National Association for Urban Debate Leagues

At a Glance

National Office: 
332 S. Michigan Ave., Suite 500
Chicago, IL 60604
Phone: 312-527-0384

Linda L. Listrom
People Served: 
10,154
Year Founded: 
2002
Tax ID: 
20-4323096

Focus area(s):

College Access
After-School & Out-of-School
Reading/Math

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Description

The National Association for Urban Debate Leagues works to close the achievement gap in urban public middle schools and high schools by building and supporting competitive policy debate teams. Eighty-five percent of urban debaters are students of color and almost all are from low income families(55% African American; 22% Hispanic; 5% Asian/Pacific Islander; 3% Other).

Urban debate is an academic sport.  In policy debate students debate a single complex public policy question, or resolution, for an entire year.  The resolution challenges debaters to solve real-world problems, such as whether the United States should withdraw from Afghanistan or whether the federal government should increase funding for anti-poverty programs.  Debaters work with a coach, who is also a classroom teacher at their school.  Coaches use project-based teaching methods, encouraging their debaters to learn by doing.  In twice-weekly after-school debate practices, the coach guides them as they discuss issues, conduct research, and build their arguments. The coach also organizes and critiques scrimmage debates, where the debaters hone their skills and test their arguments. The coach accompanies the debaters to weekend tournaments, where two-person teams compete in a series of 60-minute debates against teams from other urban schools. 

Impact and Outcomes

Ninety percent of urban debaters graduate on time.
Among at-risk students, 72% of debaters graduate, as compared to 43% of non-debaters.
African American male debaters are 70% more likely than non-debaters to graduate.
Urban debaters are significantly more likely to score at or above the college-readiness benchmarks in ACT tests in Reading, English, Science, and Math and 85% are accepted to college.

Mission & Goals

As the national leader of the urban debate movement, NAUDL works with its partner leagues to provide debate programming to urban middle and high school students.  NAUDL and the leagues work in urban school districts whose student populations are on average 87% minority and 78% low income.  NAUDL's vision is that all urban youth graduate from high school prepared to succeed in college and their careers and to contribute to their communities.  NAUDL's five-year goal is to triple the number of urban debaters nationwide.  

Program

NAUDL's urban debate programs have three core elements:

(1) Policy Debate.  All urban debate leagues focus on policy debate, a well-established and rigorous format for competitive academic debate.  Policy debate has four distinguishing characteristics: (a) policy debaters debate in pairs, or two-person teams; (b) debaters research and debate a single complex policy question, or resolution, for an entire year; (c) at tournaments debaters must debate both sides of the resolution; and (d) debaters must support their arguments with evidence.  

(2) Tournament Competition.  Preparing for and competing in tournaments is an iterative process that continuously builds and improves critical thinking and communications skills.  As a student debates, he or she learns from an opponent, who exposes the weaknesses in an argument, and from the judge, who decides the winner and critiques the debate.  The debater then works with a coach to improve his or her arguments and prepare for the next tournament, where the learning process will begin again.

(3) School-based Programming.  Urban debate is an after-school program that is based in the schools.  By working closely with the school district, principals and teachers, local leagues can more effectively recruit and retain students.   

Impact

NAUDL and its leagues provide debate programming to 5,208 urban students, primarily low-income students of color.  

Dr. Briana Mezuk, an associate professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, has published three studies on the impact of urban debate.  All three studies are based on ten years of data from the Chicago Debate league, one of NAUDL's affiliated leagues.  Highlights from Dr. Mezuk’s most recent studies include:

(1)  Urban debate dramatically improves high school graduation rates.   Ninety percent of urban debaters graduate from high school on time.  Because they debate, urban debaters are 3.1 times more likely than non-debaters to graduate.  Among students who are most at-risk of dropping out, 72% of urban debaters graduate, as compared to 43% of non-debaters.

(2)  Urban debate improves college-readiness, as measured by ACT scores and grades.  Because they debate, urban debaters are significantly more likely to score at or above the college-readiness benchmarks in ACT tests in Reading (15% more likely), English (15% more likely), Science (27% more likely) and Mathematics (10% more likely).  Urban debaters graduate from high school with an average cumulative GPA of 3.23, as compared to 2.83 for similar students who did not debate.  A cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher is considered to be a key indicator of college-readiness.

Growth Plan

Economic Model:  NAUDL has developed and implemented an economic model that is very successful.  Under the model, each affiliated league is a 501(c) (3) with its own board of directors and staff.  The board is responsible for raising most of the money that the league needs to sustain itself.  The typical budget for a new league is about $250,000.  The league partners with the NAUDL, which provides $30,000 in seed money, supports the league with training and technical assistance, and assists with fundraising.  NAUDL does not charge the leagues for any of this support. The league also partners with the local school district.  The school district pays stipends to the teachers who serve as debate coaches and make school facilities available for debate practices and tournaments.  Using this model, NAUDL started eleven leagues in just four years.  All of these leagues continue to operate today and are thriving.  

