Ten years ago, Jon Abbott, WGBH's President and CEO, approached Hillary Wells, who is now Executive Producer and Director of Youth Media, with the idea to develop an original statewide academic quiz show for Massachusetts high schools. That hallway conversation led to the creation of High School Quiz Show. With input and support from Mitchell Chester, the Massachusetts Education Commissioner at the time, and guidance from existing academic quiz shows across the country including WGBY's longstanding As Schools Match Wits in western Mass., Wells created a bracketed format that brought the excitement of sports into a program that put the spotlight squarely on academics.
Today, the Emmy award-winning High School Quiz Show, hosted by Billy Costa, still serves as a showcase for statewide smarts and a celebration of academic achievement for students who come from all corners of Massachusetts. In front of a live studio audience at WGBH Studios, competitors answer rapid-fire questions that span many categories, including history, math, literature, science, civics and current events. Supporters get in on the action with signs and cheers, contributing to a fun and positive atmosphere too often associated only with athletics.
Over the years, 70 different schools have participated in the show, including State Champions like Lexington High School, North Quincy High School, Hamilton-Wenham High School, Andover High School and Acton-Boxborough Regional High School. Those winners have gone on to face the academic quiz show winners of New Hampshire’s Granite State Challenge in the Governor’s Cup. Starting in 2018, the winners of High School Quiz Show: Rhode Island and High School Quiz Show: Maine, now licensees of the original, joined the fray, facing off against the Massachusetts and New Hampshire state champions in the Interstate Invitational. To date, more than 670 students have competed on the show.
Celebrities have also lent their talents to the production for a special celebrity edition that featured local stars like WCVB-TV’s Susan Wornick, Diary of a Wimpy Kid author Jeff Kinney, Matt Siegel of KISS 108, Flour Bakery founder Joanne Chang, and Boston Pops Conductor Keith Lockhart. Outside of the studio, celebrities from across the world have been tapped to ask video questions throughout the competition, including actor Steve Carrell, journalist Katie Couric, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek, former New England Patriot Malcolm Mitchell, and Mass. Governor Charlie Baker.
“We have heard from coaches and parents that students who felt invisible in their schools came into their own on Quiz Show—it gave them visibility, increased their confidence and became an integral part of their identity," said Wells. "It’s also been extremely gratifying to now see Quiz Show as a featured component of college applications and job resumes and to have achieved our goal of creating a program that over time became a source of engagement and pride within schools and communities across the Commonwealth.”
Click here to learn more about High School Quiz Show, download your Season 10 bracket, and watch previous episodes, then tune in for High School Quiz Show: Season 10 on Saturday, February 2 at 6pm on WGBH 2.
TIMELINE—A look back at 10 years of High School Quiz Show here.