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History of the Milne School

A brief history of the Milne School by Myra Armon,
former University at Albany Archives Processor
and 1989 University at Albany graduate:

The campus laboratory school dates from 1845, when the teacher training primary (elementary) school was formed. This program was known as the Experimental School until 1867, when it became the Model School of the Albany Normal School. The mission of the experimental school was to provide a convenient location for practice teaching.

In 1890, the State Normal College created a high school teacher practice program, which was named the Milne School in 1915 after William J. Milne, the late college president. In 1889 Dr. Milne had been requested to prepare an overview reorganization plan for the Normal School and to include a high grade (high school level) professional school. Dr. Milne is considered to be the "father" of the high school.

The Milne School's dual purpose was to serve both as a high school education program and as a teacher training environment for college students. The school closed its doors in June 1977 after extensive debate on the purpose and merit of the program and because of the economic cutbacks in the State University system in the 1970s.


A more comprehensive history
by Geoffrey P. Williams,
University at Albany Archivist/Campus Records Officer:


The Milne School was always associated with the University as a practice teaching school, possibly one of the earliest practice teaching schools in the country. Originally known as the Experimental or Model School, it was associated with the New York State Normal School, whose mission from 1844 to 1890 was to train teachers for the Common Schools of New York (grades 1-8). The Experimental School opened its doors on May 2, 1845, six months after the first classes were held in the New York State Normal School. The Experimental School would become the Milne School and last as a teaching laboratory until 1977.

Forty-five pupils enrolled in the first class. Initially, the Experimental School set aside a certain percentage of seats for children of the poor, but most of the student paid tuition. In addition to the children of the poor, we occasionally found the children of the wealthy Schuylers and Van Rensselaers attending the primary department during the 19th century.*

In 1890 the Normal School's name was changed to the New York State Normal College and was given the additional mission of training high school teachers and administrators. The high school department was added to the college. The Experimental/Model School/High School was always located in the same building as the Normal School/Normal College/New York State College for Teachers, although there is evidence that, in the early 1900s, the primary department of the practice teaching school moved to a building the Normal College owned or rented near the Willett Street building. The primary branch of the training school was phased out by 1910.

In December 1905 the Regents mandated that the Normal College would train only high school teachers in a four-year liberal arts college for teachers (thus the name New York State College for Teachers that the University held between 1915 and 1959). The following month the Normal College's building burned down and the college, and presumably the high school department, were located in temporary quarters until the new campus could be completed. When the original three buildings -- Science, Administration, and Auditorium (what we know today as Husted, Draper, and Hawley Halls) -- on the Downtown Campus were opened in 1909, Geoff believes the high school department was located in what would become Draper Hall (until 1927 it was known as the Administration Building). Milne Hall was not opened and occupied by the Milne School until 1929 when Milne, Page, and Richardson Halls were added to the original three-building Downtown Campus. The junior high department at the Milne School was briefly established between 1915 and 1921, when it was discontinued due to lack of space. The Milne junior high was revived permanently in 1929 as a part of the Milne School when the practice-teaching school moved from the small-space Draper Hall to the much larger Milne building.

The original 1962 Edward Durrell Stone plans for the Uptown Campus show a new Milne High School Building on Western Avenue just east of Stuyvesant Plaza and Fuller Road. To build a school in that location would have called for the State to purchase of a lot of private property. The purchases were never made. With the rapid spread of practice teaching to city and suburban high schools during the 1950s and 1960s, the need for a practice teaching school closely associated with the college was dramatically lessened. Coupled with that was the 1962 shift to "university" status and the de-emphasis on teacher training. After 1961 the college students no longer had to sign a pledge that their sole purpose in attending was to train to be a teacher in New York. With the financial crunch of the late 1960s and early 1970s, all further construction on our campus was stopped dead (Indian Quad, begun in 1969 and completed in 1971 was the last construction on this campus until the late 1980s). The University at Albany and the whole State University System looked for ways to save money. The University lost the School of Nursing, a bridge senior year of high school/college program (the James E. Allen Jr. Collegiate Center), some academic departments, and a number of master's and doctoral programs during the 1970s. As part of systemwide cutbacks, all of the practice teaching schools associated with the State University teacher training schools were closed down unless they could demonstrate that their continued existence was essential to the research mission of their college or university, not just the training of teachers. [Geoff believes only two survived the cuts.] The Milne School could not justify its research mission and was gradually phased out and closed in 1977.

*Dr. Theodore Fossieck, former principal of the Milne School, stated in the Winter 1991 University at Albany Magazine that "Milne had an exceptional body of highly motivated students from primarily middle- and working-class backgrounds..." and that "about 95 percent went on to some form of higher education." In a September 23, 1984, Times Union article Dr. Fossieck stated that "...the students were most likely the brothers and sisters of students already in the school. It was not uncommon for several generations of one family to attend Milne School." A law suit was filed in the late 1960s that forced the Milne School accept a much more diverse student population.

The University Archives has a complete collection of
Milne yearbooks and school newspapers,
as well as the official records of the Milne School.

A description of our Milne School holdings can be found at:
http://library.albany.edu/speccoll/findaids/ua659.htm.

Milne student records are held by the
University at Albany's Registrar's Office.