The Illinois Elementary School Association (IESA) is the governing body for middle school and junior high athletics and activities in Illinois. It is an affiliate member of the National Federation of State High School Associations. It has been in existence since the late 1920s.
Unlike the IHSA, which counts a vast majority of Illinois high schools as members, a great many Illinois middle and junior highs are not members of or have limited participation in IESA competitions, particularly in the Chicago area.
The IESA began sponsoring scholastic bowl in 1989, and through 1996, its state tournament was a single class tournament. Starting in 1997, the state was broken into two classes with larger schools competing in Class AA, and smaller school in Class A.
State Tournament Format
Similar to the IHSA, the IESA, within each class, divides the state up into 8 sectionals of roughly equal number of competing schools. Each sectional is further divided into four Regionals. Regional champions then meet to determine the sectional championship and advancement to state. The eight sectional champions then compete at the state tournament.
Unlike the IHSA which still uses single elimination at the Regional level, the IESA plays a round robin, and allows for tie-breaker rounds if there are ties between pool winners to advance to a winner-take-all championship round.
IESA matches consist of 24 tossups and 20 bonuses. Excluding ties, the match ends when either the 24th tossup has been read, the 20th bonus has been read, or either team exceeds 300 points. Ties are broken strictly with tossups, with the winning team being the first to answer two tossup questions correctly.
All tossups are worth ten points (there are no powers or negs). All bonus questions are four parts, with each part being worth 5 points each. Bonus parts are read all at once with teams being given up to 30 seconds to confer. The controlling team then gives answers one at a time, being told if they are correct or incorrect after each answer.
Among the more bizarre rules that exists (despite attempts to remove the rule by a small number of coaches) is a rule that once time on a bonus question runs out or is called by the team in control, all players must put writing implements down. Any player not putting their writing implements down, even if it is clear they are not writing or communicating, incurs a penalty for that team.
Protests are not allowed in IESA scholastic bowl matches.
The questions used in IESA tournament play have been the antithesis of good quizbowl practice for its entire existence. For many years, the questions were provided by Questions Galore, with Avery Enterprises taking over after Avery purchased Questions Galore. While a small number of coaches have been fighting to bring the IESA into line with the rest of the nation, this has yet to produce good questions for the tournament.
IESA vs. IHSA
Historically, the IHSA has kept a great distance from quizbowl coaches and players, with change and reform taking a long time because of the lack of good communication between coaches and IHSA administrators. The IESA, while still using a top-down approach that limits communication, has shown far more interest in working in their community. Among other initiatives, the IESA sponsors a well-attended annual meeting for coaches and officials with workshops which can be helpful to new coaches. The IESA has a link on its website which advertises local tournaments. The IESA also recently began experimenting with online scorecards.
The questions, format, and quirky rules, however, have been a barrier to crossover between IHSA and IESA officials. Many people who work IHSA events as moderators and scorekeepers have refused to work IESA events. This is largely due to the questions being so problematic, and moderators having limited time and ability to repair the questions, especially in an environment where protests are not allowed.