Ethical Culture Fieldston School

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Ethical Culture Fieldston School
ECFS SunLogo.jpg
33 Central Park West


United States
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
AccreditationNational Association of Independent Schools (NAIS)
NewspaperFieldston News
Other publicationsThe Fieldston LP, Fieldston Lit Mag, Middle School News, Dope Ink Prints, The Hill Chronicle, Inklings
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), also referred to as 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 1,700 students with 480 faculty and staff.[1] Jessica L. Bagby has been the Head of School since June 2016.[2]

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 (6th – 8th grade) and Fieldston Upper (9th – 12th grade)—also located on the Fieldston campus in Riverdale. Ethical Culture is headed by Principal Rob Cousins, Fieldston Lower is headed by Principal Joe McCauley, Fieldston Middle is headed by Principal Chia-Chee Chiu, and Fieldston Upper is headed by Principal Nigel Furlonge. Tuition and fees for ECFS were $52,993 for the 2019-2020 school year.[3][4]


Workingmens school, in 1893
Ethical Culture in New York City
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 that was important then is threatened by an annual tuition that is $52,993 for the 2019-2020 school year.[4] To help continue the school's original mission, Fieldston awards over $15 million in tuition-based financial aid to 22% of the student body.[5][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.

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

ECFS 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.

Ethical Culture was said to pursue social justice, racial equality, and intellectual freedom.[7] 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."[7]

Later, however, the school faced some controversies concerning issues of race and equality. In March 1970, about 60 students occupied the administration building in protest to demand that more Black and Puerto Rican students be admitted to the school. They also aimed to have a greater number of minority courses, teachers, advisors, employees. The school agreed to some of the student demands.[8][9] After, a joint board of governors faculty committee, warned that students would be penalized with sanctions and expulsion if they will cause similar disruptions.[10]  

Recent developments[edit]

In February 2019, a video that is believed to be created years previously was discovered by administrators after it was shared during a dispute between students. The students in the video use derogatory and racist language.[11] Students involved who were still enrolled in the school were punished, however some 100 students who thought the actions were not enough staged a sit-in reminiscent of the 1970 protest.[12] The students presented the administrators with twenty demands that included increased racial bias training, more faculty of color, the recruitment of more students of color, and a required ethnic studies course; the students' demands were agreed to and are planned to be implemented over the course of 2–3 years.[13]

Fieldston Middle

The school also attracted attention in November 2019 after it hosted a guest speaker who engaged in antisemitic rhetoric.[14] Some parents have raised concerns about the way the school addressed this issue.[15] U.S. Congressmen Josh Gottheimer and Max Rose also wrote its administrators condemning the incident.[16] In January 2020, the school fired a Jewish teacher who posted tweets opposing Zionism.[17] There were parents who asked for the teacher's reinstatement.[18]


Fieldston dropped its participation in the Advanced Placement Program in 2002 to give its faculty the freedom to offer more innovative, 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.[19]


Fieldston's athletic program includes 62 teams covering 23 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, and AfterSchool in the Middle School
  • 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[20]
  • STS (Students Teaching Students) – a specialized ethics program where Form V & Form VI students (Juniors and Seniors) teach an ethics curriculum to middle schoolers. This curriculum covers a wide range of topics including community norms, relationships, decision-making, navigating choices encountered in middle and high school situations (e.g., around social media, sex, drugs, alcohol, and bullying).

Peer schools[edit]

Ethical Culture Fieldston is a part of the Ivy Preparatory School League[21], 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,"[22] 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.

Notable alumni and former students[edit]

Among its many notable alumni and former students are:

