Mission & Practice

Calhoun inspires a passion for learning through a progressive approach to education that values intellectual pursuit, creativity, diversity and community involvement.


Each Individual

At Calhoun, teaching and learning begin with the strengths, needs, questions and diverse life experiences of the individual student.

Our teachers know their students well. Small class sizes provide faculty with the time and space to craft a personalized approach to the subject material for each student, drawing on each student's strengths to nurture her or his growth. By creating a space in which children feel comfortable, we empower students to cultivate their own unique voices, whether they are journaling, designing elective classes, or asking the hard questions to help them better understand the mathematical problems they are trying to solve.

Calhoun Students are Thinkers, Innovators, Leaders

Calhoun students have the confidence, compassion, and curiosity to engage in exciting and challenging conversations in the classroom and beyond. Our academic and co-curricular programming is designed to provide students with an ever-widening range of opportunities, to encourage them to experiment and take risks, to discover new interests and pursue passions more deeply.

The curriculum is also reflective of a commitment to connect with and deepen our appreciation of local and global cultures and perspectives. All students engage in community service, learning how to become leaders and advocates for social justice.

A Diverse Community

"Calhoun strives to build a community representative of the rich diversity of human experience that is also deeply influenced by the values of inclusion, equity and justice." — Hilary North, Director of Equity Initiatives

At Calhoun, our teachers and students reflect the rich diversity of New York City. They collaborate as thoughtful citizens and engage in the real work of the school and the world beyond it.

We believe learning is rooted in meaningful relationships. Whether it is the advisory system, the classroom or community time, teachers and students create an environment of shared responsibility in which critical thinking skills are sharpened. In all aspects of the community, we emphasize the value of having many identities co-creating the conversations that form the powerful network of learning that happens at Calhoun.

Find out more about our Diversity Initiatives, and see how issues of multiculturalism, social justice and equity find their way into the academic curriculum in every discipline and division.

Experiential Learning

Students construct an understanding of themselves and the world by engaging in purposeful and meaningful work in each of their classes.

Calhoun's progressive pedagogy assures a student's learning by doing. Teachers and students work together to create a dynamic classroom environment that values both the process and the product of research, writing, debate and experiment.

At Calhoun, questions are the heart of learning. Learning by doing means that students don't ask "what questions would a scientist or an historian ask?" but rather, "as a scientist, what questions do I have?" What a student learns becomes the catalyst for more exciting questions.

Current research in neurobiology and cognitive science confirms that a rich sensory input and a high level of active engagement result in deep, long-lasting learning. People learn best when they engage in meaningful experiences and have the structured opportunities to reflect on those experiences.

See examples of experiential Learning by Doing in each of our divisions.

Social Impact

Education at Calhoun is designed to help students develop a sense of empathy, equity and justice and embrace their accountability to the rest of the world.

We are activists working to transform society. We work in partnership with many institutions in NYC and beyond. By working side-by-side with people in these partnerships, we create meaningful relationships that expand our understanding of the world.

By engaging in real world issues and making our learning visible to the public, Calhoun students become part of a global conversation, and therefore active, responsible participants in a democratic society. The effect of Calhoun's mission and practice is that our students more fully understand the impact of their actions on the multiple communities in which they live.

Middle School students in Social Studies class presenting.

Upper School students canvas the neighborhood for voter registration.

10th graders discuss their summer reading, Coate's "Between the World and Me"

Middle School students in math class work on probability lesson

For More Information

We welcome your questions about progressive education, and are happy to give tours of our school to educators. For more information, please contact Tanya Espy-Dispart, 212-497-6542.