gently prodded into playing longer pyramidal questions through some excruciatingly long and torturous series of transitional tourneys that gradually raise the bar in infinitesimal increments until someday, two decades from now, that player is ready to be one of us OR b.) convinced that our questions are really just like what they're used to except better, i.e. duped into believing there's no real difference between the two through some combination of lowering our standards and raising theirs while they're not looking.

This just isn't reality...and I've seen no evidence that it will bear any fruit; what it's more likely to do is lower and obfuscate the standards of good quizbowl. At some level, we need to just recognize that either people have the motivation and desire to want to play good quizbowl or they don't. If the argument here is for 5-6 line tus of acf fall difficulty to provide a real transition for players, fine. If it's for anything less, I think we're chasing rainbows into a rabbithole.

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Post by vandyhawk » Wed Oct 17, 2007 10:06 pm

The old Kelly McKenzie-edited ACF Fall editions definitely had shorter tossups, but were actually harder than the last few years, I think, especially the bonuses. I reserve the right to retract this statement around Nov 11, but I think this year's ACF Fall is probably going to be the best "transition" set produced. The difficulty will be lower than pretty much any other collegiate-written set, including EFTs (which I think is just the product of having more editors on board to even out what people think is appropriate difficulty), and tossups won't be any longer than 6 lines. If anyone still thinks it is too hard or long, then I'd have to agree with Ryan that that person probably just won't make it regardless.

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Post by cvdwightw » Thu Oct 18, 2007 1:15 am

vandyhawk wrote:I reserve the right to retract this statement around Nov 11, but I think this year's ACF Fall is probably going to be the best "transition" set produced. The difficulty will be lower than pretty much any other collegiate-written set, including EFTs (which I think is just the product of having more editors on board to even out what people think is appropriate difficulty), and tossups won't be any longer than 6 lines. If anyone still thinks it is too hard or long, then I'd have to agree with Ryan that that person probably just won't make it regardless.
I completely agree. I am of the opinion that a well-written 5-6 (with spillover onto 7) line tossup is always better than a well-written 8+ line tossup, which is much more preferable to a 3 line tossup. Part of this comes from being a moderator: I don't mind playing on 9 or 10-line behemoths with 3 line bonus parts, but I don't want to read those questions, and I think we sometimes forget that in addition to players and writers/editors there are people who actually have to read the questions.

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Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Thu Oct 18, 2007 2:23 am

Perhaps somebody should write a tournament consisting entirely of one-line tossups using only 2005 ACF Nationals-level lead-ins, to cure people of the notion that short = easy and long = hard.
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Post by Mr. Kwalter » Thu Oct 18, 2007 3:55 pm

I agree that short tossups are key. Six lines in 10 pt tnr should be standard for novice-level tournaments (anything up to but not including ACF regionals). Things that are regs difficulty or harder can and maybe should be upped to 7-8 lines, as the competition at the top level is going to be much more skilled. The only way we can convince haters that pyramidal questions of reasonable length are not necessarily hard is by creating more and more tournaments that exhibit that quality (not suggesting that we add tournaments to the lineup, just saying that we should continue to make all low-level tournaments conform to that philosophy). So do that.
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