Why I Debate

Principal Testimonials



Those who think public education is a lost cause should look no further than M.S. 50 in Williamsburg. There, Principal Ben Honoroff has leveraged his school’s Renewal resources, including additional learning time, to create a championship debate team. The debate program has not only won city-wide tournaments, but it has sharpened students’ critical thinking skills and helped them perform better on State ELA and math exams.  http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/making-public-education-work-article-1.2961480


-NYC Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina





IN-Tech’s debate coach and Middle School Dean Wendy Spector said the skills learned from debating also help writing, research, reading and speaking skills for participants. “It’s a structured environment to prove your point, to go back and forth. We all know that teenagers love to do that [and] prove their point,” laughed Ms. Spector. IN-Tech has participated in middle-school debates for four years. In addition to boosting academic skills, IN-Tech assistant principal Jim O’Toole said, he has seen more self-confidence and increased classroom participation and social skills in students.

According to figures from the Education Department, IN-Tech students’ performance on the state English test has improved dramatically over the past couple of years. In the 2013-2014 school year, only 14 percent of middle school students at the Kingsbridge school met New York State standards on the state English test, compared to 27 percent in the city and 15 percent in the district. The following year, the number rose slightly to 16 percent, but then nearly doubled to 30 percent in the 2015-2016 school year. http://www.riverdalepress.com/stories/Debates-help-students-improve-skills,61282


Dean Wendy Spector and Assistant Principal Jim O’Toole

IN-Tech Academy





“When you think about a great high school experience, you think about a student competing on a debate team, or a robotics team, or in a Google science fair context, while having a great course of study. Those things exist in our society for some students at selective high schools or in affluent suburban high schools. The commitment that our city needs to make is that every student deserves access to a high school education that genuinely prepares them for the best colleges. It means that they need to understand what it means to work at a law firm, or at the U.N., or at a tech startup, or at a university research lab.” – Principal Eric Tucker, Brooklyn LAB School, Without ‘grit’ or ‘no excuses,’ how one charter high school is preparing to send high-needs students to college


Eric Tucker

Principal , Brooklyn LAB School





“Debate teaches all of the skills that I hope my students will learn: reading comprehension, research writing critically, thinking critically, civic engagement, political consciousness. I remember as a teacher our debate team lost to a suburban school in a tournament and the students who won were using this argument from Foucault. Back at school, my students came up to me and begged me over lunch to teach them Foucault. It’s this external motivator that students really want to succeed and do well.  At the middle school level, I preach to the students, debate is as much about listening as it is about speaking. It’s about hearing your opponent and understanding their argument, taking notes and then refuting that argument. It’s all the common core line skills that we’re teaching in our classes about identifying arguments, citing textual evidence, using academic language. All of those are really reinforced in debate. It just makes a lot of sense to have debate be a central piece of our school.” – Principal Ben Honoroff, MS 50 (Brooklyn)



Ben Honoroff

Principal, Junior High School 50 - John D Wells



“A Silent Classroom is a classroom where there is untapped voices that are not heard. If you believe in democratic education, you have to focus on oratory…Speaking is a part of almost every classroom, but it can be easy to assume that students already know how to do things like challenge an idea or back up an argument with evidence. In reality, those oral communication skills must be explicitly taught like other core skills in school. And a well-spoken, confident young person will have occasion to use those communication skills throughout his or her life. Peter Hyman, School 21 cofounder and executive head teacher, says, “We need to elevate speaking to the same level as reading and writing.” – KQED, Mindshift, October 23, 2016


Peter Hyman

School 21 cofounder and executive head teacher, School 21