Baltimore City students learn debate skills in the classroom

BALTIMORE - Students in Ms. Jada Byron's eighth grade class at Reach Partnership School are warming up for a debate on self esteem versus appearance.

The arguments stem from a reading assignment.  This exercise is part of a new program called It's Debatable! Structured Argumentation Skills and Strategies or SASS.

"As a part of the national common core standards coming through the nation, Baltimore City is ahead of the game trying to figure it out.  We are making classroom work more rigorous by infusing ideas of argumentation and supporting ideas in assignments," said Pam Block Brier, CEO Baltimore Urban Debate League.

The Baltimore Urban Debate League teamed up with seven Baltimore City Public Schools for the program.  The organization works with educators to teach the tools of debate and argumentation in their classrooms.

"I've seen their arguments get stronger. Once we started they were weak.  Students were not sure how to use the text to support their answers and now they can support their answers and analyze the information to make it their own," said Jada Byron, Teacher.

Reach Partnership School is a transformation school for grades 6th - 12th. The school also serves students in the construction and health care fields.

Reach is a Title One school with 86 percent of its students receiving free and reduced meals.  SASS makes classes fun and engaging for students.

It teaches them how to analyze and argue a stance.  Students empower themselves with their learning.

"It's like a competition between you and somebody else to see who is right and who is wrong," said Morgana Johnson, eighth grade student.

"I'm a good debater because I'm smart.  I like reading a lot so I know a lot of big words," said Jermaine Branch, eighth grade student..

The Baltimore Urban League hopes to partner with other school systems in the Baltimore area in the future.


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