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Boston Debate League

 54 Canal Street, 4th Floor
 Boston, MA 02114
[P] (857) 350-4274
[F] (857) 239-9559
www.bostondebate.org
[email protected]
Kimberly Perrella
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INCORPORATED: 2006
 Printable Profile (Summary / Full)
EIN 59-3789722

LAST UPDATED: 08/23/2017
Organization DBA --
Former Names --
Organization received a competitive grant from the Boston Foundation in the past five years No

Summary

Mission StatementMORE »

To integrate argumentation and competitive debate into BPS to develop critical thinkers ready for college, career, and engagement with the world around them.

 

Mission Statement

To integrate argumentation and competitive debate into BPS to develop critical thinkers ready for college, career, and engagement with the world around them.

 


FinancialsMORE »

Fiscal Year July 01, 2017 to June 30, 2018
Projected Income $2,383,900.00
Projected Expense $2,383,900.00

ProgramsMORE »

  • After-School Debate League
  • Evidence-Based Argumentation (EBA) Initiative

Revenue vs. Expense ($000s)

Expense Breakdown 2016 (%)

Expense Breakdown 2015 (%)

Expense Breakdown 2014 (%)

For more details regarding the organization's financial information, select the financial tab and review available comments.


Overview

Mission Statement

To integrate argumentation and competitive debate into BPS to develop critical thinkers ready for college, career, and engagement with the world around them.

 


Background Statement

Competitive academic debate has long served as a uniquely effective training ground for leaders in American society. However, before BDL’s founding in 2005, most students in Boston had no opportunity to engage in the activity. Debate leagues, like BDL, that serve students who live in metropolitan school districts were developed to improve educational equity and give young people equal opportunity and access to debate. Throughout its history, BDL has worked to offer more and more Boston students access to debate and the academic and 21st century skills it fosters.


Hundreds of middle and high school students from across Boston debate a complex, real-world policy question each year. The program served over 800 students at 36 middle and high schools last year and is expanding to 40 schools during 2017-2018. Next year, students will debate whether or not the U. S. government “should substantially increase its funding and/or regulation of elementary and/or secondary education in the U.S.” Teams of two students face peers from other schools during 90-minute rounds. They engage with collegiate, non-fiction texts to craft arguments and respond to their opponents. Each debate team is coached by teachers in the school, practices twice weekly, and competes in six BDL tournaments from October to March. Students can also compete in up to seven regional and national tournaments. Local professionals, college students, former and current debaters, BDL alumni, and community members volunteer as tournament judges. To make debate accessible to students of all abilities, ASDL offers four increasingly rigorous divisions and Spanish-language debates.

The innovative Evidence-Based Argumentation (EBA) initiative helps teachers of all subjects educate and inspire by facilitating student-led, discussion-focused, and evidence-based learning environments. It offers support, professional development, and activities that put student voice at the center of learning. EBA offers Boston’s teachers new tools that help students build crucial skills for the future while learning classroom content. EBA reached over 4,000 students and nearly 350 teachers in 10 schools last year. EBA is designed to be a school’s core instructional approach for at least three years with a tiered model of BDL staff support. Through the initiative, students move beyond memorization of facts to a deeper understanding and application of content. For example, in history class, students do not memorize the names of American Civil War battles, but debate which was the key turning point of the war. They question, support, and challenge one another, engage in rigorous thought, and take on the heavy lifting of their own learning.


Impact Statement

The Boston Debate League's mission is to integrate argumentation and competitive debate into Boston Public Schools (BPS) to develop critical thinkers ready for college, career, and engagement with the world around them. The organization serves young people in the classroom through its Evidence-Based Argumentation (EBA) initiative and during out-of-school-time with the After-School Debate League (ASDL).

Over a decade into its work, BDL is at a key inflection point in its history. Over the last 10 years, BDL has grown from a grassroots organization serving 25 students at just 3 schools to a 501(c)3 nonprofit that reached over 4,500 students, 350 teachers, 700 community volunteers, and 36 partner schools this past school year. An independent study found that BDL debaters perform significantly higher on indicators of college readiness than a matched comparison group, including growth (SGP) on standardized test performance, academic GPA, and attempting and passing advanced placement (AP) tests (Winkler & Fortner, 2014).

