Thomas A. Edison School
In 1999, only 19 percent of Edison 4th-graders passed the state assessment in English language arts, and 75 percent passed the state assessment in math. At the time, a mere 23 percent of Edison 4th-graders had health insurance. In 2008, those percentages increased dramatically: 70 percent of Edison 4th-graders passed the English language arts assessment, 94 percent passed the math assessment, and 94 percent had health insurance.
It took tremendous effort to make those improvements. School officials talked to students, parents, faculty and community leaders to identify problems. Teachers reported that illness often caused students to miss school. They lamented the lack of mechanisms for teacher-parent communication. And parents voiced the need for an after-school program that would keep their children safe and engaged until they could pick them up. Such problems likely resulted from the high poverty and large immigrant population in the community. The lack of medical care, lack of access to essential services, language barriers and parents working multiple jobs to try to make ends meet all contributed to Edison’s struggles.
After the community’s needs became clear, school officials started an after-school program and put together an advisory board. Manhattanville College partnered with the school to provide help for students in the after-school program. The college also placed some of its own students in the classrooms to assist Edison teachers. The college began to hold on-campus teacher training for Edison teachers, 30 percent of whom were Manhattanville alumni. Through an association with Southern Westchester Boards of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES), parents could take adult education classes at Edison.
The school has greatly expanded its health services and now boasts a health center staffed by a pediatric nurse and a nurse practitioner. The center caters to students and faculty, and even parents. This full-service community school also provides legal services, family counseling, and a weekly bilingual workshop for parents where they can learn about nutrition, personal finances, literacy and how to complete the U.S. Census survey. The workshops not only provide important information and support to families, but also help bring parents together so they can build relationships within the school community.