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Resolved: Debate Programs Boost Literacy and College Enrollment


Education Next

Students from the Boston International Newcomers Academy prepare for a debate tournament. Nonprofit organizations have been working to expand access to debate in public school systems. Participation in formal debate programs improves student outcomes, including reading scores, graduation rates, and postsecondary enrollment. Policy debate develops critical thinking skills and motivates academic engagement. The Boston Debate League supports 40 school-based teams in public middle and high schools. Debate participation positively impacts academic performance, attendance, and behavior. It also leads to higher graduation and college enrollment rates, particularly for low-income students of color. Debate programs have the potential to reduce educational inequality and are cost-effective compared to other interventions. The findings suggest implications for classroom instruction and the potential for debate-centered instruction to accelerate reading development for all…

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