BDL is currently implementing a Strategic Plan to give every BPS middle and high school student the chance to use their voice and develop critical thinking and leadership skills through debate. As it expands, BDL aims to uphold high expectations of rigor and engagement in BPS, help teachers center the classroom on students, and offer young people a platform where their voice is heard and valued.


Needs Statement

Many students who attend under-resourced school districts, mainly students of color, are largely unprepared for college and the workforce, especially compared to their peers in more affluent districts. In BPS, 30% of students do not graduate high school in four years, compared to only 13% statewide, and as low as 3% in wealthy suburbs like Lexington (MA DESE, 2015). Students who do graduate from high school are often unprepared for college, as BPS graduates commonly need up to two years of remedial classes before they can take college credit courses, and only 32% of all BPS graduates will go on to graduate from college (Boston Foundation, 2013).

Further, it has long been known that in the most effective classrooms, students talk more and teachers talk less. Research shows that teachers of students who achieve highly speak for 55% of class time, while teachers of students considered low-performing speak for up to 80% of class time, leaving little room for discussion (Flanders, 1970). Further perpetuating this trend, teachers in low-income areas tend to spend more class time speaking than those in better-resourced areas (Lingard, Hayes & Mills, 2003). Even today, students are often expected to only speak in response to their teachers’ questions.


CEO Statement

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Board Chair Statement

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Geographic Area Served

In a specific U.S. city, cities, state(s) and/or region.
GREATER BOSTON REGION, MA

The Boston Debate League operates debate teams in 40 middle and high schools and is implementing the Evidence-Based Argumentation initiative in 9 schools, 6 active and 3 alumni schools. BDL works primarily with Boston Public Schools. BDL's partner schools are located across the neighborhoods of Boston.

Organization Categories

  1. Education - Secondary & High Schools
  2. Education - Elementary & Secondary Schools
  3. Public & Societal Benefit - Leadership Development

Independent research has been conducted on this organization's theory of change or on the effectiveness of this organization's program(s)

Yes

Programs

After-School Debate League

Hundreds of middle and high school students from across Boston debate a complex, real-world policy question each year. The program served over 800 students at 36 middle and high schools last year and is expanding to 40 schools during 2017-2018. Next year, students will debate whether or not the U. S. government “should substantially increase its funding and/or regulation of elementary and/or secondary education in the U.S.” Teams of two students face peers from other schools during 90-minute rounds. They engage with collegiate, non-fiction texts to craft arguments and respond to their opponents. Each debate team is coached by teachers in the school, practices twice weekly, and competes in six BDL tournaments from October to March. Students can also compete in up to seven regional and national tournaments. Local professionals, college students, former and current debaters, BDL alumni, and community members volunteer as tournament judges. To make debate accessible to students of all abilities, ASDL offers four increasingly rigorous divisions and Spanish-language debates.

Budget  --
Category  Education, General/Other Extracurricular Activities
Population Served Adolescents Only (13-19 years) Minorities Poor,Economically Disadvantaged,Indigent
Program Short-Term Success 
In the short term, we seek to continue increasing debate participation.  We will start by building infrastructure and capacity so we can get the dozen BPS schools who seek debate participation off our waiting list.  As we bring additional schools off the waiting list, student participation numbers will grow exponentially.  Success in the short term will include increased numbers of students participating in debate and in the BDL's ability to appropriately support this growth.
 
