Thomas A. Edison Career and Technical Education High School

The avowed goal of Thomas Edison Career and Technical High School is to provide a pragmatic approach to education that fits students' needs and prepares them for real-world professional experiences.


The ten “Beat the Odds” schools were selected after an extensive review of a Parthenon Group study and data from the New York City Department of Education. These schools’ innovative programs and outstanding leadership resulted in a higher than average graduation rate for students who typically either dropped out or did not graduate on time.

Background Study


 Building School Community


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Students and teachers work together on a variety of projects at Edison.

American education can be highly individualistic, driven by the idea that merit dictates success. At its most extreme, this view promotes a kind of Social Darwinism—a survival of the fittest with no notion whatsoever of advancing public education for the common good. In contrast, school leaders and staff at Thomas Edison stress the importance of building faculty and student cohesion for collective benefit. The teachers know each other from interacting in small, focused faculty seminars—sessions where professional development is immediate and readily understandable. Although class size is a problem at Edison, school leaders encourage dynamic instruction and differentiated learning as means of investing in the common good. As instruction has become more engaging, and as technology has grown more prevalent, student attendance has improved.

Allocating Resources


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Principal Ilona Posner works closely with her Business Manager to direct use of Edison’s resources.

School administrators must be both managers and leaders. The two functions require different skills. Good managers must supervise the expenditure of public funds according to carefully constructed guidelines, while keeping an eye trained on the bottom line. Good school leaders must use resources in creative even visionary ways to ensure that all students – not just those who experience difficulty – have opportunities to succeed. School leaders at Thomas Edison realize they can no longer rely solely on funds from the central budget if they are to maximize opportunities for the greatest number of students. Consequently, they seek grants and other revenue sources to underwrite school initiatives. Teachers too offer themselves as resources by contributing time in service to others. The school day ends officially with the last bell, but teaching and learning never stop.


 Providing Real-World Experiences


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Edison’s technical education programs require students to meet high professional standards.

If education is to be pragmatic it must attend to praxis—that is, to both action and reflection. Students at Thomas Edison take difficult AP classes, but they also learn how to apply the knowledge they acquire. In the process, as radical educational theorist Paolo Freire might well argue, there is a subtle exchange of roles between teachers and students while they make sense of their own and each others’ lives. At times, their interplay focuses on responsibilities to themselves and at other times on their responsibilities to society. True teaching and learning in this place is demonstrated in part by the community members’ abilities to decenter, to see the world from multiple perspectives.


 Focusing on Academics


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AP Calculus students combine academic and career aspirations.

The avowed goal of Thomas Edison Career and Technical High School is to provide a pragmatic approach to education that fits students’ needs and prepares them for real- world professional experiences. When you drop by Thomas Edison at lunchtime, you are likely to find teachers tutoring students on calculus or conducting an impromptu help session on the mysteries of electrical circuitry. Students appear to appreciate the extra help unraveling complex ideas and applying what they learn to practical examples. There is more going on here though than teaching and learning academic and technical content. Teachers function as mentors who shape students’ educational and career aspirations. You cannot shake the feeling that somewhere behind all this activity looms the presence of a leader with a vision of education for 21st Century students. This vision has nothing to do with holding students captive to chalk boards and #2 pencils.