And the Winner Is? Nevada Science Olympiad Unsettled

By Hannah Rose Sacks — March 28, 2012 2 min read
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Nearly a month after the conclusion of the Nevada Science Olympiad, Centennial High School and Ed W. Clark High School in Las Vegas are embroiled in an even more hotly contested battle to represent their state at the National Science Olympiad this May.

The Science Olympiad, consisting of multiple team events spanning the science disciplines, is a nonprofit endeavor that aims to improve the quality of K-12 science education and promote students’ interest in the field, according to the mission statement. For the Nevada competition more than 400 students from 22 schools competed in 23 different events, reports the Las Vegas Sun.

Ten days after the March 3 conclusion of the Nevada Science Olympiad, the coach of the second place team, Centennial High School, discovered a scoring error. The score of Centennial’s last event had two numbers transposed. The correctly calculated score was higher than the team awarded first place, Clark High School.

Once the calculation error was confirmed by Nevada State Olympiad Director Richard Vineyard, an ethical dilemma emerged: should Clark High School concede, despite being—albeit mistakenly—declared official state champions?

Though National Science Olympiad policy states that the results are final after 24 hours, the debate is far from over. Both sides, it seems, are committed to representing Nevada at the competition. This would be Clark High School’s third consecutive showing at the National Science Olympiad, while it would be the first for Centennial High School.

Both schools’ teams have clear grounds—and motivation—to declare their team the winner and prepare for the grueling national competition.

After registering for the national competition, Clark High School’s team has been making travel arrangements. The school website has already proclaimed the team as state victors as well.

Meanwhile, an attorney, a parent of a Centennial High School Science Olympiad member, sent a letter to Vineyard directly.

While the two teams seem to have reached an impasse, there is little hope of compromise at the national level. Vineyard’s request that two teams represent Nevada this year was denied.

Clark students believe that since they were declared the winners, Centennial High School should respect the decision and they should not be asked to step down. However, Centennial senior and founding member Josh Curtis believes this sets a negative precedent.

“If Centennial is not recognized as the winner, Clark students will learn that if you refuse to acknowledge the rules and ignore the truth, you will get what you want,” Curtis told the Sun. “They will see that lying and cheating are acceptable actions.”

For now, the matter is unresolved, though the two teams are contemplating another competition to determine who will represent Nevada.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.