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«Schools of Tomorrow,» Schools of Today

Progressive Education in the 21st Century – Second Edition


Edited By Susan F. Semel, Alan R. Sadovnik and Ryan W. Coughlan

The second edition of «Schools of Tomorrow,» Schools of Today: Progressive Education in the 21 st Century documents a new collection of child-centered progressive schools founded in the first half of the twentieth century and provides histories of some contemporary examples of progressive practices. Part I discusses six progressive schools founded in the first part of the twentieth century (City and Country; Dalton; the Weekday School at Riverside Church; The Laboratory School at the Institute of Child Study; Alabama State Teachers College Laboratory High School; and Highlander), tracing them from their beginnings. Part II examines four more contemporary schools (Central Park East 1; Central Park East Secondary; Learning Community Charter School; and KIPP TEAM Academy), showing how progressive practices gained momentum from the 1960s onward. As a volume in the History of Schools and Schooling series, this book seeks to look to the past for what it can teach us today.
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Chapter 3. The Dalton School: The Transformation of a Progressive School


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The Transformation of a Progressive School

Susan F. Semel

A coeducational, independent day school located on the fashionable Upper East Side of Manhattan founded in 1919 by Helen Parkhurst on West 72nd Street, the Dalton School moved to its East 89th Street location in 1929.1 At present, the Middle School and High School, grades 4 through 12, are housed at 108 East 89th Street. The Lower School, grades K through 3, is housed in a series of cleverly connected townhouses at 53, 61, and 63 East 91st Street. A new physical education facility, opened in 1992, is housed in a luxury apartment building at 200 East 87th Street.

Although Helen Parkhurst founded Dalton as a progressive school with the financial backing of Mrs. W. Murray Crane, the wife of the owner of Crane Paper Company, the school has strayed from the original intentions of its founder. Today, Dalton is a competitive, elite, college preparatory school with tuition costs in excess of $40,000 per year.2 Few parents who apply know or care about Dalton’s progressive roots. This chapter examines the gradual transformation of the Dalton School’s progressive pedagogic practices from its beginnings to the present.3 ← 53 | 54 →

The Parkhurst Years (1919–1942): Curriculum and Pedagogy at Dalton

It was probably around 1915–1916 that her fortuitous relationship with Mrs. W. Murray Crane began, the woman who would provide Helen...

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