Lesley Ellis School has a rich history of innovation in the study and practice of early childhood and elementary education. Its roots trace back to the founding of the Cambridge School for Girls in 1886 by Arthur Gilman, who also founded Radcliffe College. By the late 1920's the school added a program exclusively designed for younger children. This program was purchased by Lesley College (now Lesley University) when the high school moved out of Cambridge. In 1949, this "lower school," long used to demonstrate new methods of teaching and learning, became Lesley Ellis School, named after its longtime headmistress, Harriet Ames Ellis.
Lesley Ellis School was first used as a demonstration school by Lesley College, where student teachers could be trained to write and practice curriculum within a creative and developmental model. The school was made up of small, diverse classes – much as it is today.
In 1981, Lesley College decided to divest itself of its demonstration schools and Lesley Ellis School became part of an independent, nonprofit organization called Schools for Children, Inc. This transition reinforced Lesley Ellis School’s mission to educate children in an individualized and engaging environment in which each child's education is approached from the perspective of a developmental framework, and where providing educational opportunities to a wide range of families is a core value.
In 1989, Lesley Ellis was relocated to its current home in Arlington, MA, where the school has continued to grow. At the urging of parents in the school, Lesley Ellis introduced an elementary program in 1994. Student enrollment began to rise steadily – and continues to do so today. In its earliest days as a preschool, Lesley Ellis served 40 children. Today, the school welcomes 170 students into its classes, ranging from preschool through eighth grade.
Lesley Ellis has taken full advantage of the support provided by Schools for Children, Inc. while creating its own identity as an independent elementary/middle school. In 2003 Lesley Ellis became fully accredited by the Association of Independent Schools in New England (AISNE). Lesley Ellis School is also a member of the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS).