A Timeline of Private School Events and History

Updated |
A Timeline of Private School Events and History
What was the first private school? What's the oldest school? What are some of the educational philosophies commonly found? Some answers here.

You would think that education in the United States has been public since colonial days. But that is not the case. The earliest schools were private and religious schools. Only in the mid 19th century did governments begin to compel children to attend K-12 public schools. Here then is a brief timeline of private K-12 education through the years.

143 b.c. Chengdu Shishi High School was established in China.
69 Marcus Fabius Quintillianus founded his school of rhetoric in Rome, Italy. Quintillian was a native of Caligurris in Hispania. Among his pupils were Pliny the Younger and the historian Tacitus. Quintillian wrote a 12 volume treatise on rhetoric, Institutio Oratoria, which is considered even in modern times a foundational document on education.
597 The King's School, Canterbury, England was established. It has the distinction of being the oldest private school in the world still operating.
1441 King's College Choir School, Cambridge, United Kingdom, was founded by King Henry VI for the purpose of educating the boy choristers of the King's College Chapel Choir. The Choir School has been in more or less continuous existence ever since.
1572 Harrow, Harrow on the Hill, Middlesex, United Kingdom, opens. The rivalry between Eton and Harrow is rather like that between Exeter and Andover. Perhaps it's best just to say that the four schools represent the acme of boarding schools and leave it at that. Queen Elizabeth granted the charter to a farmer to establish this school in the 16th century. Stuffy and formal, you might be thinking? Perhaps for North American 21st century tastes. But don't let the boaters and gowns mask the reality that this is one of the finest institutions of learning in the world at the secondary level. If your son can make the grade here, the world is his oyster in every sense of that expression.
1628 Collegiate School was founded in Manhattan, New York, USA. It is the oldest private school in America still extant and operating.
1799 Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi starts a school for orphans in Burgdorf. His writings on education inspired the study of pedagogy.
1809 Johann Friedrich Herbart establishes pedagogy as an discipline at the university at Gottingen.
1837 Friedrich Froebel creates Kindergarten or the Children's Garden. Kindergarten is the traditional first year of primary or elementary education for children in the United States.
1848 Stephen Girard's estate establishes Girard College in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, for poor, white, fatherless boys.
1856 Dr. Shattuck founds Saint Paul's School, Concord, New Hampshire. Dr. George Cheyne Shattuck wanted his sons to go to school in the country. Indeed, in 1856, his country home in New Hampshire became the first home of what is now Saint Paul's School. The first headmaster was The Reverend Henry Coit, who ran St. Paul's until 1895. The school is situated on 2,000 bucolic New Hampshire acres. The school became a coeducational school in 1971. It is now one of six boarding schools in the U.S. which can claim to be 100% residential.
1874 The German Saturday School in Boston was founded. This was the first foreign language school in the United States.
1881 Annie Wright School, Tacoma, Washington opens.  An Episcopal bishop, The Right Reverend James Paddock founded his school with the financial support of businessman Charles Wright. Bishop Paddock named the school in honor of Wright's daughter Annie. The school was a girls' school until the earthquake of 1949 damaged Lowell School, the local boys' school. AWS set up temporary quarters for boys. The coeducational program expanded to 8th grade in the 1970s. 
1887 The will of Bernice Pauahi Bishop founds and endows the Kamehameha Schools in Hawaii. Mrs. Bishop was the last direct descendant of Hawaii's royal family. She directed that the schools educate free of charge indigenous children of the Hawaiian islands.
1890 Taft School, Watertown, Connecticut opens. Horace Dutton Taft was the brother of the 27th President of the United States. Taft was the second school he started, the other being a prep school for boys in Pelham Manor, New York. Mr. Taft's School in Watertown occupied a great barn of a Victorian home. (One can only imagine how cold and drafty those long Litchfield County winter days and nights must have been for the boys.) Horace Taft believed in educating the whole child long before such an approach was fashionable. Over the years Taft School evolved with the times, admitting girls in the 1970s and making its superb education available to as wide a pool of candidates as possible, all the while remaining true to the ideals which its first headmaster both posited and embodied.
1891 Maria Bissell Hotchkiss founds The Hotchkiss School. Maria Bissell Hotchkiss had inherited a fortune from her husband, Benjamin Hotchkiss. He made his money manufacturing guns. After he had died, Mrs. Hotchkiss donated 65 acres of land to establish a school for boys. She wanted the school to be a feeder school for Yale University down by the shore in New Haven. Her original gift of 65 acres expanded over time into a magnificent campus of 645 acres of pristine Northwestern Connecticut countryside. Mrs. Hotchkiss' munificence also established a generous financial aid program which gave boys who could not otherwise afford the opportunity of attending The Hotchkiss School. The school became a coeducational institution in 1971.