Short-term success with the Evidence-Based Argumentation program will be measured in terms of student achievement and teacher participation and endorsement of this skills-based pedagogy.  We test students prior to the start of participation in EBA programming and after to glean academic improvements.  These tests focus on skills and not content, so we are able to test the core contribution of EBA programming and not just the natural mastery of information that often comes with exposure and practice.  We are uncertain of our long-term goals for EBA in large part because it is very staff intensive, so bringing it to effective scale in more BPS schools as it currently exists would not be cost effective.  This will be a key element of discussion during our upcoming strategic planning process.
Program Long-Term Success 
The Boston Debate League seeks to make debate a signature element of what it means to be a Boston Public School student.  Debaters are intellectually curious and engaged.  They question in class and participate in class.  They support their peers and are comfortable interacting with adults.  They seek higher education and mentor younger debaters to similarly strive and achieve.  We see BPS schools filled with debaters with these qualities; and we see BPS school culture as a model for urban high schools across the nation.
Program Success Monitored By 
The BDL regularly tracks participation numbers.  Additionally, the BDL regularly engages third-party evaluators to do quantitative and qualitative assessments of our work.
Examples of Program Success 
The BDL has hired independent researchers from Georgia State University and is nearing the end of a two-year study of the effectiveness of the League’s programs. The metrics include attendance, grades, test scores, graduation, college matriculation, and the impact on subgroups, such as ELL and Special Education students. Particular attention is being paid to ethnicity, gender, economic class, and the achievement gap.  This assessment will drive the strategic planning process, and we anticipate the results of this study in December 2013or January 2014.

Evidence-Based Argumentation (EBA) Initiative

Evidence-Based Argumentation (EBA) is a professional development program that trains teachers in all disciplines to create a classroom environment where students regularly practice 21st century skills. It uses a scaffolded approach to argument instruction where teachers guide students through a progression of skills as they work toward producing sustained, multifaceted arguments that draw on external texts and are organized around a central thesis. 

For the last three years, EBA has been growing in Boston. Starting with just 30 teachers in the program’s first year, the BDL now supports more than 400 teachers, thanks in large part to the backing of the Boston Public Schools. Teacher training comes in several forms, from week-long and once-a-month graduate courses to in-school professional development. This adaptable model allows different schools to integrate the program into their local structure, avoiding much of the disruption that top-down reform initiatives can entail.
Budget  $625,886
Category  Education, General/Other Curriculum Development
Population Served Adults US At-Risk Populations
Program Short-Term Success  --
Program Long-Term Success  --
Program Success Monitored By  --
Examples of Program Success 
When surveyed about their opinion of the program, teachers reported that using EBA techniques in their classrooms increases student understanding of class content (99%), student engagement (97%), and student reading and writing skills (95%). They also indicated that the program has a substantial impact on their identity as a teacher; participants reported that learning how to use debate as a teaching technique made them more effective teachers (98%), helped them create student-centered classrooms (96%), and even led them to enjoy teaching more (88%).
 
After seeing the impact of our in-school professional development, principals in the 11 participating schools were unanimous in wanting to expand the program next year within their schools in the belief that it improves their schools’ academic culture and allows students to meaningfully practice key academic skills.

CEO/Executive Director/Board Comments

The Boston Debate League is a unique after-school youth development program that teaches students how to think critically, write persuasively, and communicate effectively through preparation for and competition in debate activities. Unlike other programs that aim only to keep teens safe and occupied in the afternoon, debate engages students in a learning activity, develops their self-esteem and actively cultivates the important social and academic skills they will need to be successful and active citizens. The BDL packages debate in a variety of ways to reach a broad spectrum of BPS students, from those already highly achieving to those who are off-track academically and at risk of dropping out.

Management


CEO/Executive Director Mr. Mike Wasserman
CEO Term Start May 2016
CEO Email [email protected]
CEO Experience

Mike Wasserman, Executive Director, joined the Boston Debate League in May of 2016. Mr. Wasserman most recently served as the Executive Director of Bottom Line in Massachusetts, where he worked in several leadership roles over the course of 10 years. During that time, he helped lead the effort to expand Bottom Line's programs, funding, and impact in Massachusetts, with a focus on the city of Boston. He is also the co-founder of the Marathon Coalition, a non-profit collaborative that helps hundreds of runners raise millions of dollars annually for local nonprofits by running the Boston Marathon. He has a BA from Brown University and an MBA in nonprofit management from Boston University.

He was a high school debater, a debate coach in the Providence Public Schools, and an early supporter of BDL. With his strength of vision and proven record of leadership, Mr. Wasserman will lead BDL through its Strategic Plan to bring debate to every BPS middle and high school student.

