“Did you ever know that [the University of] Pennsylvania has students under six years of age?” the Daily Pennsylvanian asked readers in its March 5, 1941, issue. “No, they are not mentally six, but actually chronologically six.”
The youngsters weren’t taking college classes but were part of a training school for teachers, where Penn’s School of Education students could observe and experience work in a classroom. Located in a former residence at 4000 Pine Street, the Illman-Carter Training School for Kindergarten and Primary Teachers was originally unaffiliated with Penn and founded in 1904 by Alice Carter, who realized the need for adequately trained kindergarten teachers. Caroline M. C. Hart served as its first director, and Adelaide T. Illman Ed1929 was her assistant.
In 1932, the University began a relationship with the training school and formally acquired it four years later. Illman was appointed professor of education that year and went on to become the first woman awarded a senior professorship in education and the first to be awarded tenure in that discipline.
The DP editors explained, “These teachers-to-be take their regular courses in the College for Women while their courses in education are taken at the Illman School. In addition, they spend part of their time practice-teaching at schools in the Philadelphia area.” At that time, 94 women students were enrolled.
The children were often those of faculty and staff members, and their parents paid tuition for them to attend the private school. There, kids learned subjects such as reading, writing, math, music, and health, as well as skills like creativity and cooperation. In May 1955, the DP reported that the children took a field trip to WXPN studios and met with Barnum & Bailey’s “Blinko the Clown.”
After 23 years of service to Penn, the Illman-Carter School, at that point operating out of 3935 Locust Street, was shuttered by the University in 1959. Director Helen Martin cited a growing deficit in running the program and a trend in using Philadelphia public schools for practice teaching. —NP