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For Educators - K-12 Promising Approaches

Street Law

Grade Level: 9-12

Class Syllabus

Promising Approaches

  • Instruction in Government, History, Law, and Democracy
  • Guided Discussions of Issues and Current Events
  • Simulations of Democratic Processes

Overview
Special Features
Civic Learning Goals
Evaluation Studies
Required Resources
Available Resources
Professional Development Opportunities
Comments and Reflections from Students
Contact Information

Overview

Street Law is a high school elective course blends practical, law-related content, interactive teaching strategies, and positive connections to the community through service projects or legal resource people who participate in classroom instruction and discussion.  The content of the course includes an introduction to law and the legal system, criminal and juvenile justice, consumer law, torts, family law and individual rights and responsibilities. 

Preferred instructional strategies include cooperative group work, discussion of controversial or public issues, case study, role-playing and mock trials, moot courts and legislative hearings, use of legal resource persons from the community (in conjunction with the above strategies, not as guest lecturers) and use of new media.

Special Features

The Street Law course is adaptable. The course as taught at Deering High School in Portland focuses on criminal, civil and constitutional law. Since it was adopted in 2001, it has become the most popular social studies elective at Deering.

Street Law, Inc., encourages schools to create heterogeneous classes for Street Law and suggests use in grades 10 - 12.  Many teachers report that students who had not done well in other classes thrive in Street Law because of the relevant content and the student-centered interactive teaching strategies.

Civic Learning Goals

Civic Knowledge

  • Key principles, documents, and ideas essential to constitutional democracy
  • Structures, processes, functions, branches and level of U.S. government and legal system
  • Social and political networks for making change, such as voluntary associations or local organizing

Civic Skills

  • Critical thinking, active listening, analyzing public policies, problems and assets, and understanding multiple perspectives
  • Voicing opinion through electoral and non-electoral means, such as voting, lobbying, protesting, and organizing

Civic Dispositions

  • Developing tolerance, respect, and appreciation of difference
  • Developing concern with the rights and welfare of others
  • Developing a belief in one’s ability to make a difference
  • Developing attentiveness to civic matters and a desire to become involved

Evaluation Studies

From 1980–1983, a US Department of Justice-funded study found that students in Street Law classes who were taught according to a series of best practice prescriptions showed significant reductions in self reports of delinquent behavior. However, not all Street Law classes featured this instruction and, therefore, not all of them had these positive results. 

Several years later, a similar evaluation was done of the Street Law classes offered as part of the Department of Defense School system, and the results were more consistent. In addition to behavioral and attitudinal improvements, the pre/post tests showed increases in knowledge.

The CMS review states Street Law is probably the most comprehensive curriculum on law and the legal system for an elective setting. It models strong pedagogy and promotes the use of outside resource people in the classroom, thus linking the curriculum to the real world.

Required Resources

The Street Law course is most often a one semester course, but materials are adequate for a year-long course. A classroom set of the Street Law materials costs about $1,200.  The prices are set by Glencoe/McGraw-Hill, the publisher. A trained social studies teacher with some background in government is required. It is very helpful to include legal and law enforcement volunteers in the community. Access to a computer lab is also quite helpful.

Available Resources

The Street Law curriculum includes: a student textbook, comprehensive teacher guide, a strong web complement (http://www.streetlaw.glencoe.com), a workbook that includes ideas about community service projects that can be launched from a Street Law class, electronic testing materials, a video with TG (Student Scenes), a binder with transparencies/reproducible masters, and a book called Street Law's Classroom Guide to Mock Trials and Moot Courts. 

Professional Development Opportunities          

Street Law conducts two six-day institutes at the U.S. Supreme Court every summer for thirty teachers per institute, by competitive application. Street Law can also deliver staff development in state.

The Street Law organizational web site (http://www.streetlaw.org) provides teachers with additional support, including information about the Supreme Court Summer Institute for Teachers.

Comments and reflections from students

"Very educational.  Life changing."
"Gave me insight into the world of law, enough insight for me to consider pursuing a career in law."
"Street Law was a very informative class.  It was the first class I have taken in high school where I could use the material learned in my everyday life."
"It felt like a really useful course."
"A class that applies to real life."

Contact Information

Stephanie Doane
Deering High School
370 Stevens Avenue
Portland, ME 04103
207.874.8260
doanes@portlandschools.org

Lee Arbetman, Director of U.S. Programs
Street Law, Inc.
1010 Wayne Avenue, Suite 870
Silver Spring, Maryland 20910
(301) 589-1130 x 230
larbetman@streetlaw.org

Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools: Education for Democracy