About Bank Street


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


The Bureau of Educational Experiments (BEE) is founded in New York City by Lucy Sprague Mitchell 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 discover what kind of environment best suits their learning and growth, then create that environment and train adults to maintain it.


The Bureau of Educational Experiments establishes a Nursery School.


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


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 that produces teachers dedicated to stimulating the development of the whole child. BEE’s research, clinical studies, and children’s literature work continue.


The BEE Nursery School is renamed the Harriet Johnson Nursery School following the death of Bureau Co-Founder and Nursery School Director Harriet Johnson.


Mitchell establishes the annual Long Trip with an inaugural trip to Morgantown, West Virginia. Designed to expose student teachers to new physical, social, and political environments and expand their concept of human geography, the Long Trip continues until 1951. In 1996, it is revived in its current form.


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


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


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

Early Bank Street


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 Bureau of Educational Experiments is renamed Bank Street College of Education.


The School for Children, a full-scale elementary school, begins with one class and gradually expanded to include children ages 3 through 13.


Bank Street and its president, John Niemeyer, play an integral role in the formation of the national Head Start program, which provides comprehensive educational and social support for low-income children across the country.


The first Bank Street Reader is published. The first multiethnic urban basal readers, the Bank Street Readers revolutionize early childhood literacy. They are conceived by President John Niemeyer, written by Publications Division staff, and led by director Irma Simonton Black.


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


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


After a decade battling space constraints, Bank Street moves uptown to a newly constructed building on West 112th Street.


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, nonfiction, and poetry titles.


The Family Center—a child care, education, and evaluation center for children aged 6 months to 4 years—is founded.


The Center for Children and Technology (CCT) is created, one of the first of its kind for research and development of educational technology.


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


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


The Second Voyage of the Mimi, a 12-episode TV journey to Mayan ruins, premieres and Palenque, one of the earliest interactive videodiscs, enables students to “walk” through the ruins. Both series are still in use in schools today.


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


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


The Division of Continuing Education is created for 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.


Liberty Partnerships Program launches and provides academic and social support for kids in grades 7–12 at risk of dropping out.


New Beginnings—a 12-year collaborative effort with Newark Public Schools to help restructure early childhood education—is established.

Bank Street in the New Century


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


The Kerlin Science Institute offers elementary school teacher instruction in inquiry-based science teaching in honor of alumna and former trustee/board chair Sally Kerlin ’36.


BETLA, the Bilingual/ESL Teacher Leadership Academy master’s program, is created to address the need for leadership in bilingual programs in New York City public schools.


The Child Life Program begins preparing graduate students to be Child Life Specialists in hospital and community health care environments.


Bank Street is one of four institutions chosen by the Carnegie Corporation to launch Teachers for a New Era, a five-year program to define and document quality teacher education and its impact on children’s learning.


The Adelaide Weismann Center for Innovative Leadership in Education is created in honor of alumna Adelaide Weismann ’46. 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.


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


The college prep program at the Institute for Leadership, Excellence, and Academic Development (I-LEAD) and the Liberty Partnerships programs merge into one: Liberty LEADS: The Center for Leadership and College Preparation.


Partnership for Quality—a collaboration between Bank Street and New York City’s Region 9—is set up to help high-needs public schools.


John H. Niemeyer’s bequest sets up annual lectures and panels: The Niemeyer Series in Education Policy.


Bank Street establishes Bank Street Online (BSO) to increase enrollment and provide the Bank Street community with innovative teaching strategies and technologies.


The U.S. Office of Special Education funds Fellows in Special Education Needs-Distributed Leadership at Bank Street, providing scholarships for students who plan to work in public schools.


Head Start’s national office at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services awards Bank Street a five-year grant to direct the National Center on Cultural and Linguistic Responsiveness in partnership with the Educational Development Center.


Bank Street establishes the Bank Street Education Center to support public school districts to improve teaching practice at scale. The Education Center has grown to include the Center on Culture, Race & Equity, Prepared To Teach, School System Partnerships & Programs, and New Program Design


Bank Street’s partnership with the NYC Department of Education’s Division of Early Childhood Education, “Getting Ready for Pre-K” Summer Institute, reaches more than 4000 pre-K educators.


As part of its ambitious 2015 strategic plan, Bank Street launches new work designed to expand its impact on educators, children, and families.

This work leads to the establishment of the Straus Center for Young Children and Families, a center designed to advance research and policy in the realm of early childhood development and learning from prenatal to age eight. Also established during this time is Prepared To Teach, an initiative dedicated to creating sustainable funding streams for affordable, high-quality teacher preparation programs. Finally, the College launches its Center on Culture, Race & Equity to create equitable and just learning environments for children through research, professional development, and community partnerships.


Bank Street celebrates its centennial with a renewed vision for its second century, building and strengthening support for children, families, and educators locally and globally.

Learn more about Bank Street’s Centennial year


A number of Bank Street offices and programs move from its West 112th Street location to the Interchurch Center, which is home to over 70 organizations that represent community development, educational initiatives, and inter-cultural and religious exchange.


The National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP), formerly located at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, officially joins the Bank Street Graduate School of Education on July 1, 2019.

The Graduate School launches a variety of new online degree programs to provide educators across the country with increased access to a Bank Street education.


Bank Street partners with Pratt Institute and New York City Public Schools to open Design Works High School in Brooklyn, NY. Students learn how to apply design thinking and hands-on work with the goal of solving complex problems and building a more equitable world.
Captions for Collage at Top

At Left: Lucy Sprague Mitchell, circa 1956 (photo printed in “Children… Here and Now” issue no. 5). Center: Students at play on the original rooftop play deck of the Bureau’s Nursery School, 1929 or 1930 (Source: Records Group 6 – Children’s Programs, Bank Street College Archives). Right: Barbara Biber leads a Research Staff project meeting, circa 1956 (photo printed in Bank Street Profile: An Informal Report…).