Quick Overview: Volunteers are needed to judge high school debates.
Mission or Broader Program Description:
More than any other activity, debate has the potential to transform the educational experience for students in urban high schools. Debate is one of the most rigorous academic activities a student can participate in. It combines literary analysis, research, critical thinking, public speaking, organization, and advocacy. Through fun and friendly competition, LAMDL tournaments create an incentive for students to spend hundreds of hours developing the key skills that study after study shows our students are struggling to develop.
Urban youth with great talent, creativity, and potential often go unchallenged and unrecognized in Los Angeles public schools. When the classroom doesn’t engage them, students respond by dropping out, behaving disruptively, or giving up on themselves. Consequently, too many grow up without the skills they need to succeed in college and compete in today’s economy.
Competitive academic debate offers a powerful means of engaging students in their own education and reversing these negative trends. Debaters come from across the academic spectrum, including those who do not attend school regularly or are not thriving in the traditional classroom.
Debate appeals to these students as a fun, competitive, and student-centered way to encounter academic subjects. For many, debate tournaments are a rare opportunity to connect intellectually with their peers and to have their ideas about important issues considered seriously by adults.
Impact: The benefits of participation in policy debate for students are irrefutable. There is ample evidence documenting the academic benefits of policy debate.
- Graduation Rates: Debate appeals to student’s across the academic spectrum, including struggling students who are on the verge of dropping out. The competitive, student-centered nature of debate is attractive to these students – for the first time, they have a reason and opportunity to struggle with complicated text that speaks to their interests and invites their opinions. A recent study by Dr. Briana Mezuk of Virginia Commonwealth University found that more than three-quarters of debater graduate, compared to barely half of non-debaters. The effects for African American males are even bigger: African American males who participate in debate are 70 percent more likely to graduate on time and three times less likely to drop out than their peers.
- Improving Test Scores: Analyzing data from the Chicago Public Schools, Mezuk et al. (2011) found that debaters score significantly higher on the ACT in reading, English, and science. The big jump in science scores isn’t surprising when you consider that the ACT science test asks students to read, interpret and apply evidence-the same skills taught in debate.
- Improving Overall Academic Performance: Despite recent gains in academic achievement, low-income and minority students continue to under-perform their peers. Urban Debate Leagues (UDLs) have a proven record of decreasing that gap. While debate can help high-achieving students to access and succeed in college, it has an even greater impact on struggling students. Debate is a powerful literacy tool for students whose reading difficulties bring down their grades and sap their motivation to succeed. A University of Missouri- Kansas City study found that after one year in a UDL, debaters attended school more frequently, improved their GPAs by 10%, decreased risky behaviors, and achieved a 25% increase in literacy scores relative to a non-debating control group.
- Preparing Students to Succeed in College: UDLs change what is possible for these students. Studies show that: UDL’s have a graduation rate of nearly 100% in schools that often have dropout rates of 30 – 40% More than 75% of UDL students go on to a four-year University These students have an 80% matriculation rate Developing Leaders: According to a survey by the National Forensics League, 64% of U.S. Congress members competed in debate or speech in high school. Debaters are disproportionately represented in leadership ranks in law, business, and the academy. With high expectations, expanded horizons, and advanced skills, urban debaters are equipped to improve their schools, strengthen their communities, and ultimately make a contribution to the nation’s leadership.
Volunteer Roles and Responsibilities: Our tournaments start on Friday late afternoon and end Saturday early evening. We also ask volunteers to attend a half hour training session before judging.
As a judge, you will listen to the debaters, take notes, talk to the debaters when the debate round is over, offer encouragement, tell them what they did well and what they should work on, and then choose a winner.
Shift: We ask volunteers to judge in one of three sessions; two Friday debates, two Saturday morning debates, or two Saturday afternoon debates. Each debate typically lasts 1½ hours. Of course, if you have the time, feel free to volunteer to judge during more than one session.
Volunteer Roles & Responsibilities
- Issue Area(s): Children & Youth Education
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