Progressive Education

Ethical Culture Fieldston has strong and enduring roots in the progressive education movement. Our founder, the educational reformer and ethical leader Felix Adler, opened the Workingman's School in 1878 to create a more just educational system and to transform educational practice from one marked by teacher-centered rote learning to one that was student-centered and experiential. 

The school served immigrant and working-class students who until then did not have access to this type of education. Hands-on, workshop-based learning was, and is, central to the ECFS educational experience. 

True to our roots, at ECFS today we strive for a diverse community whose approach to teaching and learning is innovative, creative, empathetic, joyful, rigorous, social, collaborative, interdisciplinary, and endeavors to point students outward toward service and social justice. We strive for distinction in all that we do, from the highest-quality teaching to bringing out the greatest potential in every student. We emphasize mastery of subjects and skills as developmentally appropriate across all grade levels.

At ECFS we define excellence in process as well as product. Through a program that is demanding and thorough, we encourage students to challenge themselves and others in original and innovative ways to reach their highest capacity in mind, body, and spirit.