Dr. Gerald Plecki, a teacher at Steinmetz High School, a working-class public school in Chicago, recruits seven of his best students to compete in the renowned Illinois Academic Decathlon against the school that has won for the last nine years, Whitney Young High School. Plecki knows that the odds are stacked against them and decides to level the playing field when presented with an advance copy of the questions. Steinmetz ends up dethroning Whitney Young with the highest total in state history. Their improbable victory makes them media darlings and sparks an outcry from Whitney Young and competition organizers. Under fierce examination by attorneys for the Board of Education, the team sticks together. But one disgruntled student, Irwin Flickas, reveals the truth to a Chicago Tribune columnist. Soon after, Plecki is told by principal Constantine Kiamos that he has been fired.