Co-CEO --
Co-CEO Term Start --
Co-CEO Email --
Co-CEO Experience --

Former CEOs and Terms

Name Start End
Mr. Steve Stein Jan 2006 Feb 2016

Senior Staff

Name Title Experience/Biography
Ms. Alicia Adamson Director of Philanthropy & External Affairs Alicia Adamson serves as the Director of Philanthropy & External Affairs at the Boston Debate League. She brings 10+ years of experience in nonprofit leadership, development, special events and marketing. Alicia is an authentic and passionate leader who galvanizes teams around a shared vision to achieve desired outcomes. She is committed to closing the opportunity gap for the next generation of leaders and empowering individuals to make an impact in their communities! Prior to joining the Boston Debate League, Alicia served as Senior Director at United Way of Mas Bay, successfully raising millions and transforming the philanthropic impact of donors. Prior to joining the nonprofit sector, Alicia worked in product and brand marketing roles for both Reebok International and Kaplan Test Prep & Admissions. For over a decade Alicia has inspired hundreds of young women from all walks of life while serving as founder emeritus of the National Black Women’s Society Inc. (Formally YBWS) and guest speaker at conferences, local schools and universities, nonprofits and churches. She currently serves as a member of the Mayor Walsh’s Women’s Commission. Alicia is a proud graduate of Simmons College School of Management, with a Bachelor of Arts in Marketing. She is currently pursuing her Masters in Divinity at Gordon Conwell Seminary and writing a book due in 2016.
Ms. Kimberly Bartlett-Ra Director of Operations Kimberly joined the Boston Debate League as the Director of Operations in July 2015. In this role, Kimberly manages the human resources, finance, and IT functions of the organization. Previously, Kimberly was the founding Director of Operations at Brooke Charter School’s Mattapan campus for four years. Kimberly’s prior experience includes working at a small company in Chicago providing outdoor adventure and service summer programs for teenagers and working at a nonprofit social enterprise organization in San Francisco providing job training and job placement services to adults with mental health disabilities. Kimberly earned her Bachelor of Arts from Brown University and her Master of Business Administration from Yale University. Kimberly also completed two terms of service with AmeriCorps*NCCC in the Southeast Region.
Ms. Kristen Bonstein Director of After-School Programs --
Ms. Marisa Suescun Director of Evidence-Based Argumentation Initiative Marisa is the Director of Programs at Boston Debate League.  Marisa has spent the past 13 years working on behalf of public education equity through many avenues: she has taught students, trained teachers, coached youth leaders, facilitated organizations, and fostered community partnerships. She began her career teaching elementary school, as a member of the first cohort of NYC Teaching Fellows.  She completed the Coro Fellowship in Public Affairs, and helped lead Coro’s Exploring Leadership program for NYC high school students.  Most recently, Marisa worked with the T3 Initiative at Teach Plus in Boston, facilitating district and school partnerships in support of teacher leadership.
Ms. Vernee Wilkinson Director of Communications and Community Programming --

Awards

Award Awarding Organization Year
-- -- --

Affiliations

Affiliation Year
-- --
Member of state association of nonprofits? No
Name of state association --

External Assessments and Accreditations

External Assessment or Accreditation Year
-- --

Collaborations

--

CEO/Executive Director/Board Comments

--

Foundation Comments

--

Staff Information

Number of Full Time Staff 15
Number of Part Time Staff 1
Number of Volunteers 800
Number of Contract Staff 0
Staff Retention Rate % 63%

Staff Demographics

Ethnicity African American/Black: 6
Asian American/Pacific Islander: 0
Caucasian: 6
Hispanic/Latino: 1
Native American/American Indian: 0
Other: 1
Other (if specified): Mixed Race
Gender Female: 10
Male: 4
Not Specified 0

Plans & Policies

Organization has Fundraising Plan? Yes
Organization has Strategic Plan? Yes
Years Strategic Plan Considers 6
Management Succession Plan No
Business Continuity of Operations Plan No
Organization Policies And Procedures Under Development
Nondiscrimination Policy Under Development
Whistle Blower Policy Yes
Document Destruction Policy Yes
Directors and Officers Insurance Policy --
State Charitable Solicitations Permit No
State Registration --

Risk Management Provisions

--

Reporting and Evaluations

Management Reports to Board? Yes
CEO Formal Evaluation and Frequency Yes Annually
Senior Management Formal Evaluation and Frequency Yes Semi-Annually
Non Management Formal Evaluation and Frequency Yes Semi-Annually

