“A school should be a model home, a complete community, an embryonic democracy.”
– Colonel Francis Wayland Parker

School History

Colonel Francis Wayland Parker founded the school in Lincoln Park in 1901 with the support of benefactor Anita McCormick Blaine. Colonel Parker was a Civil War veteran and bold educator for his time. He told his students, “The Great Word is Responsibility,” and championed the developmental needs of children and the professional standards of teachers in a democratic society. Called “the father of progressive education” by the great philosopher and his colleague John Dewey, Parker believed educators should organize schools to meet the needs of society by engaging students along paths of inquiry, generated in part by their own interests and curiosities.

At the time of Parker′s founding, progressive education was an innovative approach to teaching and learning. Today, many schools have embraced or imitated concepts of “learning by doing” or “maker” principles. Parker has been a paragon and leader of the progressive education movement since 1901.
Since its founding, Francis W. Parker School has educated students based on a philosophy that aims to support their growth and development by making them aware of and responsive to the fundamental needs of society. Parker’s idea was to integrate the curriculum, thereby igniting a lifelong passion for learning and making school more interesting and meaningful. He believed it was important to provide students with opportunities to learn through real experiences with the world rather than only by rote memorization. He wanted his school to nourish students’ abilities to communicate, participate and collaborate in a diverse community of learners with each other and their teachers.
In founding our school, Colonel Parker offered a unique alternative to the schools of his day. More than a century later, our teachers compel each student to embrace the highest levels of knowledge, power, service, skill and accomplishment. As students progress through their time at Parker, the development of character and competencies for citizenship in a democratic society are at the core of their learning process.

Click here for more on the history of Francis W. Parker School.
“The great word is responsibility.”
– Colonel Francis Wayland Parker

Historical Facts

  • Founded on October, 7 1901 by Colonel Francis Wayland Parker
  • Campus situated on land generously donated by Antia McCormick Blaine
  • First Principal: Flora J. Cooke
  • Original Enrollment: 144 students
  • Original Faculty Size: 13
Francis W. Parker School educates students to think and act with empathy, courage and clarity as responsible citizens and leaders in a diverse democratic society and global community.