You have looked through the website and maybe even attended an Open House or tour, but you may still have questions about Dalton! Here are a few that we frequently hear. But please always feel free to reach out to us if you have others!

Click on the questions below to view the responses.

List of 7 frequently asked questions.

  • Q. I know there are different pedagogical philosophies, but I am not quite sure how they all work in practice. What does it mean that Dalton is progressive?

    First of all, we get this! It can be hard to figure out how these different philosophies manifest in everyday practice. But it really does impact the learning environment. At Dalton, "progressive" does not mean "permissive". Rather, a progressive Dalton education is rooted in a commitment to experiential and interdisciplinary learning within a structured curriculum. Our progressive pedagogy values all dimensions of each child, encourages independent inquiry, and promotes collaboration. As one middle schooler explained, “Progressive means that while we are taking our core subjects like math, science, English, history and language, we are thinking creatively and critically throughout the Assignments. While we develop really important skills, we have the space to ask the big questions and to make the information come alive. It is challenging and fun at the same time!”
  • Q. With all their academic commitments, do Dalton students have time to pursue their extracurricular passions?

    Yes! Ask any Dalton student if they have time for extracurriculars and they will excitedly list their activities - everything from public speaking to sports to robotics to chess to theater to activism to a broad range of in-school clubs. Although the curriculum is demanding, students' extracurricular interests are also valued and supported at Dalton. In high school, many in-school clubs meet during a "flex" period in the school day, and students also can use some of their Lab periods for homework or research during the school day so that they have more time after school for activities such as athletics practices and games, play rehearsals, or laying out the student newspaper. And of course, the Assignment, which encourages long-range planning, allows students flexibility and opportunity to learn to manage their time successfully.
  • Q. I have read about the Dalton Plan, but how does it really work?

    The Dalton Plan really does make Dalton unique! The plan -- conceived by the school's founder, Helen Parkhurst, more than 100 years ago -- provides a dynamic framework for individualized and collaborative teaching and learning. It has three parts: House, Assignment, and Lab.

    The House is a time during each day where students come together with a designated group of peers to share diverse experiences, perspectives and passions.  Students discuss topics relevant to building a cohesive and supportive community. Through House, students also develop strong, personal relationships with their House Advisors. 

    The Assignment is an agreement between students and teachers that establishes the expectations for any particular curricular unit. By empowering the students to make choices regarding time management and methods of engagement with the material, Assignment appreciates and celebrates the diverse learning styles of all students in the classroom. 

    Lab is a time set aside each day for students and teachers to meet one-on-one or in small groups. In the First Program, Labs are often initiated by teachers as a way to spend time individually with students either to provide extra support or to offer ideas for extending the learning in a way that is meaningful to that particular child. First Program students are also always welcome to make a Lab with a teacher to discuss an idea or propose a project! In Middle and High School, students schedule Labs with teachers for a variety of reasons: to review a challenging topic, to workshop a paper, to prepare or debrief an exam, to suggest a connection to another area of interest, to collaborate on a new learning opportunity, or just to share a story. Labs really do differentiate the Dalton experience by providing everyday practice in self advocacy, collaborative learning, and expressing confidence in one’s one voice and ideas. 

  • Q. People say Dalton has a very rigorous curriculum. Does the rigor create an intense and competitive environment?

    It is true that Dalton offers a rigorous curriculum in which students are expected to exercise a high-level of intellectual curiosity and to engage in deep thinking. Dalton students will be asked to take risks, to connect seemingly unrelated disciplines, and to be creative problem solvers. However, the emphasis on community building and inclusivity that threads through the Dalton curriculum serves to create an environment of collaboration rather than competition. Dalton students are unique in their talents and interests, and supporting each other’s different pursuits is a hallmark of our student community. As one senior who began in kindergarten at Dalton put it, “It was not until I found myself in a meeting with a college admissions representative during my senior fall that I looked around and realized that I was competing against my peers for something.” 
  • Q. In addition to their regular curriculum, I have heard that Dalton students can work with teachers to create their own academic projects at Dalton. Does that really happen?

    It is true! Assignment and Lab enable and encourage students, throughout their years at Dalton, to collaborate with teachers on independent projects that they devise. These projects are often robust, interdisciplinary studies that grow out of student passions. Just a few examples from recent years include: a small group of 1st graders analyzing what the wardrobes of the children in the Little House on the Prairie series say about societally-dictated gender roles; a group of 4th graders adapting a book they were reading into a play which the class then performed; an 8th grader studying the differences in air quality among NYC neighborhoods and the correlation to government resource allocation; and two high school students utilizing their science, engineering and design skills to build a model of an anatomically correct human brain. 

    High school, in particular, opens up a whole world of additional opportunity for independent projects. Independent study courses, which can be taken for credit, and programs such as the Dalton Science Research Program, Global Online Academy, Senior Project, Senior Initiative, and Capstone projects are available to more formally encourage students to engage in independent work beyond the Dalton curriculum. 
  • Q. I noticed that the arts seemed to be everywhere on our tour both at the lower school and upper school!  Does Dalton place special emphasis on the arts?

    Very much so! The arts assume a historically important role at Dalton.  Helen Parkhurst, as part of her emphasis on the “whole child,” believed that the arts were critically important in the overall development of children and that students from the youngest ages through high school should be provided with ample opportunities to actively engage in the visual and performing arts.  She thought, as we do today, that the arts should not be considered as an “add-on” to the academic curriculum but rather that they should to be viewed as important as other subject matter and should be incorporated whenever possible into the academic disciplines in an interdisciplinary manner.  She believed, as research now asserts, that the arts help to develop an individual child’s imagination and innovative approach to problem-solving, to establish and communicate ideas, and to think creatively and critically about the world.  Dalton continues to be renowned for the depth and breadth of its offerings in visual arts, dance, drama and music to its students in kindergarten through high school. 
  • Q. I know Dalton talks about its commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, but what does that really mean?

    For decades, Dalton has been an intentionally diverse learning community. Our emphasis on diversity derives from a belief that varied backgrounds, perspectives and experiences elevate the discourse in the classroom, generate critical learning opportunities, and foster a community of compassionate, learned and engaged citizens of the world. Equity and inclusion work goes hand in hand with having a diverse community of people. We have established a series of ambitious goals related to equity and inclusion work and in particular, have committed to being a visibly and vocally anti-racist institution. This work centers on expanding the platforms for diverse voices to be heard, valued, reflected, and supported in our community and in our curriculum. With increased understanding, we build on the academic excellence that has defined Dalton for over 100 years and cultivate an environment that allows all students to thrive. 
(Grades K-3) 53 East 91st Street
New York, NY 10128
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(Gr. 4 Dalton East & PE Center) 200 East 87th Street
New York, NY 10128
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(Grade 5-12) 108 East 89th Street
New York, NY 10128
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