Ethical Culture Fieldston School

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Ethical Culture Fieldston School
Ethical Culture Fieldston School logo.svg
33 Central Park West


Coordinates40°53′23″N 73°54′23″W / 40.889674°N 73.90641°W / 40.889674; -73.90641Coordinates: 40°53′23″N 73°54′23″W / 40.889674°N 73.90641°W / 40.889674; -73.90641
TypePrivate Day School
MottoFiat lux (Let there be light)
FounderFelix Adler
Head of schoolJessica L. Bagby
GradesPre-K through 12
Enrollmentapprox. 1,600
Color(s)     PMS 021 orange      PMS 289 blue
AccreditationNational Association of Independent Schools (NAIS)
NewspaperFieldston News
Other publicationsSeason Pass, Eagle Eye, Fieldston (Historical) Review, The Gouda, Ars Magna, The Fieldston LP, Fieldston Lit Mag, Middle School News, Dope Ink Prints, The Hill Chronicle, Inklings, Colors of Fieldston Magazine
Song"Fieldston Lower School" (Fieldston Lower School) "I Walk Through The Doors" (Ethical Culture) "I'm On My Way" (Middle School) "Iam Canamus" (Upper School)

Ethical Culture Fieldston School (ECFS), known as just Fieldston, is a private independent school in New York City. The school is a member of the Ivy Preparatory School League; the school serves approximately 1700 students with 325 faculty and staff.[1] Jessica L. Bagby has been the Head of School since June 2016.[2] Kyle Wilkie-Glass is the Chief Operating Officer and Chief Administrative Officer; the school consists of four divisions: Ethical Culture, Fieldston Lower, Fieldston Middle, and Fieldston Upper. Ethical Culture, located on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, and Fieldston Lower, located on the Fieldston campus in the Riverdale section of the Bronx, serve Pre-K through 5th Grade. The two lower schools feed into Fieldston Middle (grades 6–8) and Fieldston Upper (grades 9–12)—also located on the Fieldston campus in Riverdale. Ethical Culture is headed by Rob Cousins, Fieldston Lower is headed by Joe McAuley, Fieldston Middle is headed by Principal Chia-Chee Chiu, and Fieldston Upper is headed by Nigel Furlonge. Tuition and fees for ECFS were $52,993 for the 2019-2020 school year.[3]


Workingmens school, in 1893
Ethical Culture, 33 Central Park West, New York, NY 10023
Felix Adler, circa 1913

The school opened in 1878 as a free kindergarten, founded by Felix Adler at the age of 24. In 1880, elementary grades were added, and the school was then called the Workingman's School. At that time, the idea that the children of the poor should be educated was innovative. By 1890 the school's academic reputation encouraged many more wealthy parents to seek it out, and the school was expanded to accommodate the upper-class as well, and began charging tuition; in 1895 the name changed to "The Ethical Culture School", and in 1903 the New York Society for Ethical Culture became its sponsor; the economic diversity which was important then is threatened by an annual tuition that is $48,645 for the 2017-18 school year. To help continue the school's original mission, Fieldston awards over $14 million in financial aid to 20% of the student body.[4]

The school moved into its landmark Manhattan building at 33 Central Park West in 1904; the entire school was located in that building until 1928 when the high school division (Fieldston) moved to its 18-acre (73,000 m²) campus on Fieldston Road in the exclusive Fieldston section of Riverdale; the Manhattan branch of the Lower School remained there, and in 1932 a second Lower School was opened on the Riverdale campus. In 2007, a new middle school was opened on the same Riverdale campus, for the 6th, 7th, and 8th grades.

Ethical Culture was said to pursue social justice, racial equality, and intellectual freedom;[5] the school and the affiliated Ethical Culture Society were

havens for secular Jews who rejected the mysticism and rituals of Judaism, but accepted many of its ethical teachings. Additionally, because the institutionalized anti-Semitism of the times established rigid quota systems against Jews in private schools, the Ethical Culture School had a disproportionately large number of Jewish students. Ethical was the only one that did not discriminate because of race, color, or creed."[5]

This tolerant spirit, and the founding philosophy overall, continues to draw families today although they might now be welcome anywhere; the school ended its formal ties with the Society in the 1990s, although retaining its name and striving to maintain the ethical tradition of its roots.

One of the early faculty members was the famous documentary photographer Lewis Hine.

ECF is not the only Ethical Culture School in the New York City area. In 1922, an Ethical Culture School was founded in Brooklyn, near Prospect Park, by Julie Wurtzberger Neuman.[6] However, this school is unrelated to the Ethical Culture Fieldston School.

2019 protest[edit]

In February 2019, a video that is believed to be created years previously was discovered by administrators after it was discovered during a dispute between students; the students in the video appear to be drunk and in an off-campus area while using derogatory and racist language.[7] Although the school's administrative staff punished the students involved who were still enrolled in the school, some 100 students who felt the actions were not enough staged a sit-in for four days and three nights in which they slept in the school;[8] the students presented the administrators with twenty demands which included increased racial bias training, more faculty of color, the recruitment of more students of color and a mandated black studies course; the students' demands were agreed to and are planned to be implemented over the course of 2-3 years.[9]

Fieldston Middle


Fieldston dropped its participation in the Advanced Placement Program in 2002 to give its faculty the freedom to offer supposedly more challenging and thought-provoking material. Students can take AP exams, but the school no longer officially sponsors such courses. While there was some concern that college admissions could be negatively affected, Fieldston's college office worked closely with admissions officers of schools across the country to explain the change, and to assure that its students would be evaluated on the quality of its courses, even without the AP designation.[10]


Fieldston's athletic program includes 44 teams covering 14 sports; the teams, known as the "Fieldston Eagles," play in the Ivy Preparatory School League against other private schools in the region. The school's hockey team as well as the girls and boys ultimate frisbee teams, however, do not play in the league and schedule their own games.

