Judith S. Kaye High School Reengages Students
By Carol Sterling
Judith S. Kaye
The Judith S. Kaye High School (JSK) is a New York City public high school, serving over 90 students in grades 9-12 that’s named to honor the legacy of the late Judith S. Kaye — the first woman appointed to the Court of Appeals of the State of New York and the first woman to serve as chief judge of the State of New York. Judith Kaye left her mark on New York’s courts as a creative reformer by streamlining New York’s jury system and establishing specialized courts to focus on issues such as drug addition, domestic violence, and mental health issues. A major area of focus for Judge Kaye was the importance of addressing the needs of young people who become disengaged from school, leading her to become a staunch advocate for keeping kids in school and out of court. In 2015, Judge Kaye said, “Some kids, particularly those who have experienced trauma need more support in order to flourish in a school setting.” She noted that, “we need to ensure schools have positive alternatives and discipline strategies that build reflection and impulse control as well as a strong sense of community.”
And so the legacy of the late Judge Kaye lives on at a small high school that targets over-age and under credited students, many of whom have been involved with the court system. JSK opened in September 2017 and co-located with the School of Cooperative Technical Education (Co-Op Tech) in Manhattan. The vision of the school is to re-engage students who are not on track for graduation in their previous school.
Utilizing a multitude of services, JSK designs a customized level of support for each student to earn a Regents or High School Equivalency Diploma, along with career and technical certificates at Co-Op Tech, ranging from cosmetology, culinary arts, and barbering to carpentry and plumbing. This unique model can allow a student to earn a diploma as well as one or more career and technical certifications. Staff members also assist all students in developing a college, career, and post-graduate plan. Students participate in a course of study which includes interpersonal skill development that best fits their needs so they can be successful in the demanding 21st century college and career world.
In order to serve a student body with diverse needs, the support structure at JSK includes small and nurturing classes of roughly 15 students, with a focus on “hands-on” and project-based learning and entrepreneurship taught by caring teachers who are passionate about working with the JSK students. Teachers use the city as classrooms by taking students out of the building to cultural events or by conducting science experiments outside. The school also has social workers and mental health counselors on-site, with a focus on restorative practices. Students are able to participate in after-schools programs, along with community service and paid internship opportunities.
JSK is an option for any student in New York City between 16 and 21 years of age, regardless of grade or credit accumulation. The school is part of the NYC Department of Education’s District 79, which provides alternative options for students to graduate. JSK utilizes full-time transition counselors to identify students in District 79 programs who are interested in Career and Technical Education (CTE) coursework and in need of a small, nurturing environment. The school also partners with District 79 referral centers in order to provide students citywide with a much-needed option.
This school year, 49 percent of students at JSK have an IEP and 46% of students are two or more years overage for current grade level. Eighty-seven percent of students are identified as “heavy graduation challenge,” which the DOE describes as over-age, under-credited students who need additional interventions to graduate. All of the students had been disconnected from school at one point or another. Interruption from school may have been the result of family issues, court-involvement, mental health, substance abuse or housing. In order to support these students, JSK has social workers with small caseloads and on-site mental health counselors that partner with Community Based Organizations (CBO) and city agencies to provide additional resources, and employs a full-time school culture and climate director. JSK provides both morning and afternoon course offerings and blended learning tailored to meet individual student needs along with enrichment programs and arts courses. #
Carol Sterling is an Advisory Board member of the Judith S. Kaye High School. For more information please email the principal, Andrew Brown, at firstname.lastname@example.org.