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 schoolJoe Algrant
GradesPre-K through 12
EnrollmentApprox. 1,600
Color(s)  PMS 021 orange
AccreditationNational Association of Independent Schools (NAIS)
NewspaperFieldston News
Other publicationsFieldston News The Fieldston LP, Fieldston Lit Mag, Middle School News, Dope Ink Prints, The Hill Chronicle, Inklings
  • "Fieldston Lower School" (Fieldston Lower School)
  • "It's the Feeling Inside" (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] Joe Algrant is the Head of School.

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 grades) and Fieldston Upper (9th–12th grades)—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 Jonathan Alschuler, and Fieldston Upper is headed by Principal Stacey Bobo. Tuition and fees for ECFS were $55,510 for the 2020–2021 school year, and are increasing to $63,000 for the 2022-2023 school year.[2][3]


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. Fieldston awards over $15 million in tuition-based financial aid to 22% of the student body.[4][3]

The school moved into its 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 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 American sociologist Lewis Hine.

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.[5][6]

Recent developments[edit]

Beginning in 2015, the school began separating children for mandatory weekly "affinity group" meetings based on their self-identified race, to discuss issues of race and bias. The experimental program met with controversy from Fieldston parents, many of whom compared the meetings to segregation.[7][8]

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.[9] 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.[10] 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.[11]

Fieldston Middle

The school also attracted attention in November 2019 after it hosted a guest speaker who compared the Israeli treatment of Palestinians to the Holocaust, a statement which was denounced by many as antisemitic,[12] including two Reform Jewish rabbis who spoke at the school in the wake of the controversy and subsequently published a New York Times editorial about the incident.[13] The school's response to the controversy was sharply criticized as being inadequate and itself antisemitic by many parents of Fieldston students.[8] U.S. Congressmen Josh Gottheimer and Max Rose also wrote its administrators condemning the incident.[14] In January 2020, the school fired a Jewish teacher who posted tweets opposing the invitation of two speakers on anti-Semitism because they were, according to him, "white" and Zionists.[15] There were parents who asked for the teacher's reinstatement.[16]


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.[17]


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. Fieldston's most recent athletic title was the NYSAIS Girls Soccer tournament in 2021.

Special programs[edit]

  • Before School and After School – at the two Lower schools, and after school in the Middle School[18]
  • 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 – summer dance program
  • City Semester – an interdisciplinary experiential-education based semester program focusing on New York City[19]
  • STS (Students Teaching Students) – a specialized ethics program in which Form V & Form VI students (juniors and seniors) teach middle school students. 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).
  • Bridge to Bridge - a mentoring program for students of color in the upper school to mentor middle schoolers of color.

Peer schools[edit]

