LAMDL needs your support! Come work with Los Angeles students to support their skills in policy-making, speech, and critical thinking in a competitive environment. No debate experience needed, we train you at our events!

Thanks to the generosity of our supporters, LAMDL has grown tremendously over the decade. This year, with your help, we will reach even more students. To achieve this, we need the support of dedicated individuals like you.  

Our success has generated new demand for debate, but we cannot do it alone. You can help us reach our goal of making competitive debate more accessible to students across LA. 

The LAMDL is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that supports local public high schools in their efforts to build robust, engaging, and sustainable policy debate programs.

LAMDL utilizes policy debate; a two-on-two debate event that focuses on a policy question for the duration of the academic year. This format tests a student’s research, analytical, and delivery skills.

A Proven Record

The benefits of participation in policy debate for high school students are irrefutable; the evidence documents the academic benefits of policy debate.

New 2021 Study: Higher GPAs, SAT Scores, & College Readiness

Researchers at the University of Michigan, in partnership with NAUDL and the Houston Urban Debate League, have published results of a significant peer-reviewed study examining the relationship between debate participation and academic outcomes.

The study represents the largest investigation of its kind to date, with data sets on 35,788 high school students. All results account for differential self-selection between debaters and non-debaters. Findings suggest that competitive debate is associated with better academic outcomes and college-readiness for students.

The study was conducted by Tomohiro M. Ko, MPH, Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan, and Briana Mezuk, PhD, Department of Epidemiology, School of Public Health, University of Michigan. 

Read the Full Length Research Paper

Improving Academic Performance

Despite recent gains in academic achievement, low-income and minority students continue to under-perform their peers. Urban Debate Leagues (UDLs) like LAMDL have a proven record of decreasing that gap. While debate can help high-achieving students to access and succeed in college, it has an even greater impact on struggling students. Debate is a powerful literacy tool for students whose reading difficulties bring down their grades and sap their motivation to succeed. A University of Missouri - Kansas City study found that after one year in a UDL debaters attended school more frequently, improved their GPA by 10%, decreased risky behaviors, and achieved a 25% increase in literacy scores relative to a non-debating control group. 

Improving Test Scores

Analyzing data from the Chicago Public Schools, Dr. Briana Mezuk et al. (2011) found that debaters score significantly higher on the ACT in reading, English, and science. The big jump in science scores isn't surprising when you consider that the ACT science test asks students to read, interpret, and apply evidence - the same skills taught in debate. This score is also reflective of the knowledge gained by students when they get to have in depth debates about STEM related topics.

Graduation Rates

Debate appeals to student's across the academic spectrum, including students who have lost interest in the traditional classroom setting. The competitive, student-centered nature of debate is attractive to these students - for the first time, they have a reason and opportunity to struggle with text that speaks to their interests and invites their opinions. A recent study by Dr. Briana Mezuk of Virginia Commonwealth University found that more than 3/4 of debaters graduate and go on to college, compared to barely half of non-debaters. 

Preparing students for college

While many students have parents, family members, and friends who did not go to college, UDLs change what is possible for these students. Studies show:

Cultivating Citizens

Debate engages students in politics and community issues. Debaters develop powerful, accomplished voices and grow accustomed to professionals treating their public policy ideas seriously. According to the National Institute on Out-of-School Time, urban debaters “learn about political issues in the here-and-now; they investigate and prepare information about topics that are important to the world they live in today. Preparing to debate requires collecting information from various sources, analyzing and organizing the information, and articulating a point of view.” 

Developing Leaders

According to a survey by the National Forensics League, 64% of U.S. Congress members competed in debate or speech in high school. Debaters are disproportionately represented in leadership ranks in law, business, and the academy. With high expectations, expanded horizons, and advanced skills, urban debaters are equipped to improve their schools, strengthen their communities, and ultimately make a contribution to the nation's leadership. 

"Debate has given me the skills to win my toughest battles."

Bao Yi LeiLAMDL Alum and Harvard University Undergraduate