NAUDL sustains itself by raising revenue from the following sources:  (a) 50% of its revenue comes from individual donors; (b) 40% comes from corporate sponsorships for the annual urban debate national tournament and the sale of tables for the annual dinner (held during the tournament) to corporations and law firms; and (c) 10% comes from foundations.  To grow, NAUDL plans to obtain more foundation funding for key programmatic initiatives, while continuing to build support from individuals.  Because this foundation funding is contingent upon grant approval, NAUDL has not included it in the FY 2013 operating budget.

Growth Plan:  NAUDL's goal for the next five years is to triple the number of urban debaters nationwide.  Today, NAUDL and its leagues serve more than 5,000 urban debaters.  By the end of FY 2016 NAUDL plans to serve 15,000 urban debaters.  To reach its goal, NAUDL needs to raise $1.6 million in growth capital.  NAUDL plans to achieve its goal primarily by increasing the support and services it provides to the nineteen existing leagues.  Key strategies include:

  1. Strengthening the boards of directors of local leagues.  NAUDL has concluded that a strong board is essential in order for a league to grow.
  2. Collecting and disseminating information about programmatic best practices.  Several leagues have more than tripled in size in just a few years.  Other leagues can learn from this experience.  NAUDL will collect and disseminate information about key programmatic practices that drive growth.
  3. Developing and implementing a national coach training program.   The debate coach holds the key to building large debate teams within a school.  If a coach knows how to engage with students and mentor them effectively, his or her debate team will grow.  Until now, each league has been responsible for training the debate coaches within the league.  Not only is this inefficient, but it also leads to disparities in coach quality.  NAUDL plans to develop and implement a national training program for all coaches in all leagues.
  4. Expanding into middle schools.  By reaching students while they are in middle school, urban debate leagues will have a greater impact on their academic careers.
  5. Collecting more data and doing more research.  The leagues need more data and research in order to make the case for urban debate to school districts, principals, teachers, parents and students.  

Location of Sites

National Office: 
332 S. Michigan Ave., Suite 500
Chicago, IL 60604
Phone: 312-527-0384
List of locations

To make a contribution to a program site:

  1. Click on the "Make a Contribution Now" button and include the name, city and state of the program you would like to support, in the "notes" text box on the organization's donation form, if available.
  2. If a "notes" or "designation" box is not available, write the city and state on your check in the "notes" section or call the national office to designate your contribution to a local program site.

Locations in the following states:

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Financials

Most Recent Budget

Year Ended:

2017

REVENUE

Corporate Grants: 
$403,708
Foundation Grants: 
$100,000
Government Funding: 
$0
Contributions from Individuals: 
$408,540
Special Events: 
$450,000
Program Services Fees: 
$0
Membership Dues: 
$0
Other Earned Income: 
$100
Other Revenue: 
$0
Total Revenue: 
$1,362,348

EXPENSES

Salaries, Related Salaries & Professional Fees: 
$847,610
Occupancy: 
$74,513
Travel & Entertainment: 
$20,760
Office Supplies, Printing, Postage: 
$26,322
Telephone & Communications: 
$10,331
Payments to Affiliates: 
$55,000
Other Expenses: 
$233,670
Other Expenses (Description): 

Annual Dinner, Programming Expenses, All Other Operating Costs

Total Expenses: 
$1,268,206

NET GAIN/LOSS

Net Gain/Loss: 
$94,142

Prior Year Actuals

Year Ended:

2016

REVENUE

Corporate Grants: 
$259,892
Foundation Grants: 
$0
Government Funding: 
$0
Contributions from Individuals: 
$533,690
Program Services Fees: 
$0
Membership Dues: 
$0
Other Earned Income: 
$290
Other Revenue: 
$0
Other Revenue (Description): 
Interest income.
Special Events: 
$301,351
Total Revenue: 
$1,095,223

EXPENSES

Salaries, Related Salaries & Professional Fees: 
$631,105
Occupancy: 
$62,283
Travel & Entertainment: 
$21,140
Office Supplies, Printing, Postage: 
$19,392
Telephone & Communication: 
$7,011
Payments to Affiliates: 
$60,000
Other Expenses: 
$233,498
Other Expenses (Description): 

Programming Expenses, Annual Dinner, Other Operating Costs

    

Total Expenses: 
$1,034,429

NET GAIN/LOSS

Net Gain / Loss: 
$60,794

Major Funders

The following have provided $10,000 or more in funding in the last 12 months:

Bartlit Beck Herman Palenchar & Scott LLP

Bipartisan Policy Center

Boeing Company

Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP

Disney Corporate Citizenship

Mark Ferguson

Leonard Gail and Robin Steans

Littler Mendelson Foundation

Kenneth Hersch

Hersch Foundation

Mr. and Mrs. Mark Koulegeorge

Linda Listrom

M.B. Seretean Foundation

Meredith McClintock

Nonprofit Finance Fund

Tom and Vicki Rollins

Greg Rosenbaum

Randal L. Sandler

Stuart Singer

Southern Company Services, Inc.

Wachtell, Lipton Rosen & Katz LLP

Richard Sullivan

Walmart