Francis Parker: A Progressive Education

Francis Parker School of Louisville is the only Independent Progressive school located in Louisville, Kentucky on two campuses serving students from Preschool through High School, and we are “The School of Thought.” With students at the center of all that we do, we encourage intellectual engagement, curiosity, lifelong learning, and a spirit of innovation as we guide students to understand their responsibility to serve and to act. We are deeply committed to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging and to continuously developing cultural competence. Francis Parker School of Louisville cultivates a joyful, compassionate, intellectual community that celebrates individuality and inspires independent thinking for life.

Mission Statement

Francis Parker School of Louisville cultivates a joyful, compassionate, intellectual community that celebrates individuality and inspires independent thinking for life.

Vision Statement

Francis Parker School of Louisville is a thriving, supportive community delivering an innovative education where students grow into engaged, mindful contributors to the world around them.

Core Values

  • Intellectual Curiosity and Critical Thinking
  • Equity and Cultural Competency
  • Individuality and Responsibility
  • Creativity and Expression
  • Kindness and Belonging

Francis Parker Graduates:

  • Know themselves and live their convictions 
  • Stay curious, think critically, and never stop learning 
  • Act with kindness and empathy
  • Champion diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging
  • Engage in the world with creativity and passion


The philosophy of Francis Parker is rooted in the Progressive education tradition. Fundamentally, we believe that each student is imbued with strengths and challenges and that each learner must be treated as an individual. Emphasizing active, experiential learning, problem solving, self-expression, critical thinking, collaboration, and healthy discussion and debate in every classroom, Francis Parker strives to prepare young people effectively for the challenges of higher education, civic involvement, and a successful life as an adult. As a community composed of people of diverse backgrounds, beliefs, and life experiences, we ask of all our members that the tolerance, respect, and imagination required for responsible citizenship and global understanding be elements of daily practice. Throughout our program, students learn the ethical dimensions of issues, which helps them to use their talent and knowledge with wisdom, compassion, creativity, and integrity.

This philosophy is articulated distinctively within each division of the School, given the students it serves, as expressed below:

The Preschool is a joyful place that seeks to foster curiosity and wonder. We believe that allowing students to explore, investigate, and create is the perfect medium for motivating learning. Because of these closely held values, our curriculum is one that emerges from the daily experiences and interests of the students. We believe that “everything is developing,” and therefore the focus is on the process of learning rather than the product. Social, physical, and cognitive skills grow freely in this fertile ground of play and exploration. While facilitating these experiences, our expert classroom teachers strive to assure that the children are challenged by utilizing open-ended questions to encourage problem solving, imagination, and creativity. Student artifacts such as photographs, paintings, and clay-work, as well as completed individual and group projects, fill the classrooms. We endeavor to respect each student’s unique growth process, while also seeking to expand the student’s students’ worldviews. We believe that outdoor play encourages an appreciation for the environment and fosters creativity and a sense of wonder. In our Preschool, students have a say in what they do and how they do it, and teachers encourage learning to be a fun and exciting journey every day.

In grades JK – 8, our goal is to inspire a true love of learning in our students. Our open classroom environment, coupled with our pastoral, rural setting, creates an idyllic educational experience that is positive and joyful. We believe in helping all students build on their strengths while encouraging them to explore and develop new skills and interests. Our small class sizes and low student-to-teacher ratios allow our dedicated teachers to meet students where they are academically and to help ensure continuous progress. Teachers honor student voice and choice in the curriculum, while allowing different types of demonstrations of knowledge and making learning hands-on whenever possible. Deliberately cultivating a sense of community is an important part of the Goshen Campus experience, so aspects of this are woven throughout each school day. Morning Meetings provide opportunities for students and teachers to gather together and discuss the day’s events, share important happenings, and celebrate achievements. It is a time for students to feel connected to and valued as friends, not only by their classmates but also by those in other grades, as well as the adults in the community. The open classroom setting enhances collaborative learning and helps students to develop critical listening and focusing skills. In addition to traditional academic subjects, we emphasize the importance of the arts, physical and outdoor education, ethical development, and service learning. Our 60+ acre campus allows students to play and breathe fresh air, enhancing their natural sense of curiosity and appreciation for the environment and nature. The outdoors, including our gardens, bee hives, and chicken coop, are used as an extension of the classroom regularly. Outdoor life on the Goshen Campus provides learning and service opportunities for our students. Student life on the Goshen Campus is rich with intellectual and creative possibilities.

