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 1920s the school had added a program designed exclusively for younger children, and it was subsequently purchased by Lesley College (now Lesley University). In 1949, this “lower school,” which had been 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 were trained to write and practice curriculum within a creative and developmental construct. The school was distinguished by small, diverse classes—much as it is today.
In 1981, Lesley College divested itself of its demonstration schools and Lesley Ellis School became part of an independent, nonprofit organization called Schools for Children, Inc. The transition reinforced Lesley Ellis School’s mission to educate children in an individualized and engaging environment, in which each child’s education is approached within a developmental framework, and where providing educational opportunities to a wide range of families is a core value.
The Growth of Lesley Ellis
Lesley Ellis relocated to 41 Foster Street in Arlington, Massachusetts in 1989, where the school continued to grow—both programmatically and through enrollment. At the urging of parents in the school, Lesley Ellis introduced an elementary program in 1994, followed by a middle school program. In September 2017, the school moved to its new permanent home at 34 Winter Street in Arlington. Student enrollment continues to rise as the grades and program opportunities have expanded, all while keeping the classroom experience distinctly relational and honoring each student’s individuality.
In its earliest days as a preschool, Lesley Ellis served 40 children. Today, the school welcomes more than 200 students into preschool through eighth grade classes. Lesley Ellis has taken full advantage of the support and resources provided by Schools for Children, Inc., while creating its own identity as an independent elementary and 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).