Dalton School

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Dalton School
Dalton School logo.png
Middle & High School:
108 East 89th Street
First Program:
53 East 91st Street
Physical Education Center:
200 East 87th Street

TypePrivate, day, college-preparatory
MottoGo Forth Unafraid
FounderHelen Parkhurst
CEEB code333580
Head of schoolJames "Jim" Best[1]
FacultyApprox. 250
EnrollmentApprox. 1300
Color(s)Royal blue and white
MascotIvan the Tiger
AccreditationNAIS, NYSAIS
NewspaperThe Daltonian
EndowmentEstimated at $65 million
Ivy Preparatory School League
New York Interschool
Global Online Academy
Literary magazineBlue Flag
Political journalRealPolitik
Technology journalTechFluence

The Dalton School, originally the Children's University School,[2] is a private, coeducational college preparatory school on New York City's Upper East Side and a member of both the Ivy Preparatory School League and the New York Interschool. The school is located in three buildings within Manhattan.


The Dalton School, originally called the Children's University School, was founded by Helen Parkhurst in 1919. It was a time marked by educational reform. Philosophers, teachers, and child psychologists identified as "progressives" began to question the conventional wisdom of the day, which held that education was a process of drill and memorization and that the only way to teach was to regiment children in classrooms. Their natural instincts to play, to move, to talk, and to inquire freely were suppressed. This view on teaching was seen in Parkhurst's "Dalton Plan", to which the school still adheres today.[3]

The name "Dalton" refers to Dalton in Massachusetts, where Parkhurst frequently visited. Progressive educators believed that the development of the whole child is of primary importance; that children are social beings and that schools should be communities where they can learn to live with others; that these communities should devote themselves to the total enrichment of mind, body, and spirit.

After experimentation in her own one-room school with Maria Montessori, Helen Parkhurst visited other progressive schools in Europe including Bedales School and its founder and headmaster John Haden Badley in England. She developed what she termed the Dalton Plan, which called for teachers and students to work together toward individualized goals. The Laboratory Plan was first put into effect as an experiment in the high school of Dalton, Massachusetts, in 1916. The estate of her benefactor Josephine Porter Boardman, was also near the town of Dalton and from this beginning the Laboratory Plan and school eventually took their names.[4]

In 1919, Helen Parkhurst relocated to New York City, where she opened her first school on West 74th Street. Larger facilities soon became necessary; the Lower School was moved to West 72nd Street, and the High School opened in the autumn of 1929 in the current building at 108 East 89th Street. Eleanor Roosevelt admired the work of Helen Parkhurst and played an important role in expanding the population and resources of the school by promoting a merger between the Todhunter School for girls (founded by Winifred Todhunter) and Dalton in 1939.

Enlarged and modified through the years, Dalton still celebrates many of the school-wide traditions begun by Helen Parkhurst, including the Candlelighting Ceremony (the last day before winter break), Greek Festival (performed by sixth graders), and Arch Day (the last day of school).

The Dalton Plan[edit]

91st Street "Little Dalton"

Inspired by the intellectual fervor around the start of the 20th century, educational thinkers such as John Dewey, began to envision a new, progressive, American approach to education. Helen Parkhurst caught the spirit of change and created the Dalton Plan. Aiming to achieve a balance between each child's talents and the needs of the growing American community, Parkhurst created an educational model that captured the progressive spirit of the age. Specifically, she had these objectives: to tailor each student's program to his or her needs, interests, and abilities; to promote both independence and dependability; and to enhance the student's social skills and sense of responsibility toward others. Parkhurst developed a three-part plan that continues to be the structural foundation of a Dalton education: House, Assignment, and Lab.


Dalton School's main building for grades 4-12, nicknamed "Big Dalton"

Over the years, the Dalton Plan has been adopted by schools around the world, including schools in Australia,[5] Austria,[6] Belgium,[7] Chile, the Czech Republic,[8] England, Korea, and the Netherlands.[9] There are also three schools founded on the Dalton Plan in Japan.[10]

Dalton is routinely ranked among the top private schools in the United States. In regards to elite college admissions, Dalton ranked 5th in a 2003 Worth survey and 8th in a 2003 Wall Street Journal survey.[11]

Forbes ranked Dalton as the 13th best private school in the country in 2010,[12] while Business Insider ranked Dalton 10th among private high schools in 2014.[citation needed]

Co-curricular activities and athletics[edit]

The Daltonian is Dalton's official student newspaper and is published every 2–3 weeks by the High School students. Middle and High School students also produce other publications, including the political journal Realpolitik, literary magazine Blue Flag, visual art magazine Fine Arts, photography magazine Shutterbug, and a middle school blog, the Dalton Paw."

The Dalton School is a part of the Ivy Preparatory School League in athletics. Some teams, such as varsity , participate in different athletic conferences. Dalton offers 23 varsity teams (including a cheerleading squad) and nine junior varsity teams in the high school athletics program. The school colors were historically gold and blue, although they have been changed to blue and white (based on common misunderstanding). The school's mascot is a tiger whose name is Ivan.

Dalton also offers many programs in the arts, particularly the visual arts and music, dance, and theater, and students are encouraged to pursue their interests in addition to their academic curriculum. Carmino Ravosa has been Dalton's composer in residence for 21 years. At least two full-year arts credits are required for graduation, but many students take art for all four years.

Author and illustrator David Macaulay was Original Mind Scholar and Artist-In-Residence in the 2009–2010 school year, which has since been dubbed "The Year of the Sketchbook".[13]


Admission to the Dalton School for kindergarten to third grade is based on school records, ERB testing, and interview. For grades 4–12 admission is based on school records, writing samples, an interview, and standardized testing (Dalton accepts the Independent School Entrance Examination (ISEE) as well as the Secondary School Admission Test (SSAT)). Candidates receive notification of acceptance, rejection, or wait list in February. Dalton is well known for its diversity (see below).

In recent years, the parental anxiety created by the highly competitive admission process has been the subject of repeated press coverage.[14][15][16] According to Peterson's, the school year acceptance rate into Dalton for grades K–12 is 14%.[17]

Students of color in the First Program currently make up 38% of the Dalton First Program. In the 2008–2009 school year, the kindergarten was composed of 44% children of color. Long seen as a bastion of privilege, Dalton's efforts to broaden its mandate have met with some difficulty. For example, articles in The New York Times and The Atlantic have described the difficulties that some African-American children have experienced at the school.[18][19]

A financial aid budget of $6.5 million supports an outreach program for socio-economic diversity at the school.[20]

Notable people[edit]


See also[edit]


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External links[edit]

Coordinates: 40°46′53.6″N 73°57′18.2″W / 40.781556°N 73.955056°W / 40.781556; -73.955056