One common request over the past few months has been for an assessment of the effects of the new .1 scale on speaker points in high school debate. With most if not all tournaments now utilizing this system (or its 100-point variant), it is now possible to look back and analyze how the new scale has impacted speaker point assignment. Four major national circuit tournaments—two in the first semester and two in the second semester—were included in this study: Greenhill, Glenbrooks, MBA, and Emory. How has the .1 scale effected speaker points at these tournaments? The answer (in graphical form) is below the fold.
Montgomery Bell Academy
The following graph includes speaker point totals from Greenhill, Glenbrooks (normalized to six rounds), MBA, and Emory for the following seasons: 1997-1998, 2001-2002, 2005-2006, 2009-2010, and 2010-2011.
The average total for the top speaker increased minimally from 1997 to 2010 but spiked by nearly a full point in 2010-2011. This trend continued for the fifth, tenth, 15th, and 20th speakers: the totals for each position were higher in 2010-2011 than in any other season. Indeed, the average point total for the 20th speaker in 2010-2011 was the same as the average point total for the 5th speaker in 1997-1998.
To what can we attribute this dramatic increase in speaker points? The clear culprit is the mainstream acceptance of the .1 speaker point scale (instead of the .5 scale that had been the norm since the 1990s). The new scale provides judges with increased flexibility for assigning points at the higher end of the spectrum; while few judges throughout the previous decade were willing to award 29.5 points to even the most exceptional speakers, they have been willing to use the new scale to boost points up to 29.1, 29.2, and so on. Whereas a 28.5 used to be the second best total on most judges’ scales, it is now only the sixth or seventh (or even tenth or more) increment for judges using the .1 scale.
Does it matter? The advent of the .1 system has undoubtedly allowed judges to differentiate their speaker point assignments with greater precision. In the process, however, point values have dramatically inflated. Was this inflation inevitable? Will it continue? Should we care?
Please share your thoughts in the comments.