Topics

Round 1: Resolved: Schools should abolish all standardized tests.
Round 2: A bill to ban airlines from overbooking flights.
Round 3: A bill to remove grades from all schools and implement a pass or fail system in all classes. 

Round 1: Resolved: Schools should abolish all standardized tests.

Pro/Affirmative (tests are bad):

Argument 1: Standardized tests only measure a student’s performance on a particular test-taking day

  • Standardized testing creates disadvantages for students are not good test-takers, and does not take into account external reasons that may impact performance
  • A 2001 study published by the Brookings Institution found that 50-80% of year-over-year test score improvements were temporary and caused by fluctuations that had nothing to do with long-term changes in learning
    • http://www.huffingtonpost.com/claire-klodell/standardized-tests_b_5448020.html
  • A student may be sick, distracted, or tired on the day of the test
  • Many students have test anxiety which hurts their performance. 
  • Students should be evaluated on growth instead of one single test performance.

Argument 2: Standardized tests cause teachers to focus too much on the subjects tested 

  • In 2001, No Child Left Behind was signed into law, and it set up nationwide testing requirements that were tied to government funding for schools
  • A 2007 study by the Center on Education Policy found that 6 years after the No Child Left Behind, 44% of school districts had reduced the time spent on science, social studies, and art by an average of 145 minutes per week in order to focus on the subjects most tested, which are reading and math.
  • Standardized testing drastically limits the range of subjects and skills that students learn in school. 
  • Finally, standardized testing does not measure other important areas that are necessary for academic success such as creativity, teamwork, and social skills.

Argument 3: The data that is being collected isn’t helpful

  • A 2011, National Research Council report found no evidence that tying government funding to good test scores improves our schools. 
  • The report stated: "Despite using [standardized tests] for several decades, policymakers and educators do not yet know how to use test-based incentives to consistently generate positive effects on achievement and to improve education."
    • https://www.nap.edu/read/12521/chapter/7
  • Although supporters of standardized tests always cite the ability to collect data as a reason to continue using these tests, nothing beneficial is being done with that data
  • Standardized tests have limited benefit but many major drawbacks.  Therefore schools should abolish all standardized tests

Con / Negation (tests are good):

Argument 1: Standardized testing holds teachers and schools accountable to parents and the government  

  • Teachers and schools are responsible for teaching students what they are required to know for standardized tests. 
  • With standardized tests, lawmakers can monitor a school’s performance and determine whether a school is meeting its expectations.  Government funding can then be targeted for areas of improvement
  • Parents can also use this accountability tool to make decisions about their children’s education.  
  • According to researchers from Northwestern and Stanford University, parents make decisions about what school district to buy a house in, and what schools to donate to based on national standardized test outcomes
  • https://cepa.stanford.edu/sites/default/files/Accountability_Handbook.pdf

Argument 2: Standardized tests are helpful tools for teachers

  • "Teaching to the test" can be a good thing because it focuses on essential content and skills, eliminates time-wasting activities that don't produce learning gains, and motivates students to excel.

Argument 3: The data produced by standardized tests is helpful to educators to improve the quality of instruction for a diverse student population

  • Standardized tests provide accurate comparisons between sub-groups. These sub-groups can include data on ethnicity, socioeconomic status, special needs, etc. This provides schools with data to develop programs and services directed at improving scores in these sub-groups

 

Round 2: Resolution: Airlines should be banned from overbooking flights

Pro/Affirmative (overbooking is bad)

Main idea / intro: 

  • Uncertainty is a fact of life. Weather, traffic, and equipment malfunctions all lead to missed flights and cancellations
  • Airlines respond to uncertainty by using an extremely profitable strategy: sell more tickets than there are seats on the airplane
  • The greed of airline companies comes at a high cost: our time, our convenience, our dignity, and our even our physical safety  
  • That’s why this resolution should pass: we need to take the power out of the hands of greedy companies who hurt people in order to make more profit

Argument 1: Airlines create mathematical formulas to determine how many seats to overbook, and these formulas will always make company profit the highest priority

  • According to Business Insider Magazine, airlines use historical data to predict how many people will no-show, and thus how many seats to oversell
    • http://www.businessinsider.com/r-airlines-defend-overbooking-after-united-incident-2017-4
  • So for example, if a plane has 200 seats, an airlines may sell 210 tickets
  • If more than 200 people show up, a handful of paying customers may be involuntarily removed from the flight
  • They may have to rearrange schedules, ask for time off work, find childcare, wait in lines for hours, manage any health conditions, and deal with stress.
  • If we leave it up to the airlines, consumers will always lose