Ethical Culture Fieldston is a part of the Ivy Preparatory School League,[20] with many of New York City's elite private schools. The three high schools Fieldston, Riverdale, and Horace Mann together are known as the "Hill schools,"[21] 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. ^ "ECFS: Tuition and Financial Aid". Retrieved March 5, 2021.
  3. ^ a b "Frequently Asked Questions About Our Admissions Process". ECFS. Retrieved November 6, 2019.
  4. ^ "Ethical Culture Fieldston School: Financial Aid". Archived from the original on July 2, 2016. Retrieved July 16, 2016.
  5. ^ Webster, Bayard (March 24, 1970). "60 Students Seize Fieldston School". The New York Times. Retrieved November 6, 2019.
  6. ^ "Fieldston Board Threatens Expulsion of Protesters for Future Disruptions of the School". The New York Times. April 8, 1970.
  7. ^ Miller, Lisa. "Can Racism Be Stopped in the Third Grade?", The Cut, May 19, 2015.
  8. ^ a b Cooper, Sean (December 18, 2019). "Pride and Prejudice at Fieldston". Tablet Magazine. Retrieved February 21, 2020.
  9. ^ Algar, Selim (February 25, 2019). "Bronx private school students caught using racist, homophobic language on video". New York Post. Retrieved March 18, 2019.
  10. ^ Algar, Selim (March 14, 2019). "Protest over racist private school video ends in student victory". New York Post. Retrieved March 18, 2019.
  11. ^ "Peaceful Demonstrations Lead To Big Victory For Students At Elite Ethical Culture Fieldston School". March 14, 2019. Retrieved March 18, 2019.
  12. ^ Shapiro, Eliza. "Fieldston, Elite Private School, Faces Backlash From Jewish Parents", The New York Times, January 10, 2020.
  13. ^ Hirsch, Ammiel and Joshua Davidson. "The Anti-Israel Craze Hits High School." The New York Times. 16 January 2020.
  14. ^ Bandler, Aaron (January 8, 2020). "Democrat Congressmen Raise Concerns Over NY School Hosting Speaker Comparing Israel to Nazis". Jewish Journal. Retrieved February 21, 2020.
  15. ^ JTA, Ben Sales: Elite N.Y. Prep School Fires Teacher Who Posted anti-Zionist Tweets In: Haaretz, 11 January 2020.
  16. ^ 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.
  17. ^ Zhao, Yilu (February 1, 2002). "High School Drops Its A.P. Courses, And Colleges Don't Seem to Mind". The New York Times. New York City. Retrieved December 1, 2015.
  18. ^ "After School and Summer Programs | Ethical Culture Fieldston School". Ethical Culture Fieldston School. Retrieved December 1, 2020.
  19. ^ "City Semester: The Bronx Experience 2012". Retrieved December 1, 2015.
  20. ^ Skelding, Conor. "About 15 percent of Fieldston's 2015 grads enrolled at an Ivy". Politico PRO. Retrieved February 21, 2020.
  21. ^ "Riverdale". fieldston-district. Retrieved February 21, 2020.
  22. ^ Byers, Dylan (June 2, 2011). "Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Jill Abramson". Adweek. Retrieved July 18, 2011.
  23. ^ "Boss Man". Ebony. Johnson Publishing Company. June 1977. Retrieved July 18, 2011.
  24. ^ "Joseph Amiel (AC 1959) Papers, 1956-2004: Biographical and Historical Note". June 3, 1937. Retrieved December 1, 2015.
  25. ^ Rubinfien, Leo. "Where Diane Arbus Went." Art in America, volume 93, number 9, pages 65-71, 73, 75, 77, October 2005.
  26. ^ Koshman, Josh (August 17, 2009). "Black Ops Mission: APOLLO FOUNDER RE-ENTERS THE LEVERAGE MARKET". The New York Times. Retrieved May 2, 2010.
  27. ^ 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.
  28. ^ "In a Neutral Corner – Roy Marcus Cohn – Article –". The New York Times. April 22, 1960. Retrieved December 1, 2015.
  29. ^ a b c "Will Ferrell's Commencement Speech For New York Private School Fieldston". Huffington Post. June 17, 2009. Retrieved July 18, 2011.
  30. ^ "Andrew Delbanco to Offer University Lecture, 'Melville, Our Contemporary,' April 10". Columbia News. April 8, 2003. Retrieved July 24, 2011.
  31. ^ "Openings, Performances, Publications, Releases" (PDF). ECF Reporter. Winter 1999 – Spring 2000. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 28, 2012. Retrieved July 24, 2011.
  32. ^ Holley, Joe (February 7, 2007). "Ralph de Toledano, 90; Ardent Conservative". Washington Post. Retrieved May 28, 2013.
  33. ^ Gordon, Meryl. "Comfort Food". Retrieved December 1, 2015.
  34. ^ Ethical Culture School Record. New York City. 1916. p. 46. Retrieved December 21, 2013.
  35. ^ Victoria Schneps (December 23, 2021). "Power Women with Victoria Schneps" (Podcast). Schneps Media. Event occurs at 4:10-4:25. Retrieved January 1, 2022.
  36. ^ Bruce Weber (August 26, 2008). "Lawrence Urdang, Language Expert Who Edited Dictionaries, Dies at 81". The New York Times. Retrieved March 27, 2009.
  37. ^ Weber, Bruce (March 2, 2013). "Jane Wright, Oncology Pioneer, Dies at 93". Archived from the original on March 4, 2013.

External links[edit]