History and Mission

Mission: Dallas Urban Debate is committed to providing every Dallas ISD student the opportunity to participate in rigorous academic policy debate.  Every student deserves the chance to become an articulate and informed leader in his or her school and community.

In 2007, the Dallas Urban Debate Alliance was formed to bring competitive policy debate programming to Dallas ISD. At that time, there was virtually no such programming available to public high school students in the district. With support from the National Association of Urban Debate Leagues, several former debaters in the Dallas community joined together to partner with DISD in this endeavor.

Fast forward to today: Dallas Urban Debate works with over 1,000 students from 31 high schools and 19 middle schools in DISD every year. These students learn to conduct in-depth research and then prepare arguments on complex topics involving federal governmental policies. They put their arguments to the test at weekend debate tournaments, in which teams of two debaters argue against their peers. The debate tournaments culminate in a citywide championship and qualification for the national tournament held in the spring by the National Association of Urban Debate Leagues.

Dallas urban debaters receive free materials and training from some of the top coaches in the area. DISD debate coaches receive hands-on training and continued curriculum support, including necessary files and supplies, every year. Coaches attend a week-long training seminar in the summer that satisfies DISD professional development requirements. Students are also provided a free summer residential workshop, and through Dallas Urban Debate they have the chance to complete for scholarships to attend camps at colleges such as the University of Texas at Austin, the University of North Texas, Georgetown, the University of California at Berkeley, and Dartmouth.

Debate changes the course of students’ lives. Multiple peer-reviewed national studies demonstrate that student participation in Urban Debate Leagues increases academic success: literacy scores increase by 25 percent, grade-point averages increase by 10 percent and high school graduation rates increase by 70 percent. Black male students, a particularly at-risk group, are three times less likely to drop out of high school after participating in debate.

Moreover, with its intense focus on critical reading and analysis skills, debaters are 70 percent more likely to reach the college-readiness benchmark in ACT reading and twice as likely to reach the benchmark for ACT English. Debate students are also exposed to college campuses, receive coaching assistance from college students, and debate in front of college recruiters. According to a survey by the National Forensic League, 64 percent of U.S. Congress members competed in debate or speech in high school. In short, debate improves students’ academic performance, helps them transition from high school to college, and provides life and leadership skills for a lifetime.