Governance


Board Chair Mr. Kevin O’Laughlin
Board Chair Company Affiliation KPMG, Boston College
Board Chair Term July 2017 -
Board Co-Chair --
Board Co-Chair Company Affiliation --
Board Co-Chair Term -

Board Members

Name Company Affiliations Status
Carol Bahr State Street Corporation Voting
Mary Dibinga Boston Latin Academy Voting
Alison Eggers Seyfarth Shaw LLP Voting
Milind Godbole Sapient Voting
Elbert Hardeman Federal Reserve Bank of Boston Voting
John Isaacson Isaacson Miller Voting
Marisa Kelly Suffolk University Voting
Eva Mitchell Boston Public Schools Voting
Kevin O’Laughlin KPMG Strategy Voting
Matt Schnall Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP Voting

Constituent Board Members

Name Company Affiliations Status
-- -- --

Youth Board Members

Name Company Affiliations Status
-- -- --

Advisory Board Members

Name Company Affiliations Status
-- -- --

Board Demographics

Ethnicity African American/Black: 3
Asian American/Pacific Islander: 1
Caucasian: 6
Hispanic/Latino: 0
Native American/American Indian: 0
Other: 0
Other (if specified): --
Gender Female: 5
Male: 5
Not Specified 0

Board Information

Board Term Lengths 3
Board Term Limits 1
Board Meeting Attendance % 73%
Written Board Selection Criteria No
Written Conflict Of Interest Policy No
Percentage of Monetary Contributions 100%
Percentage of In-Kind Contributions 83%
Constituency Includes Client Representation No

Standing Committees

  • Board Governance

CEO/Executive Director/Board Comments

--

Foundation Comments

--

Financials


Revenue vs. Expense ($000s)

Expense Breakdown 2016 (%)

Expense Breakdown 2015 (%)

Expense Breakdown 2014 (%)

Prior Three Years Total Revenue and Expense Totals

Fiscal Year 2016 2015 2014
Total Revenue $2,214,758 $2,195,058 $1,640,850
Total Expenses $2,311,660 $2,104,013 $1,592,026

Prior Three Years Revenue Sources

Fiscal Year 2016 2015 2014
Foundation and
Corporation Contributions
-- -- --
Government Contributions $665,426 $548,059 $0
    Federal -- -- --
    State -- -- --
    Local -- -- --
    Unspecified $665,426 $548,059 --
Individual Contributions $1,516,586 $1,638,910 $1,595,237
Indirect Public Support -- -- --
Earned Revenue $24,890 $6,117 $15,372
Investment Income, Net of Losses $300 $1,972 $315
Membership Dues -- -- --
Special Events -- -- $29,926
Revenue In-Kind -- -- --
Other $7,556 -- --

Prior Three Years Expense Allocations

Fiscal Year 2016 2015 2014
Program Expense $1,605,722 $1,523,270 $1,078,613
Administration Expense $422,735 $262,938 $280,377
Fundraising Expense $283,203 $317,805 $233,036
Payments to Affiliates -- -- --
Total Revenue/Total Expenses 0.96 1.04 1.03
Program Expense/Total Expenses 69% 72% 68%
Fundraising Expense/Contributed Revenue 13% 15% 14%

Prior Three Years Assets and Liabilities

Fiscal Year 2016 2015 2014
Total Assets $1,171,737 $1,231,677 $1,181,161
Current Assets $1,148,949 $1,209,973 $1,148,479
Long-Term Liabilities -- $0 --
Current Liabilities $81,252 $44,290 $84,819
Total Net Assets $1,090,485 $1,187,387 $1,096,342

Prior Three Years Top Three Funding Sources

Fiscal Year 2016 2015 2014
1st (Source and Amount) -- --
-- --
-- --
2nd (Source and Amount) -- --
-- --
-- --
3rd (Source and Amount) -- --
-- --
-- --

Financial Planning

Endowment Value --
Spending Policy --
Percentage(If selected) --
Credit Line No
Reserve Fund Yes
How many months does reserve cover? --

Capital Campaign

Are you currently in a Capital Campaign? No
Capital Campaign Purpose --
Campaign Goal --
Capital Campaign Dates -
Capital Campaign Raised-to-Date Amount --
Capital Campaign Anticipated in Next 5 Years? --

Short Term Solvency

Fiscal Year 2016 2015 2014
Current Ratio: Current Assets/Current Liabilities 14.14 27.32 13.54

Long Term Solvency

Fiscal Year 2016 2015 2014
Long-term Liabilities/Total Assets 0% 0% 0%

CEO/Executive Director/Board Comments

--

Foundation Comments

Financial summary data in the charts and graphs above are per the organization's IRS Form 990s.  Contributions from foundations and corporations are listed under individuals when the breakout was not available.
 
