John Jay School for Law (Secondary School for Law)

Grades 9-12
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What’s Special

New AP classes and arts programs

The Downside

Awkward space, security concerns

Our Review

The Secondary School for Law, one of four schools in the John Jay building in Park Slops, has struggled since its founding in 2004. Now, the school boasts new classes and an increased focus on the arts. Its tiny, low-performing middle school is closing and staff can concentrate on preparing high school students for college. These and other changes, the principal hopes, will enable Law to finally become an academically competitive school for students from all over Brooklyn.

Principal Oneatha Swinton said that when she came to Law in September 2010 enrollment was down. The school had barely avoided a D on its Progress Report. The graduation rate had taken a precipitous drop, and students cut class and hung out in the halls.

She saw her job as "cleaning up and doing what I had to do" -- improving teaching and making classes more demanding. By all accounts, it did not go entirely smoothly. In the Learning Environment Survey for her first year, teachers gave the administration harsh marks. Half said they did not trust her.

But now Swinton says her efforts are paying off. The school added more training for teachers, its Progress Report scores have risen and Swinton says Law now "has a clear instructional vision." Swinton sponsors a staff appreciation dinner and says she considers the school a family. It still must contend with an awkward space, split between two floors in John Jay, a building that has had security and image problems.

On our visit we saw some innovative teaching. A 9th grade teacher used the Socratic method to challenge student assumptions about the death of Trayvon Martin. An animated 10th grade teacher engaged her students in a discussion of Dante's inferno, and a living environment teacher use paper bags to help student visualize bacteria. Five AP courses are offered.

Online teaching will allow the school to expand its language offering to French and Japanese, in addition to Spanish. The law program remains, with moot court, mock trials and a partnership with a law firm. But to attract and engage students who may have other interests, Swinton added a popular dance program and visual arts classes. She plans to offer violin and AP Studio Art and to give students the choice of a law or humanities track.

Law now has three deans -- two of whom who also teach. Along with Swinton, they carry walkie-talkies as they patrol the halls and urge students to go to class. They also serve as ad hoc guidance counselors, people students can speak to if they have a problem.

"The kids know I love them," Swinton says, "but they know I will tear them apart if they get crazy."

Students seem to like her too. The principal is sweet and well-dressed. She sets a good example, girls told us.

Despite metal detectors and heavy security at the building, many students said on the Learning Environment Survey that they do not feel safe. Much of the trouble apparently happens in the stairwells -- Law is divided between two floors -- and other shared areas of the building.

About 80 percent of graduates go to college, with most attending four-year schools, largely SUNYs and CUNYs. To help students navigate the application process, Law has a college counseling class that meets twice a week for 50 minutes. All seniors must fill out a CUNY application.

Students at Law can join the PSAL sports teams shared with Park Slope Collegiate and the Secondary School of Journalism, and the school offers its own activities as well.

Special education: Law is phasing out its self-contained special ed classes, replacing them with team-teaching classes.

Admission: Although the school gives priority to District 15 student and screens applicants for grades and attendance, it attracts few students from that district. Most students who apply are admitted. (Gail Robinson, April 2012)

About the students

Enrollment
421
Asian
1.2%
Black
69.4%
Hispanic
24.0%
White
2.6%
Other
2.9%
Free or reduced priced lunch
72%
Students with disabilities
14%
English language learners
3%
Male
33%

About the school

Shared campus?
Yes
This school shares the John Jay Educational Campus with three other schools
Uniforms required?
No
Metal detectors?
Yes
How crowded? (Full is 100%)
59%
Citywide Average Key
This school is Better Near Worse than the citywide average

Attendance

Average daily attendance
85%
85% Citywide Average
How many students are chronically absent?
44%
42% Citywide Average

Is this school safe?

How many teachers say order and discipline are maintained at this school?
95%
76% Citywide Average
How many students think bullying happens most or all of the time at this school?
28%
18% Citywide Average
How many students say they feel safe in the hallways, bathrooms and locker rooms?
78%
84% Citywide Average
How many students say most students treat each other with respect?
39%
56% Citywide Average

About the leadership

Years of principal experience at this school
6.0
5.3 Citywide Average
How many teachers say the principal is an effective manager?
80%
77% Citywide Average
How many teachers say the principal has a clear vision for this school?
90%
83% Citywide Average
How many teachers trust the principal?
85%
78% Citywide Average

About the teachers

How many teachers have 3 or more years of experience teaching?
76%
73% Citywide Average
Teacher attendance
97%
97% Citywide Average
How many teachers say they would recommend this school to other families?
85%
79% Citywide Average
How many teachers think the staff collaborate to make this school run effectively?
90%
84% Citywide Average
Citywide Average Key
This school is Better Near Worse than the citywide average

Arts offerings

This school has 2 dedicated spaces for Dance and Visual arts
This school has 2 licensed arts teachers in Dance and Music

Engaging curriculum?

How many students say this school offers enough programs, classes and activities to keep them interested?
72%
71% Citywide Average
How many students say they are challenged in most or all of their classes?
44%
49% Citywide Average
How many students say the programs, classes and activities here encourage them to develop talent outside academics?
72%
70% Citywide Average
Citywide Average Key
This school is Better Near Worse than the citywide average

How many graduate?

How many students graduate in 4 years?
83%
77% Citywide Average
How many graduates earn Advanced Regents diplomas?
7%
11% Citywide Average
How many students drop out?
4%
10% Citywide Average

Are students prepared for college?

How many students graduate with test scores high enough to enroll at CUNY without remedial help?
31%
32% Citywide Average
How many students take a college-level course or earn a professional certificate?
30%
41% Citywide Average
How many graduate and enter college within 18 months?
70%
63% Citywide Average
Citywide Average Key
This school is Better Near Worse than the citywide average

How does this school serve English Language Learners?

How many former English language learners score 3-4 on the State ELA exam?
0%
0% Citywide Average

How does this school serve students with disabilities?

This school offers self-contained classes
This school offers team teaching (ICT)
How many students say that students with disabilities are included in all activities?
53%
64% Citywide Average
How many parents of students with disabilities say this school offers enough activities and services for their children's needs?
88%
87% Citywide Average
How many parents of students with disabilities say this school works to achive the goals of their students' IEPs?
85%
90% Citywide Average
How many parents of students with disabilities say they are satisfied with the IEP development process at this school?
85%
89% Citywide Average
How many special ed students graduate in 4 years?
62%
60% Citywide Average
For more information about our data sources, see About Our Data

Programs and Admissions

John Jay School for Law
Admissions Method: Ed. Opt.
Program Description

Program emphasizes the study of law; opportunities for mentoring, internships and mock trial/moot court.

Academics

Language Courses

French, Spanish

Advanced Placement (AP) courses

AP Biology, AP English, AP Environmental Science, AP US History

Sports

Boys PSAL teams

Basketball

Girls PSAL teams

Basketball, Volleyball

Read about admissions, academics, and more at this school on the NYCDOE’s School Finder
NYC Department of Education: School Finder

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