parkway program

parkway program

the schoolroom is the city, the teachers are the city’s employees and businessmen, the curriculum is the day-to-day events of the city.

from life magazine 1969 (linked to image)


1970 – parkway program – to 1990?

Even the storied Parkway Program, which in 1970 Time magazine called “the most interesting high school in the U.S. today,” fell victim to the changing political climate. Parkway was known as the “school without walls,” because students learned about journalism at local newspapers, auto mechanics at auto shops, and art from museum historians. I spoke with Dr. Leonard Finkelstein, the second director of Parkway, who said that as a concept, Parkway was “magnificent.” But reality did not always match up to its promise. Some students thrived in the loosely structured environment, while it became a “free-for-all” for others.

Dr. James Lytle, Parkway’s first principal, said that by the late 1970s and early 1980s the middle-class students angry at the system had disappeared. Parkway became a safe alternative to the neighborhood schools and had to recruit “very aggressively” to maintain a diverse student population.

In 1990, the district asked Ms. Odette Harris to become Parkway’s principal. For more than 30 years, Harris had been the principal of William Penn, a large, traditional urban high school. Her style and Parkway’s had little in common, and she remained principal long enough to alter most things alternative. As Ms. Catherine Blunt, Parkway’s union representative at the time, put it, the school changed “because we were in the district.”


LIFE Magazine’s 1969 story on Philadelphia’s Parkway program, “most radical of all current high school experiments.”

an experiment – philadelphia school w/o walls

p. 40


city as schools models