HISTORY & MISSION
The Dallas Urban Debate Alliance is committed to providing Dallas ISD students with the transformational skills found in academic debate. From critical thinking, advanced research techniques, argument formulation, refutation, questioning strategies, to finely honed listening and oral presentation skills, we believe that debate provides students the opportunity to become informed leaders in their schools and communities and to make a difference in their ability to advocate for themselves and others.
In 2007, the Dallas Urban Debate Alliance was formed to bring competitive policy debate programming to Dallas ISD. At that time, there was virtually no such programming available to public high school students in the district. With support from the National Association of Urban Debate Leagues, several former debaters in the Dallas community joined together to partner with DISD in this endeavor.
Over the years we have expanded our reach dramatically and are now the second-largest urban debate league in the country.
Today, the Dallas Urban Debate Alliance works with over 1,700 students from over 110 schools in Dallas ISD. These students learn to conduct in-depth research and then prepare arguments on complex topics ranging from federal domestic and international governmental policies to a wide array of current political, economic, and social issues. Debaters put their arguments to the test at weekend debate tournaments, in which teams argue against their peers. The debate tournaments culminate in a citywide championship and qualification for the TFA State Tournament in March, the National Association of Urban Debate Leagues' national tournament held in April, and the national championship held in June by the National Speech & Debate Association.
Dallas urban debaters receive free materials and training from some of the top coaches in the area while Dallas ISD debate coaches receive hands-on training and continued curriculum support, including necessary research materials and supplies. Coaches can attend various training opportunities in the summer and throughout the school year that satisfy the district's professional development requirements. Students are also provided a summer training opportunities. These include a summer day camp and residential workshops at colleges across the country through scholarships arranged through DUDA.
Debate changes the course of students’ lives. Multiple peer-reviewed national studies demonstrate that student participation in urban debate leagues increases academic success: literacy scores increase by 25 percent, grade-point averages increase by 10 percent and high school graduation rates increase by 70 percent. Black male students, a particularly at-risk group, are three times less likely to drop out of high school after participating in debate.
Moreover, with its intense focus on critical reading and analysis skills, debaters are 70 percent more likely to reach the college-readiness benchmark in ACT reading and twice as likely to reach the benchmark for ACT English. Debate students are also exposed to college campuses, receive coaching assistance from college students, and debate in front of college recruiters. According to a survey by the National Forensic League, 64 percent of U.S. Congress members competed in debate or speech in high school. In short, debate improves students’ academic performance, helps them transition from high school to college, and provides life and leadership skills for a lifetime.
In the 2021-22 season, the Dallas Urban Debate Alliance began an expansion of its offerings, introducing its first new debate format since its inception: World Schools Debate. We also started a new mentor program, added a summer day camp opportunity, and took two WS Debate teams to the National Speech & Debate Association national tournament in Kentucky in June.
In the 2022-23 season, DUDA provided additional professional training opportunities for coaches in conjunction with the Texas Speech Communication Association in addition to adding two debate forums at SMU.
In 2023-24, we created and introduced a brand new format, Community Action Debate, that focuses on training our students to be voices of change in their communities.