CMSDL Post-T1 Notes

Here are notes from the Chicago Middle School Debate League administration following our opening competition, Tournament One, at Phillips Academy H.S. on Saturday.


Overall, the tournament was a strong beginning to the season. The dedication and engagement of the coaches present was very impressive, in the main, and the students’ enthusiasm was very evident. Coaching a middle school debate team in our League is not at all easy, but our coaches are doing an excellent job, overall, so far.


Getting students involved in competitive academic debate is our most important objective in the CMSDL, because research shows that competitive academic debate is inherently valuable for students — improves their literacy scores, communication skills, critical thinking abilities. Because the educational effect that the CMSDL has on public school students in Chicago is its most important reason for being, tournament participation is the most important measurement of performance in the CMSDL.

Overall, the CMSDL is so far down 1% in the number of tournament debaters compared to last year after T1. The CMSDL Tournament Reporting Notebook has this data on its second sheet, the Tournament Numbers sheet. For returning middle school teams, you can see if you are growing or not relative to last year on the Notebook’s third sheet, Participation Changes.


The Participation Standard in the CMSDL is the uniform national urban debate standard: 8 debaters per school per tournament (4 debaters per school per tournament for new schools). The first sheet of the CMSDL Tournament Reporting Notebook has a reporting of which schools met the standard at T1 and which did not. Actually all of the attending schools met the standard. Our problem, though, was that three of the 14 schools in the CMSDL didn’t attend the tournament. We will have to work hard from here forward to be sure that we have full attendance at tournaments and, we hope, full attainment of the Participation Standard.

Of course, involving more students than the standard requires indicates higher performance.


Speaker awards update. The awards vendor insists that all of the awards were delivered to Phillips last week. We’re in the process of tracking them down. We should have all of the speaker awards distributed to the winners early next week.


One of the keys to the development of our middle school debate programs will be the Support School program. The Support School Tracking Form has contact information for each of the support school coaches and their MS matches. Support school coaches should be reaching out to their MS coaches. And MS coaches should be reaching out to the support school coaches.

Support school coaches: you will be paid this year $35 per hour for your time at tournaments (up to 20 hours) and meeting with your MS coach, plus $35 for transportation for your visits to the school. You are welcome to bring HS debaters with you to these meetings, if you will be meeting with the MS debaters too. But keep in mind that your primary function is to serve as a source of support and information to your MS coach. You must report all of your visits to Forrest Sumlar — — with the date, times, and content coverage for your visits. The Support School Tracking Form has a record of all of the visits performed by support school coaches, and it is from this form (plus tournament records) that support school coaches will be paid.


Our judges mostly did well. Three things that support school coaches should be sure to remind them of before MS T2, December 11th. (A) The speaker point scale in the CMSDL is 25-30, where 0.5’s are allowed, and giving lower than a 25 is punitive, given to a debater for doing something inappropriate, like using profanity, listening to an iPod during the round, etc. (B) Judges should write full ballots, so that debaters and coaches can benefit from this feedback after the tournament. (C) Oral critiques should be encouraging and affirming more than critical — in fact, the ratio should be basically constant here at about 2:1 positive comments over critical ones.

Remember that this year we are asking Support Schools to register their judges with us centrally, rather than requiring that each middle school register their own judges. You can begin registering judges soon for MS T2, December 11th.

Judges will be paid this week for MS T1. Checks will go out to Support Schools by this Wednesday, November 24th.


We are likely to continue to need to combine the JV and Varsity Divisions at subsequent CMSDL tournaments, as we did at MS T1, and break out the Divisions for the awards.

This means that all JV and Varsity teams should be using Varsity rules — where both affirmative cases, and all of the disadvantages and topicality arguments in the CMSDL Core Files are runnable.


From here on out we will use CDL (HS) rules regarding maverick teams (teams with a single debater, one-person teams), which means that maverick debaters can win an individual speaker award but not a team award. Strong reason to be sure that each of your debaters has a partner.

1 reply
  1. John Jacoby
    John Jacoby says:

    This new website is a great idea and I appreciate the information it provides.

    T1 comments from a coaching perspective —

    I think the 1AC was a little long for the novices. I understand many teams did not get to solvency.

    Flowing remains a problem and is a good continuing emphasis for instruction purposes.

    Judging — it would help if the judges gave some substance to why they made their decision in terms of the arguments as opposed to merely commenting on style. Several of the ballots had as their reason for decision that one team “answered all the points” or something along those lines. In reading the ballots I had a difficult time discerning why teams won or lost on many ballots, and in the case of a low point win or loss it makes it difficult to decide what I should concentrate on as a coach. Those ballots that list an argument that was dropped, or an argument mishandled, etc. are much appreciated.


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