Our Work

After-School Debate

The flagship program of the BDL, the After-School Debate program hosts monthly competitions at local schools for hundreds of students in the city.

After-School Debate History & Details

The After-School Debate program operates English-language teams and Spanish-language teams in middle schools and high schools in Greater Boston. Debate team practices are held on-site at member schools and led by teachers who serve as coaches. In some cases, BDL alumni also serve as lead or assistant coaches. Debate season spans October through March each school year, and students attend up to 8 tournaments throughout the season where they compete against other schools in the Novice, JV, or Varsity divisions. 


Over the last decade, the After-School Debate program has grown into one of the largest academic competitions in the city of Boston. Only 25 students competed in the first year, and over 750 students had attended tournaments by the 2015-2016 season. The hard work of debaters and coaches throughout the city has made all of this possible. At tournaments, debaters use college-level texts to argue about the intricacies of government policies, the economy, philosophy, and everything in between. Peer-review research indicates debaters are more likely to graduate from high school than their similarly-performing counterparts who do not participate in debate. This effect is even more pronounced among students of color. Likewise, grades and standardized test scores tend to improve with participation in debate. The Boston Debate League has also had great success working with English-Language Learners and Special Education populations. The dedicated opportunity to practice reading and the competitive incentive to improve language skills mean that these students often make greater academic strides than their peers.

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