Students become the champion of their own story by taking the skills they learn from the activity and developing their full potential within a caring, intellectually curious, and competitive community.

Our Statistics

Research shows young people empowered by the tools debate provides:


Better School Attendence


Increase in average ACT Score


More Likely to take advanced courses


Analyze information better than peers


More likely to enjoy & engage
in Class


Test higher in self esteem


Increase in average MCA Reading Test Scores

Key Areas of Success



Extensively researched & evaluated – debate moves the needle on test scores, GPAs, grad rates, advanced classes and more

Student Agency

Student Agency

Students thrive as they become policy makers advocating solutions to the world’s biggest problems. They take their greater self-confidence and advocacy skills into their own communities.

Skill Building


Listening, note taking, team-work, research, and thinking critically are all important skills for education, and for life!

Power of Losing

Power of Losing

Innovators and entrepreneurs must get comfortable with risk taking and failure. Every debater loses, receives feedback, and jumps right in the next round of competition.

Content Knowledge

Content Knowledge

Debaters go in-depth on the inner-workings of government, economics, science policy, law, philosophy and social movements

Our Data

The MNUDL stands apart from other programs because of our data agreements with Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) and Saint Paul Public Schools (SPPS).

Academic Outcomes

  • Debate Improves Literacy: 3 years of consistent findings that show debaters vs. non-debaters have 12-14% annual increase in MCA reading scores, after controlling for race, income, and previous academic success.

  • Debaters Embrace Challenge: 58% of students of color who have done debate took either one or multiple advanced courses (AP or IB) compared to 39% of MPS peers.

Social & Emotional Learning (SEL) & 21st Century Skills

  • Debate Increases Confidence: In 2019, we piloted Social & Emotional Learning-based curriculum to be taught across all debate programs. MPS assessment shows that debate increases self-esteem in students by 39%.

  • Debate Boosts Critical Thinking: One of the most consistent findings of REA reports is the increase in critical thinking skills of debaters vs. non-debaters. Through debate, students learn to see issues from multiple perspectives and a global view. (REA ‘15 pg. 9)

Impact Across the Nation

  • Academic Impact in Chicago: Debaters are 40% more likely to graduate, and this increases to 70% for African American boys. This study also found that after two years in debate Latino students were able to close the GPA gap with white students, and that the average ACT score for participants moved from 16 to 22. (Read more via JSTOR)

  • Impact in Baltimore Middle Schools: A 10 year longitudinal study of Baltimore urban debaters found that middle school debaters gain an average 6.35 point  increase in Grade 8 standardized test reading scores. Debate participation was also associated with an increase in the probability of attending selective high schools when compared to non-debater peers (Shackleford, 2019). (Read more via Johns Hopkins University)

Our Mission
Our Mission

Our Programs Cost Half,
With Double the Impact

School districts with debate programs benefit through improved test scores in the critical areas of literacy and communication. Inside the classroom, debaters create critical dialogue on assigned topics and have the necessary research skills to truly benefit their peers through classroom participation.

Each dollar spent by a school district is multiplied because of our philanthropic funding. Urban debate is also highly efficient and cost-effective when compared to other out-of-school-time programming. A full academic season nationally costs under $750 per student served, compared with an industry average of nearly $1,500.

Bring urban debate to your school

Contact Amy Cram Helwich at to
learn more about how to bring these outcomes and more
to your school through debate.

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