1896 John Dewey establishes The Laboratory Schools in Chicago, Illinois, and thus begins the movement known as progressivism in American education.
1901 Colonel Francis Parker starts what is now the Francis W. Parker School. Parker and John Dewey sought to educate productive members of society as to just teaching facts by rote.
1905 McCallie School, Chattanooga, Tennessee opens. The Reverend T.H. McCallie, a Presbyterian minister, backed his sons' establishment of a college preparatory school for boys in 1905. The school was one of the first to adopt an Honor Code, which has shaped McCallie students to this day. The school has changed dramatically over the years keeping up with the times in every way while still emphasizing its core mission of educating the whole child. I suspect that is one of the reasons why the school continues to thrive and prosper. There is a place for a boys' school in the 21st century. McCallie is living proof of that argument.
1906 Madeira School, McLean, Virginia opens. According to Time Magazine's 1948 profile of Lucy Madeira Wing ,she started her school to make money.  One suspects that the truculent Miss Madeira was probably poking fun at society and the economic royalists she so avidly despised. Madeira is one of the nation's top boarding schools. And it has become so largely because of Miss Madeira's insistence on her students disciplining their minds back when she ran the school. That noble tradition of academic discipline and character building continues to this day.
1906 Father Sill establishes Kent School. The Reverend Frederick Herbert Sill was an Episcopal monk, a member of the Order of the Holy Cross. He established Kent School in rural Kent, Connecticut in 1906 as a school for boys from families of modest means. Boarding schools at that time were places where boys from wealthy American families went to school. Father Sill, or Pater as he was called affectionately, was adamant that all his boys would learn the value of hard work, academic and otherwise. To this day, students have chores to do as part of their daily routine at Kent. His influence as an educator and leader was profound and led to the establishment of at least one other school, South Kent School.
1907 Dr. Maria Montessori opens her Casa de Bambini in the slums of Rome. Ironically her Montessori movement has spread around the world taking hold primarily in middle class families who appreciated education.
1910 The Hershey Industrial School admitted its first class. The Milton Hershey school (as it has been known since 1951) was established by chocolate maker Milton Hershey and his wife as a home and school for “poor, healthy white, male orphans between the ages of 8 through 18 years of age.”
1919 Rudolf Steiner founds the first Waldorf School in Stuttgart, Germany. Steiner espoused a humanist philosophy which he refined into anthroposophy. There are about a 1,000 schools worldwide which follow Steiner's teachings.
1919 St. Thomas Episcopal Church, New York, New York opens its Choir School. The church had recently hired Dr. T. Tertius Noble from York Minster, United Kingdom, to be its Organist and Choirmaster.  The Rector, Dr. Ernest Milmore Stires arranged for the establishment of the school to educate the boy choristers who sang in the church's Choir of Men and Boys.  The Choir School thrives and is the only residential church choir school extant in the United States.
1931 Edward Harkness  gives Exeter Academy a substantial gift to transform teaching by placing students around a large oval table with their teacher.
1934 Mae Carden establishes the first Carden School in New York City. She advocated a more structured approach to the core subjects than she felt was offered in certain progressive schools.
1935 Lycée Français de New York opens. It is the first international school in the U.S. offering a course of study leading to the French Ministry of Education diploma.
1962 The National Association of Independent Schools was founded in New York City. Not all private schools belong to NAIS, but it has become a powerful advocate for private K-12 education.
1990 A voucher program known as the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program is enacted.
1996 Cristo Rey Jsuit High School opens in Chicago, Illinois, providing a virtually free education combined with work study for urban children from families with limited options.
2001 Several state tax credit provisions for K-12 private education are upheld.

 

Questions? Contact me via Twitter. @privateschl

 


Additional Resources [+]
comments powered by Disqus
What's Happened to Catholic Education?
What's Happened to Catholic Education?
Why You Won't Find Cheating in Private Schools
Why You Won't Find Cheating in Private Schools
Why Private School

ABOUT PRIVATE SCHOOLS

An in depth look at private schools, including history, a comparison to public education, and a glimpse of what's being taught. Learn about the benefits of attending private school, to both students and parents. Explore private schools options when living abroad, and debunk many of the myths regarding private school education.