At the High School, we believe that the best preparation for higher education and adult life is a challenging academic program within a vibrant urban community. We believe that a diverse student body develops creative and critical thinking skills while passionate, talented faculty emphasize and cultivate in-depth investigation, discussion, and writing; active participation in these activities builds students’ confidence. The downtown location allows students to interact on a regular basis with the urban community, and the open campus teaches students to balance freedom with responsibility. Coming to know and negotiate their environment, our students develop self-reliance and sophistication. The entire High School community is actively engaged in a comprehensive long-term relationship with the city’s non-profit organizations through a four-year community service program. Faculty and staff are attuned to the concept of the teenager as a work-in-progress and believe that students are well served not only by warm personal support but also by thoughtful provocation and challenge. While student voice is essential — and expected — in the classroom, it is also actively sought and heard in discussions and decisions about School policies and student life. Our goal is to have students leave Francis Parker prepared for college not only academically, but also personally, because they know how to manage their time and have confidence in themselves and their ideas as they head into the adult world.

Diversity Statement

At Francis Parker, we believe there is inherent strength in a community, a city, and a world in which members exhibit a breadth of talent, skills, and attributes. We define diversity as differences embodied in (but not limited to) age, ethnicity, race, family composition, gender, gender identity, and expression, geographic origin, learning styles, religion, sexual orientation, socio-economics, and ideologies. We seek to prepare students to live in and contribute to their world by acknowledging and celebrating who they are and who they wish to become. In addition, given the fact of profound inequalities of opportunity that still exist in our world, we strive to foster a respectful and welcoming school community for us all as a model for the challenges that face us each day as global citizens.


Francis Parker is an Independent, secular, Progressive, co-ed, Preschool – 12th grade school located on two campuses: Goshen (Preschool-8th) and Downtown (9th-12th) with approximately 500 students. The origin of Francis Parker School of Louisville, formerly St. Francis School, traces back to a Preschool established in 1948 by members of St. Francis in the Fields Episcopal Church. In 1965, the Rev. Stephen R. Davenport, along with supportive parents and friends, opened St. Francis School at the church in Harrods Creek, with the Rev. Frank Q. Cayce serving as Headmaster from 1965 to 1975. Their goal was to fulfill a community need for an integrated, co-educational school that provided an innovative learning environment.

In 1970, the School moved from St. Francis in the Fields Church to its present 64-acre site in Goshen, Kentucky, 22 miles northeast of downtown Louisville. Built in the unique “open-classroom” style, the architecture included small amphitheaters in each wing of the School and several raised classrooms called “pods.”

In 1976, Tom Pike, then Acting Head of School at St. Francis School, along with a group of parents and Board members, founded St. Francis High School in downtown Louisville. The School was housed in the former Downtown YMCA, a National Historic Landmark building, and was deliberately located downtown so that adolescents, who are preparing to be part of the adult world, would be situated in the adult world and have access to all the cultural and educational opportunities of a thriving metropolis.

Throughout its first 30 years in Goshen, that campus continued to expand, with a second building that held a gymnasium, science labs, a music room, and art room completed in 1974; a new library, computer center, and language lab added in 1982; purchase of an additional 27.5 acres adjacent to the original campus purchased in 1996-97; and a math/science/art wing added in 1997, along with a new library and computer lab, as well as extensive renovation of the existing building. In 2013, the gymnasium was demolished and a brand new state-of-the-art gymnasium facility, designed by Los Angeles-based architects (fer)studio, opened in the summer of 2014. The intervening years also saw renovation of the Lower School playground into a Natural Playground, and the creation of a Middle School obstacle course/play area adjacent to the Play Shelter. In the fall of 2018, construction began on the renovation of the Main Amp into a 400-seat amphitheater, as well as a renovated lobby/entrance to the Goshen Campus, which was completed and opened for the start of the 2019-20 school year.

