New Study on the Chicago Debate League

A new study on the Chicago Debate League was just published in the Journal of Adolescence“Participating in a policy debate program and academic achievement among at-risk adolescents in an urban public school district: 1997–2007” — by researchers from Virginia Commonwealth University and Tulane University.


* Further support for the close connection between academic debate and the Common Core (p.2):

“The 2010 CCS aim to refocus literary education on analysis and evaluation of non-fiction texts and oral communication (i.e., listening, speaking, and presenting) (Porter et al.,2011). On face, competitive policy debate programs appear to match well with many of the English language arts and reading objectives outlined in the CCS.”

* Impact on graduation prospects most dramatic among most at-risk students (p.5):

“[T]he difference was greatest in the highest risk group, in which 72% of debaters and 43% of non-debaters graduated. In the stratified analysis, debaters remained significantly more likely to graduate from high school in each of the five risk groups. . . . indicating that the association between debate and high school completion did not differ between low-risk and at-risk students.”

* Debate has a significant impact on ACT scores (p.9):

“Students who participated in debate had significantly higher scores on all sections of the ACT after adjusting for demographic and risk variables. . . . Debaters were also more likely to reach the college-readiness benchmark on the English, Reading, and Science sections of the ACT. It is noteworthy . . . that debate was associated with greater college-readiness, as indicated by this test, even among at-risk students.”

* Debate can be a successful intervention in the inter-generational poverty cycle (p.10):

“Participation in an UDL has the potential to interrupt the inter-generational cycle of low parental SES determining their children’s educational attainment and subsequent social status in adulthood (Melby et al., 2008). While previous research has . . . reported inconsistent results of co-curricular activities’ association with school engagement for at-risk students (2005), our analysis shows no difference in the association between debate and college-readiness based on at-risk status.”

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