history@bankstreet

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A Brief History

In 1916, educator Lucy Sprague Mitchell and her colleagues, influenced by revolutionary educator John Dewey and other humanists, concluded that building a new kind of educational system was essential to building a better, more rational, humane world.

  • Beginnings: The Bureau Years

    1916: The Bureau of Educational Experiments (BEE) is founded in New York City by Lucy Sprague Mitchell, together with her husband Wesley Mitchell and colleague Harriet Johnson. Their purpose is to combine expanding psychological awareness with democratic conceptions of education. With a staff of researchers and teachers, the Bureau sets out to study children--to find out what kind of environment is best suited to their learning and growth, to create that environment, and to train adults to maintain it.

    1919: The Bureau of Educational Experiments establishes a Nursery School.

    1921: Mitchell’s revolutionary Here and Now Story Book is published. Based on extensive observations of children and their use of language, Here and Now is followed by the emergence of a more child-centered approach in children’s literature.

    1930: BEE moves to 69 Bank Street in Greenwich Village and sets up the Cooperative School for Student Teachers, a joint venture with eight experimental schools to develop a teacher education program to produce teachers dedicated to stimulating the development of the whole child. BEE’s research, clinical studies, and children’s literature work continue.

    1934: The BEE Nursery School is renamed the Harriet Johnson Nursery School following the death of Bureau co-founder and Nursery School Director, Harriet Johnson.

    1935: Mitchell leads the first annual Long Trip to Morgantown, W. Va. Designed to expose student teachers to new physical, social, and political environments and expand their concept of human geography, it continues until 1951. In 1996, it is revived in a slightly different format.

    1937: Mitchell sets up a Division of Publications to produce books for and about children for publishers. The Writers Laboratory, a workshop which brings together professional writers and students of the Cooperative School for Teachers, is also formed. Early Writers Lab members include Ruth Krauss, Margaret Wise Brown, and Edith Thacher Hurd.

    1943: The New York City Board of Education asks the Cooperative School to give workshops for teachers on its methods. 

    1946: The Cooperative School begins to offer night and weekend courses for non-matriculated students.

  • Early Bank Street

    1950: In 1950, the Cooperative School for Teachers is certified by the Board of Regents of New York State to confer the Master of Science degree. To reflect this change, the BEE is renamed Bank Street College of Education.

    1954: The School for Children, a full-scale elementary school, begins with one class. SFC is gradually expanded to include children aged three through thirteen.

    1965: When the federal government establishes Head Start to provide comprehensive educational and social support for low-income children across the country, Bank Street, along with President John Niemeyer, plays an integral role in the formation of the national Head Start program.

    1965: The first Bank Street Reader is published. The first multi-ethnic urban basal readers, the Bank Street Readers revolutionize early childhood literacy. Conceived by President Niemeyer, the books are written by the Publications Division staff, led by director Irma Simonton Black.

    1966: The Early Childhood Center begins operation on West 42nd Street with funding from the City of New York and the Office of Economic Opportunity. It is an experimental multi-purpose parent/child community center designed to meet the educational, health, social, and economic needs of children and families in the area through classes and programs for all ages.

    1968: From 1968 to 1981, Bank Street is a prime sponsor and designer of Project Follow Through, a federal program to provide educational support services for kindergarten and early elementary school children and their families in economically disadvantaged areas.

  • An Expanding Bank Street Leaves Bank Street

    1977: The Children’s Book Committee, previously of the Child Study Association, joins the Bank Street family. The CBC publishes an annual list of Best Children’s Books, and awards prizes for the best fiction, non-fiction, and poetry titles.

    1978: The Family Center, a child care, education and evaluation center for children, aged six months to four years, is founded.

    1980: The Center for Children and Technology (CCT) is created, the first of its kind devoted to technological research and development for children’s learning.

    1983: The Bank Street Writer sets new industry standards for ease of use and is the most widely used word-processing software in schools (and among adults).   

    1984: The Voyage of the Mimi, a 13-episode TV science adventure series about humpback whales premieres on PBS stations. Mimi materials include teacher’s guides, and curricula such as books and software programs in science, math, technology, social studies, and language arts.

    1984: The longstanding Publications Division now becomes the Publications and Media Group.

    1988: The Second Voyage of the Mimi, a 12-episode TV journey to Mayan ruins in the Yucatan, premieres. Bank Street’s CCT staff creates one of the earliest interactive videodiscs, Palenque, which allows students to “walk” through the ruins. Both series are still in use in schools today.  

    1989: The Principals Institute, a degree program for increasing the number of women and minorities in positions of leadership in NYC public schools, is established.

    1989: Bank Street is the lead organization in a consortium that serves as the national Center for Technology in Education, funded with a five-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

    1989: The Division of Continuing Education is created to do research, professional development, and community and national outreach. In 2010, its programs are relocated to the Graduate School’s Office of Professional Studies and Development. 

    1990: Liberty Partnerships Program is launched to provide support and academic help for kids in grades 7-12 at risk of dropping out. In 2004, a Learning Clinic for grades 5 and 6 is added.

    1996: New Beginnings, a twelve-year collaborative effort with the Newark Public Schools to help restructure early childhood education, is established. 

  • Bank Street in the New Century

    2000: I-LEAD, Institute for Leadership, Excellence, and Academic Development, a college prep program for students from six inner-city Catholic high schools, is launched.

    2001: The Kerlin Science Institute, honoring alumna (’36) and former trustee/board chair, Sally Kerlin, offers elementary school teachers instruction in inquiry-based science teaching.

    2001: BETLA, the Bilingual/ESL Teacher Leadership Academy masters program is created to address the need for leadership in bilingual programs in NYC public schools.

    2001: The Child Life program, which prepares graduate students to be Child Life Specialists in hospital and community health care environments, is inaugurated.

    2002: The Carnegie Corporation launches Teachers for a New Era, a five-year program to define and document quality teacher education and its actual impact on children’s learning. Bank Street is one of four institutions initially chosen to participate.

    2003: The Adelaide Weismann Center for Innovative Leadership in Education is created in honor of alumna (’46) Adelaide Weismann. A first venture is the Laboratory for the Design and Redesign of Schools, a consortium with two institutions, to work with high-needs public schools.

    2005: The Priscilla E. Pemberton Society is established in honor of an alumna (’66) and former faculty and staff member, to increase scholarship funds for African American students and to support students and alumni of color.

    2005: The I-LEAD and Liberty Partnerships programs are merged into one: Liberty LEADS: The Center for Leadership and College Preparation.

    2005: Partnership for Quality, a collaboration between Bank Street and NYC’s Region 9, is set up to help the Region’s high-needs public schools.

    2007: John H. Niemeyer’s bequest sets up the annual Niemeyer Series in Education Policy.

    2010: Bank Street establishes BankStreet Online (BSO) to increase educational participation and to provide the Bank Street community with innovative teaching strategies and technologies.

    2010: The U.S. Office of Special Education funds scholarships for Fellows in Special Education Needs Distributed Leadership at Bank Street who aim to work in the public schools.

    2011: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Head Start awards Bank Street, in partnership with Educational Development Center, a five-year grant to direct The National Center on Cultural and Linguistic Responsiveness.

    For more information on the history of Bank Street College, please contact the Bank Street College Archives.