Chicago Middle School League Thriving

Third season ends on high note, seeing 25% overall growth

The Chicago Middle School League wrapped up its season with the Third Annual Chicago Middle School Debate Championship held at Lindblom Math and Science Academy this spring. This year’s Middle School Debate Championship increased the challenges provided to students by expanding from three to four preliminary debates and adding a final round in Varsity, JV, and Novice — nearly equaling the rigor of the Saturday portion of high school tournaments.

In Varsity, Lincoln Elementary School defeated Morgan Park in the championship round. In JV, South Loop Elementary School defeated Alcott Elementary School, and in Novice, Lincoln Elementary defeated Shoop Academy of Math, Science and Technology. Anna Griffith from South Loop was named “8th Grader of the Year” and Perriyana Clay from Spencer Elementary Technology Academy was named “7th Grader of the Year” for their leadership and commitment to their teams.

The competitive year ended on a strong note, with 137 students at the Championship, the largest number of participants at any CDL Middle School tournament. This represented a 37% increase over last year’s Chicago Middle School Debate Championship, following a 39% year-over-year increase for Tournament Three. For the 2009-2010 school year, there were 475 entered competitors over the four Middle School tournaments, a 25% increase over 2008-2009.

In addition, at the final tournament of the year, every school met the national urban debate participation standard – four debaters per first-year school, and eight debaters for all returning schools, per tournament. There was a 92% overall attainment of this standard over four tournaments during 2009-2010, a significant 23% rate of increase over 2008-2009.

Mandee Polonsky, Manager of Enrichment Programs for Chicago Public Schools, reflects upon the year’s growth: “What’s exciting about this year’s Chicago Middle School Debate League is not just that there were 25% more students competing at tournaments, but the real growth of students who are having so much fun while debating with more academic rigor than in the past and with more challenges for our 7th and 8th graders. The CDC’s attention has helped make Middle School tournaments competitive events, something students increasingly look forward to, prepare for, and thrive at under the leadership of amazing, motivated coaches.”

Varsity and JV debaters found this increased challenge and academic rigor in the form of adding two additional affirmative cases, and the introduction of Topicality as an issue for the first time to their arsenal of arguments. All debaters, including Novices, saw their opportunities to debate expand from three to four preliminary rounds at Tournaments Three and Four this year.

Bob Wysocki, teacher and coach at Lindblom Math and Science Academy, sums up the experience for his team this year: “Being a debate coach is one of the best experiences I’ve had as an educator. Not only was it fun for me, but it was fun for my students as well. We all learned a lot. My students worked hard too in practice, which paid off in tournaments. More importantly, their hard work paid off in the classroom. The debaters became more confident speakers; they became better at analyzing complex problems; they brought their honed speaking and debate skills to their daily lives. Overall, they improved as students. All of this was possible because of the help and guidance of our high school support coach, John Silva. He mentored me and assisted the middle school students too.”