In 1995, St. Francis Preschool, as part of St. Francis School, was again opened on the grounds of St. Francis in the Fields Episcopal Church in Harrods Creek, and it continued to operate at the Church until July 2014, when the Preschool moved to the Goshen Campus. A long-planned-for fenced Natural Playground was also constructed for the Preschool adjacent to the Lower School Playground at this time.

St. Francis High School purchased the Downtown YMCA building in 1998, completing an award-winning renovation of approximately ⅓ of that space in the 2003-04 school year, which ⅔ of the building was sold to a developer partner who created 58 new apartments in the building. In 2007, the High School added the adjacent garage facility to its footprint. The garage was demolished in 2012 and a new parking lot on the space opened in July 2013. In fall 2016, the School renovated newly purchased space on the Broadway side of the building, gaining a new student Commons Room, the Space for Thought (a large multi-purpose space), and administrative offices, and moving the main entrance to the building back to Broadway. A MakerSpace called The Workshop was also completed in 2016, with science lab renovations following in summer 2017, and the renovation of the former Commons Room into a black box performing arts space.

In February 2012, the Boards of St. Francis School and St. Francis High School approved the merger of the two sister schools to form the current Preschool–12th grade St. Francis School. While discussions of a merger had taken place over several decades, in 2012, the time was right and the two Boards agreed to align the three campuses sharing a similar educational philosophy into one dynamic entity centered around a Progressive mission.

Francis Parker is characterized by personal attention, small class sizes, diversity, dedication to student voice, commitment to community service, student-centric extracurriculars, and outstanding teachers who are dedicated to their subject areas and to their students. Inside and outside the classroom, the atmosphere at Francis Parker is one of joy that also prepares students successfully for college and for life. The School philosophy is based on the Progressive school movement founded by John Dewey and Francis Parker in the early 1900s as a response to the assembly line, “one-size-fits-all” school model. Progressive schools, on the other hand, believe that students achieve milestones at different rates and therefore that education should be customized for individual students as much as possible. Like Francis Parker, Progressive schools are student-centered, community service-minded, diverse, experiential, and participatory; they require students to be fully engaged participants in the learning process.

Francis Parker is fully accredited by the Independent Schools Association of the Central States (ISACS), certified by the Kentucky Department of Education, and is a member of the following organizations: the National Association of Independent SchoolsKentucky Association of Independent Schools, Kentucky Non-Public Schools Commission, and the Center for Spiritual and Ethical Education. Francis Parker is also one of approximately 100 schools in the U.S. named as a Confucius Classroom for its Chinese language program classrooms on both the Goshen and Downtown Campuses, and its Middle and High School drama programs are nationally recognized by the National Youth Arts Awards. The Preschool is recognized as an exemplary program by the Kentucky Department of Education.

Our Campuses

Downtown Campus

High School (9th – 12th Grade)

We are truly “the School of Thought” – a place where adolescents are actually happy to go in the morning; a learning community that emphasizes intellectual achievement in an atmosphere of individual acceptance; a school that is college-preparatory in the truest sense of the word, readying our students to handle themselves academically and personally in the world beyond our walls.

Goshen Campus

Preschool (2s-4s) – 8th Grade

Our Progressive Preschool to 8th grade campus is often said to “have a soul”. Here, children are valued for who they are and what talents they have to offer. Education at Francis Parker is differentiated to push each child to their potential and make sure everyone succeeds at their own rate. In addition to stellar academics, we value the arts, athletics, diversity, a commitment to service learning, and the building of character. A sense of community and joy permeates the Goshen Campus – it is a happy place!

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