Argument 2: Because these formulas are designed to maximize company profit, there is no incentive to update them to respond to changes in the economy and society

  • According to the US Department of Transportation, the number of people who were denied boarding involuntarily rose 10 percent between 2010 and 2015
    • http://www.cnbc.com/2017/04/11/involuntary-airline-re-accomodations-happen-all-the-time.html
  • In recent years, it has been harder and more expensive for travelers to rearrange their schedules and volunteer to take a later flight
  • Yet the airlines have not changed their practices to reduce the misery that overbooking causes people.  In fact, the overbooking problem has gotten worse
  • The consumer always has to bear the financial burden of changing times and uncertainty.  
  • It’s about time the airlines take their fair share of the burden as well

Argument 3: A ban on overbooking does not necessarily have to raise ticket prices

  • In 2016, United Airlines made $2.3 billion in profit.  Not gross revenue, pure profit
    • http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/united-airlines-reports-full-year-and-fourth-quarter-2016-performance-300392249.html
  • United can only achieve this level of profit by constantly shifting the cost of uncertainty to travelers in an unfair manner
  • Some money can be saved by not having to offer more and more travel vouchers, cash incentives, and hotel reimbursements.
  • Airlines can also save money by not having to deal with bad press coverage for being abusive to customers
  • Airlines may even attract customers who appreciate the good will that a ban on overbooking would likely create
  • And perhaps airline companies can reduce their massive profits by a tiny fraction in order to maintain respect and dignity for their customers

Con / Negation (overbooking is good)

Main idea / intro: 

  • Imagine a world where airline overbooking is banned
  • You and a friend are Delta customers, and you need to fly to San Francisco unexpectedly
  • But Delta flights are sold out today
  • You take your business to Jet Blue and paid $800 for the ticket
  • You friend takes her business to the rental car company because she only had $500
  • And if every Delta flight took off with empty seats today, wouldn’t you be outraged?
  • Connections get delayed, children get sick, people get stuck in traffic.  No-shows will happen
  • But because we’re in a world where overbooking is banned, customers have fewer and less convenient choices for travel 
  • This is the illogical and wasteful air travel system that the affirmative side wants.  

Argument 1: Overbooking is beneficial to passengers the VAST majority of the time 

  • According to statistician Nina Klietsch (“kleech”), on average, about 10 percent of passengers do not show up for their scheduled flight
    • http://ed.ted.com/lessons/why-do-airlines-sell-too-many-tickets-nina-klietsch 
  • Most airlines will help customers who missed their flights to rebook another flight at little or no additional cost
  • This is a really good thing for passengers, especially if the no-show wasn’t their fault
  • Airlines are able to offer flexibility to the passengers because overbooking allowed them to fill their empty seat and avoid losses on the previous flight 
  • 1 out of 10 passengers need to be re-booked.  But only 1 out of 16,000 passengers get bumped from their flight, according to the US Department of Transportation
    • http://www.cnbc.com/2017/04/11/involuntary-airline-re-accomodations-happen-all-the-time.html
  • This system isn’t perfect, but it is working well and it benefits both companies and passengers

Argument 2: Overbooking keeps costs down

  • Regardless of whether there are 100 or 200 passengers seated, a scheduled flight must take off at a certain time 
  • The cost of operating a half-full flight is similar to the cost for a sold-out flight, but the airlines only makes half the money
  • According to the International Air Transport Association, the profit margin per passenger is $7.54 per passenger
    • http://www.iata.org/pressroom/pr/Pages/2016-12-08-01.aspx
  • Banning overbooking will significantly cut into these razor thin profit margins
  • Since companies can’t operate at a loss, the customers will likely have to deal with higher ticket prices, fewer flight options, and more cancellation penalties 
  • A ban would be harmful to both companies and consumers

Argument 3: Airlines policies and procedures can be improved without completely banning the practice of overbooking

  • Many of the concerns on the affirmative side can be addressed with reform
  • The mathematical formulas that determine how many tickets to overbook can be changed to add greater weight to passenger convenience
  • Laws can ban physical force to remove passengers in overbooking situations
  • Airlines have already responded and established better internal policies
    • United Airlines increased its cash incentive maximum to $10,000
    • American Airlines will no longer remove passengers who have already boarded to give a seat to a different passenger
    • http://ktwb.com/news/articles/2017/apr/28/us-airlines-overhaul-overbooking-after-united-fiasco/
  • A total ban would be like throwing the baby out with the bath water 
  • We shouldn’t scrap all the benefits of overbooking to address a handful of concerns. There are plenty of options and opportunities for improvement