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. ^ a b c "Frequently Asked Questions About our Admissions Process". ECFS. Retrieved November 6, 2019.
  5. ^ [2]
  6. ^ "Mark Horowitz : Alumni". Archived from the original on October 25, 2009. Retrieved December 1, 2015.
  7. ^ a b Rosalind Singer (April 25, 2002). "The Ethical Culture School". New York Review of Books. Retrieved July 2, 2007.
  8. ^ Webster, Bayard (March 24, 1970). "60 Students Seize Fieldston School". The New York Times. Retrieved November 6, 2019.
  9. ^ "Fieldston Board Threatens Expulsion of Protesters for Future Disruptions of the School". The New York Times. April 8, 1970.
  10. ^ "Fieldston Board Threatens Expulsion of Protesters for Future Disruptions of the School". The New York Times. April 8, 1970. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved February 21, 2020.
  11. ^ Algar, Selim (February 25, 2019). "Bronx private school students caught using racist, homophobic language on video". New York Post. Retrieved March 18, 2019.
  12. ^ Algar, Selim (March 14, 2019). "Protest over racist private school video ends in student victory". New York Post. Retrieved March 18, 2019.
  13. ^ "Peaceful Demonstrations Lead To Big Victory For Students At Elite Ethical Culture Fieldston School". March 14, 2019. Retrieved March 18, 2019.
  14. ^ Hirsch, Ammiel and Joshua Davidson. "The Anti-Israel Craze Hits High School." New York Times. 16 January 2020. 16 January 2020.
  15. ^ Cooper, Sean (December 18, 2019). "Pride and Prejudice at Fieldston". Tablet Magazine. Retrieved February 21, 2020.
  16. ^ Bandler, Aaron (January 8, 2020). "Democrat Congressmen Raise Concerns Over NY School Hosting Speaker Comparing Israel to Nazis". Jewish Journal. Retrieved February 21, 2020.
  17. ^ JTA, Ben Sales: Elite N.Y. Prep School Fires Teacher Who Posted anti-Zionist Tweets In: Haaretz, 11 January 2020.
  18. ^ Taylor, Kate (July 12, 2017). "Accusations and Rancor as Elite School's Leader Departs". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved February 21, 2020.
  19. ^ 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.
  20. ^ "City Semester: The Bronx Experience 2012". Retrieved December 1, 2015.
  21. ^ Skelding, Conor. "About 15 percent of Fieldston's 2015 grads enrolled at an Ivy". Politico PRO. Retrieved February 21, 2020.
  22. ^ "Riverdale". fieldston-district. Retrieved February 21, 2020.
  23. ^ Byers, Dylan (June 2, 2011). "Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Jill Abramson". Adweek. Retrieved July 18, 2011.
  24. ^ "Boss Man". Ebony. Retrieved July 18, 2011.
  25. ^ "Joseph Amiel (AC 1959) Papers, 1956-2004: Biographical and Historical Note". June 3, 1937. Retrieved December 1, 2015.
  26. ^ Rubinfien, Leo. "Where Diane Arbus Went." Art in America, volume 93, number 9, pages 65-71, 73, 75, 77, October 2005.
  27. ^ Koshman, Josh (August 17, 2009). "Black Ops Mission: APOLLO FOUNDER RE-ENTERS THE LEVERAGE MARKET". The New York Times. Retrieved May 2, 2010.
  28. ^ 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.
  29. ^ "In a Neutral Corner – Roy Marcus Cohn – Article –". Retrieved December 1, 2015.
  30. ^ a b c "Will Ferrell's Commencement Speech For New York Private School Fieldston". Huffington Post. June 17, 2009. Retrieved July 18, 2011.
  31. ^ "Andrew Delbanco to Offer University Lecture, 'Melville, Our Contemporary,' April 10". Columbia News. April 8, 2003. Retrieved July 24, 2011.
  32. ^ "Openings, Performances, Publications, Releases" (PDF). ECF Reporter. Winter 1999 – Spring 2000. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 28, 2012. Retrieved July 24, 2011.
  33. ^ Holley, Joe (February 7, 2007). "Ralph de Toledano, 90; Ardent Conservative". Washington Post. Retrieved May 28, 2013.
  34. ^ Missing or empty |title= (help)
  35. ^ Gordon, Meryl. "Comfort Food". Retrieved December 1, 2015.
  36. ^ Ethical Culture School Record. New York City. 1916. p. 46. Retrieved December 21, 2013.
  37. ^ Bruce Weber (August 26, 2008). "Lawrence Urdang, Language Expert Who Edited Dictionaries, Dies at 81". The New York Times. Retrieved March 27, 2009.
  38. ^ Weber, Bruce (March 2, 2013). "Jane Wright, Oncology Pioneer, Dies at 93". Archived from the original on March 4, 2013.

External links[edit]