Los Angeles Metropolitan Debate League

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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:

  • UDLs have a graduation rate of nearly 100% in schools that have dropout rates of 30-40%
  • More than 75% of UDL students go on to a four-year university. These students have an 80% matriculation rate.

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