Special programs[edit]

  • Fieldston Outdoors – a six-week environmental day camp
  • Weeks of Discovery/Computer Camps – one-week sports, computer, and other activity camps during school breaks
  • BeforeSchool and AfterSchool – at the two Lower schools
  • Fieldston Enrichment Program (FEP) – tutoring program for selected public school students in preparation of public and private high school entrance exams and requirements
  • Young Dancemakers Company – acclaimed summer dance program
  • City Semester – an interdisciplinary experiential-education based semester program focusing all class on the local: New York City[11]
  • STS (Students Teaching Students) – a specialized ethics program where Form V & Form VI students (Juniors and Seniors) teach the ethics curriculum to middle schoolers. This curriculum covers a wide range of topics including community norms, relationships, social issues encountered in high school situations (sex, drugs, alcohol, and bullying), and social media.

Notable alumni and former students[edit]

Among its many notable alumni and former students are:

Peer schools[edit]

Ethical Culture Fieldston is a part of the Ivy Preparatory School League, with many of the city's elite private schools; the three high schools Fieldston, Riverdale, and Horace Mann together are known as the "Hill schools," as all three are located within a short walking distance of each other in the Riverdale section of the Bronx, on a hilly area above Van Cortlandt Park. The three are also involved in inter-school sports rivalry.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Ethical Culture Fieldston School: General FAQ". November 19, 2015. Archived from the original on October 25, 2015. Retrieved December 1, 2015.
  2. ^ [1] Archived March 10, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ "Ethical Culture Fieldston School: Tuition and Fees". August 25, 2019. Retrieved August 25, 2019.
  4. ^ [2]
  5. ^ a b Rosalind Singer (April 25, 2002). "The Ethical Culture School". New York Review of Books. Retrieved July 2, 2007.
  6. ^ "Mark Horowitz : Alumni". Archived from the original on October 25, 2009. Retrieved December 1, 2015.
  7. ^ Algar, Selim (February 25, 2019). "Bronx private school students caught using racist, homophobic language on video". New York Post. Retrieved March 18, 2019.
  8. ^ Algar, Selim (March 14, 2019). "Protest over racist private school video ends in student victory". New York Post. Retrieved March 18, 2019.
  9. ^ "Peaceful Demonstrations Lead To Big Victory For Students At Elite Ethical Culture Fieldston School". March 14, 2019. Retrieved March 18, 2019.
  10. ^ Zhao, Yilu (February 1, 2002). "High School Drops Its A.P. Courses, And Colleges Don't Seem to Mind". New York City. Retrieved December 1, 2015.
  11. ^ "City Semester: The Bronx Experience 2012". Retrieved December 1, 2015.
  12. ^ Byers, Dylan (June 2, 2011). "Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Jill Abramson". Adweek. Retrieved July 18, 2011.
  13. ^ "Boss Man". Ebony. Retrieved July 18, 2011.
  14. ^ "Joseph Amiel (AC 1959) Papers, 1956-2004: Biographical and Historical Note". June 3, 1937. Retrieved December 1, 2015.
  15. ^ Rubinfien, Leo. "Where Diane Arbus Went." Art in America, volume 93, number 9, pages 65-71, 73, 75, 77, October 2005.
  16. ^ Koshman, Josh (August 17, 2009). "Black Ops Mission: APOLLO FOUNDER RE-ENTERS THE LEVERAGE MARKET". The New York Times. Retrieved May 2, 2010.
  17. ^ Lieber, Scott (May 1, 2006). "The path of Nancy Cantor: In the name of defending her values, she's won acclaim with academia, two chancellor jobs -- and enemies along the way". The Daily Orange. Archived from the original on March 15, 2012. Retrieved June 18, 2011.
  18. ^ "In a Neutral Corner – Roy Marcus Cohn – Article –". Retrieved December 1, 2015.
  19. ^ a b c "Will Ferrell's Commencement Speech For New York Private School Fieldston". Huffington Post. June 17, 2009. Retrieved July 18, 2011.
  20. ^ "Andrew Delbanco to Offer University Lecture, 'Melville, Our Contemporary,' April 10". Columbia News. April 8, 2003. Retrieved July 24, 2011.
  21. ^ "Openings, Performances, Publications, Releases" (PDF). ECF Reporter. Winter 1999 – Spring 2000. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 28, 2012. Retrieved July 24, 2011.
  22. ^ Holley, Joe (February 7, 2007). "Ralph de Toledano, 90; Ardent Conservative". Washington Post. Retrieved May 28, 2013.
  23. ^ Missing or empty |title= (help)
  24. ^ Gordon, Meryl. "Comfort Food". Retrieved December 1, 2015.
  25. ^ Ethical Culture School Record. New York City. 1916. p. 46. Retrieved December 21, 2013.
  26. ^ Caro, Robert (1974). The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York. New York: Knopf. p. 35. ISBN 978-0-394-48076-3. OCLC 834874.
  27. ^ Bruce Weber (August 26, 2008). "Lawrence Urdang, Language Expert Who Edited Dictionaries, Dies at 81". The New York Times. Retrieved March 27, 2009.
  28. ^ Weber, Bruce (March 2, 2013). "Jane Wright, Oncology Pioneer, Dies at 93". Archived from the original on March 4, 2013.

External links[edit]