The Las Vegas Debate League (LVDL) and the LVDL Advisory Board were created in 2012 with the goal of expanding access to policy debate for students in the Clark County School District. In 2011 only four of the more than 50 high schools in the CCSD supported policy debate teams, and the local competitive policy debate circuit was quickly entering a participation "death spiral." In response to this situation, in 2012 the LVDL was created as a partnership between UNLV's Sanford I. Berman Debate Forum, the CCSD, and the Public Education Foundation. The LVDL is our attempt to increase opportunities for CCSD students to participate in competitive policy debate. In its first year of existence, the LVDL has successfully doubled the number of schools and nearly quadrupled the number of students participating in policy debate in CCSD.
This is important because participating in policy debate can change students, can change schools, and can change lives. Today, our schools struggle to reach their many students, and graduation rates and test scores have suffered. Changes to improve the Clark County education system are taking hold, but our students cannot wait. Giving every student in the CCSD the opportunity to participate in policy debate can help them succeed.
Policy debate in secondary education connects students with rigorous and challenging curriculum, and learning occurs in fun and competitive atmosphere. Policy debate is also the type of debate that opens doors to college. Scientific research indicates that policy debate improves critical thinking, academic achievement, and graduation rates. Students who participate in policy debate are 3.1 times more likely than non-debaters to graduate from high school are more likely to reach the college-readiness benchmarks on the English, reading, and science portions of the ACT. Other studies demonstrate that students participating in policy debate experience a broad range of positive outcomes, such as improved attendance, reduced high-risk behaviors, more positive attitudes toward higher education, and greater self confidence.
Thus far, the LVDL has been able to expand access to policy debate in the CCSD through well-coordinated efforts, including:
- Offering assistant coaches from the UNLV Debate Team who travel to participant schools to provide on-site coaching
- Providing training to coaches though workshops, one-on-one training, and a PDE course approved by the CCSD
- Providing an honorarium to coaches to compensate for their investment of time and resources
- Providing LVDL participants with league debates/practice rounds/debate lectures/training at UNLV once every two weeks during the debate season
- Providing LVDL students with access to online research databases through the UNLV Libraries
- Hosting a summer high school debate institute that provides LVDL students with several weeks of intensive debate practice and training
Through a responsible growth model, the LVDL ultimately will provide the opportunity to participate in policy debate to middle school and high school students across the CCSD. We envision a bright future with a vibrant local policy debate community.