“The Urban Debate Program gave students a platform to look critically at issues of great social and national importance. Urban debaters learned to think critically, form logical arguments, and engage in debates on critical public policy issues – renewable energy, oceans policy, privacy rights, United Nations peacekeeping operations, and weapons of mass destruction. In addition to learning about these issues, high school students in the Urban Debate Program learned analytical skills that opened pathways to college and its debate teams.”
- Steven Goodman, “Amplifying Young People’s Voices” an essay in OSIUS10
Our BIG IDEA
Solutions to the challenge of education most often promote a change in the learning environment-- smaller class size, better teachers, higher standards. What we’ve found is that an effective change is one that focuses on the child. If you motivate a child to develop an interest in reading and learning, she will move mountains to overcome educational obstacles regardless of socio-economic circumstance. This simple but compelling idea is achievable for millions of young people by investing in ALOUD. When kids discover their voice, you can address chronic issues at a fraction of the costs of similar initiatives.
Our model is the product of the ideas, discussions, and observations of educators, philanthropists, business leaders and nonprofit managers who have witnessed firsthand the transformative power of debate. We’ve tested concepts and developed the essential tools for scaling debate organizations and getting results. The ALOUD approach augments the powerful competitive debate model with civic engagement programs in the community and inspired curricula for the classroom. The number of children served has doubled over the past five years.
The Associated Leaders of Urban Debate creates the conditions that foster resilience and positive youth development. The model advances high expectations, caring adult relationships, engaging activities, a safe, supported environment, and skill mastery. Taken together, these features provide an optimal environment for student participation and are shown in the literature to advance positive youth outcomes (National Research Council: Community Programs to Promote Youth Development). ALOUD’s carefully structured services and caring staff foster student autonomy, social competence, problem-solving and sense of purpose. According to Benard, these four overriding strengths are essential to student resilience (Resiliency: What We Have Learned, 2004). Debate also provides a unique opportunity to foster student voice – a prerequisite for building student’s individual leadership abilities. Positive affirmation is a core aspect of ALOUD programming. At every debate tournament, student winners and participants are honored with trophies, medals, and certificates.
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Research, evaluations and direct feedback from the schools and students we serve demonstrate the effectiveness of our programs. The literature supports these findings. The effectiveness of the debate model for youth development, college preparation, and literacy training is cited extensively in the literature. Research shows that debate dramatically improves critical thinking skills, results in higher grades, reduces disciplinary problems for at-risk students, and improves overall social skills. Specifically,
Who benefits from ALOUD?
Students Benefit. High school graduates on average, earn $9,200 more per year than high school dropouts, and about $1 million more over their lifetime. The additional 500 hours of academic instruction our participants receive through debate, improves their chances of finishing dramatically. Urban debaters graduate high school at rates above 90% (national avg. 72%).
Teachers Benefit. A school system with roughly 10,000 teachers and a turnover rate of 20% would save approximately $500,000/year by reducing turnover by 1 percentage point. Debate increases teacher retention as they watch students develop critical thinking skills before their eyes. They reconnect to the mission that first attracted them to education.
Colleges & Parents Benefit Only 32% of all students leave high school qualified to attend four-year colleges. When ALOUD informs parents that debaters receive millions in scholarships just for debating, they see new options for their children. More than 150 colleges offer debate scholarships. Universities use urban debaters to diversify their entering classes with promising students from neighborhoods they cannot access normally.
School Districts Benefit. Creating positive culture is a key component of building district-wide norms of academic excellence. Reaching just 5% of students with the ALOUD model has driven schools to add AP courses, upgrade their libraries, and expand their educational objectives for all students. Debate works. It’s why debate was required in every school district for decades.
Communities Benefit.High school graduates live longer, have better general health and are less likely than high school dropouts to use publicly financed health insurance programs. If the 18-year-olds who failed to graduate had advanced one grade, it would save nearly $2.3 billion in publicly financed medical care, aggregated over a lifetime.
The Nation Benefits.1.2 million students fail to graduate on time costing the nation more than $312 billion in lost wages, taxes and productivity over their lifetimes. For every city where debate flourishes, their earning potential increases exponentially, saving billions.
A national study demonstrated that urban debaters are three times less likely to engage in risk-taking behaviors than non-debaters
DEBATE DELIVERS DREAMS