This organization switched from a calendar year to a fiscal year in 2009.  The 2009 documents only reflect half a year of operations. The 990s for 2009 (half year) and 2008 (full year) are posted for review.

Documents


Other Documents

No Other Documents currently available.

Impact

The Impact tab is a section on the Giving Common added in October 2013; as such the majority of nonprofits have not yet had the chance to complete this voluntary section. The purpose of the Impact section is to ask five deceptively simple questions that require reflection and promote communication about what really matters – results. The goal is to encourage strategic thinking about how a nonprofit will achieve its goals. The following Impact questions are being completed by nonprofits slowly, thoughtfully and at the right time for their respective organizations to ensure the most accurate information possible.


1. What is your organization aiming to accomplish?

The BDL’s mission is to measurably improve students’ academic achievement and their expectations of themselves by engaging as many BPS high school and middle school students as possible through academic debate. In the short term, the BDL’s focus is on going deep rather than broad, building substantially larger debate teams in our current schools to engage students in academically rigorous activities. BPS has whole-heartedly endorsed this plan. The BDL’s long-term goal is to evolve from a program that has a large impact on a small group of students to one that revolutionizes the learning culture of entire schools. Our eventual goal is to build debate teams that are large enough to affect school-wide academic results and for students to regularly use debate to learn in their classes, making debate a signature element of what it means to be a BPS student. We seek to make debate a defining element of what it means to be a Boston Public School student. 

The Boston Debate League began a strategic planning period in January 2014.  The BDL Board of Directors and staff will work to develop the organization's theory of change as well as other foundational documents that will articulate our 3-5-year strategic plan.  At the completion of that process, we will have more details to add in this section.


2. What are your strategies for making this happen?

As mentioned above, we began a strategic plan in 2014.  At the conclusion of the strategic planning process we will update this section to show our specific growth strategies.

3. What are your organization’s capabilities for doing this?

 

The BDL staff now numbers 9 full-time people, and two additional hires are planned for the spring of 2014; six members of the staff are former teachers with more than 30 years of combined teaching experience in K-12 and college.

The BDL’s most critical partner is the Boston Public School System. BPS provides financial and physical resources that make the BDL's work possible. In return, the BDL administers debate in ways that significantly improve school culture and academic achievement. The BDL has also enjoyed significant financial support from the Barr Foundation, the Smith Family Foundation, and State Street, to name a few. The support and endorsement of these funders has put BDL on the radar for many other funding organizations and so, has helped the BDL to achieve its current level of development.

We also enjoy the endorsement and support of smaller organizations like the Boston Bar Association, which has been a key volunteer recruitment partner. The BDL relies upon hundreds of volunteer judges to judge debate rounds. Other key volunteer recruitment partners include local law firms, corporations, businesses, and colleges. The support of partner organizations with access to likely volunteers is essential to our success.

As we grow and expand our partner organizations and impact, our reputation as a successful partner in education reform likewise grows. We believe that the completion of our strategic plan in the spring of 2014 will allow us to fully catalyze and increase our partnerships by providing us with an executable and ambitious plan to bring debate to all BPS middle and high schools.

 


4. How will your organization know if you are making progress?

Measurements and outcomes will be specifically defined by our upcoming strategic plan, but it is our immediate goal to get as many of the dozen schools off our debate waiting list as possible.  Additionally, we will continue to grow large debate teams at all of our partner schools.  Both of these goals can be measured by tracking the number of participating schools and debaters.

5. What have and haven’t you accomplished so far?

We are not yet in every BPS middle and high school.  We hope to achieve this goal in the coming years.