Monday, November 9, 2009

MA: Students who participate in debate do better in school

Sun Nov 08, 2009, 07:43 AM EST

Submitted by BPS


A new study suggests that African-American students who participate in debate leagues earn better grades, are more three times more likely to graduate from high school than similar students who do not join their debate team, and are better prepared for college success.

Dr. Carol R. Johnson, Superintendent of the Boston Public Schools (BPS), has increased the district’s investment in the Boston Debate League (BDL) as a powerful tool for engaging urban students in academically rich activities during school, after school, and during the summer.

“Debate has quickly become an exciting way for Boston Public Schools students to learn and express themselves outside of the traditional school day,” said Johnson. “It’s rewarding to see the debate league help students improve skills in reasoning, argument, research, public speaking, and teamwork, and perhaps most importantly, build their self-confidence.”

The new study by researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University, examined 2,500 Chicago Public Schools students who participated in at least one debate tournament over a 10-year period, comparing their performance to about 10,000 other African-American students. The researchers found a direct correlation between a student’s level of involvement in debate and academic gains across several measures — including increased college readiness in English and reading. The study is published this month in Howard University’s Journal of Negro Education.

Volunteers started the Boston Debate League in 2005 with three participating schools. Last year, Johnson committed district funding to the league, enabling it to expand to eight Boston high schools. This year, with additional support from BPS, EdVestors, The Boston Foundation, The Shapiro Family Foundation, the National Association for Urban Debate Leagues, and Social Venture Partners (SVP), the league has grown to 10 schools:

Boston Latin Academy (Dorchester)

Brighton High School (Brighton)

Brook Farm Business and Service Career Academy (West Roxbury)

Charlestown High School

Dorchester Academy

East Boston High School

Media Communications Technology High School (West Roxbury)

New Mission High School (Mission Hill)

Quincy Upper School (Chinatown / South End)

Urban Science Academy (West Roxbury)

“This academically rigorous, peer-reviewed research coming out of VCU finally confirms what we have known all along: that debate can play a significant role in addressing some of the most pressing problems urban students face,” said Steve Stein, Executive Director of the Boston Debate League. “As the BDL expands to more schools and reaches larger numbers of students, we will see attendance, grades, test scores, and high school and college graduation rates go up, and dropouts and discipline issues go down.”

Hundreds of Boston public high school students participate, spending countless hours outside the regular school day researching, studying, and debating timely issues. Boston is one of 18 large cities affiliated with the National Association for Urban Debate Leagues. BPS students have competed and earned distinctions in national tournaments.

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