At SLJ, we provide a wide range of intellectually challenging academic experiences designed to promote the development of students who are well prepared and highly motivated to pursue positions of leadership. We will encourage our students to ask questions of themselves when they approach problems or receive new information.
SLJ is dedicated to students who thrive in specialized programs which teach, challenge and expand their knowledge while simultaneously stressing the development of an independent learner who can continuously question, apply and generate information.
SLJ is traditional in tone, but many of our teaching methods are progressive. Students at the Urban Assembly School for Law and Justice will have access to ample curricular and student-support services so that a heterogeneous group of learners who reflect the population of New York City can meet high academic standards and enter postsecondary institutions equipped to broaden their interests and further their career goals.
SLJ is centered on the belief that studying legal issues draws upon and develops fundamental skills—reading, writing and questioning—that are the building blocks for success not only in academic study, but also in the world of work. We don't necessarily want to create career lawyers, we want to promote a love of analytical thinking. We want to encourage interest in reading and writing where it already exists and create understanding and excitement where does not. Graduates of The Urban Assembly School for Law and Justice will be strong and flexible learners who ask questions and challenge simplistic answers. This increased ability to express oneself through the written word and reason analytically will help our students to excel in all of their scholastic pursuits and to realize their wide and varied ambitions to be anything from lawyers, journalists, and politicians to doctors and scientists.
In order to succeed, students need to know what is expected of them. Teachers will formulate criteria with students before a task is assigned so that expectations are clear and teacher assessment objective. Students will never be expected to know something or to be able to do something that has not explicitly been taught to them, however, once they are taught, they will be held accountable for their skills and knowledge.
Teachers will employ a range of instructional methods in heterogeneous classes. All instruction will be driven by the idea of Backward Planning (Grant Wiggins). We will continually ask ourselves—what do I want my students to know, what do I want my students to be able to do and what do I want my students to think about? The answers to these questions will inform our lesson, unit and course planning. We are committed to being a community of reflective practitioners who continually ask ourselves if our students have learned what we wanted them to, how we know that this learning has happened for every child, and, if it hasn't, how we will support this student until they are successful.
We believe that education must be fun and relevant if students are to become life-long learners. We will employ methodology such as interdisciplinary project-based learning, small group instruction, individualized self-paced learning, and inquiry-based problem solving to make sure that our students are engaged and active in their own learning. For example, one might see in one of our writing classes four separate groups of students working at learning stations. One group might be engaged in analyzing a local ordinance. A second might be at the computer center revising an open letter to their Congressional representatives regarding a topic of current concern. A third group might critique one another's presentations of a persuasive speech. A final group of students might have been given the opportunity to work in an area of their choice and be presenting their findings to their peers.
Teachers who teach the same groups of students will have common planning time every day. During this time, they will draw out and highlight connections between the subject matter and law. An English teacher might choose to teach Reginald Rose's Twelve Angry Men, Walter Dean Myers's Monster and Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice, all of which include trials and issues of law and justice. A science teacher might highlight the use of DNA in law enforcement.