The Chicago Debate Commission is pleased to report that its several year growth trend is continuing this school year. High school debate activity is up by nearly 20%, while the middle school league has doubled in size since last season. Overall, the Chicago Debate League (CDL), now in its 15th season, is expanding at a notable 28% pace and is more than 70% larger than it was two years ago. There are nearly 1,500 competitive academic debaters in Chicago now; more than half of them are from 90% or higher Title I schools.
Through the CDC’s close attention to program building at individual schools, CDL schools are debating more intensively and more extensively than previously. CDL schools are meeting the Urban Debate League Participation Standard (8 or more debaters per tournament per school) at an 80% rate – approximately double the national average. The CDL’s level of attainment of this rigorous national standard is 27% higher this year than last year.
In the second semester, the Chicago Debate Commission is launching a first-of-its-kind system to qualitatively assess debaters’ development. Debater Development Benchmarks, created by the CDC and in use since the beginning of the 2010-11 school year, identify specific skills and knowledge debaters should acquire in each year and at each level of debate. The CDC has been using the Debater Development Benchmarks to design its professional development for coaches and its student trainings, as well as the Chicago Debate Summer Institute curriculum. Coaches have been encouraged to use the Debater Development Benchmarks to guide their teaching and coaching. This year, the CDC is piloting a randomized assessment of students’ performance against the Debater Development Benchmarks. Expect to hear more about this new qualitative assessment initiative in urban debate and in after-school programming more broadly.