THOMAS EDISON HIGH SCHOOL
Patrick Maguire, Director
[Lon Woodbury’s Visit on October 13, 2003]
This private day school in the Portland, Oregon area helps students with “special learning needs” to “experience academic and personal success.” Founded in 1973, it has earned an excellent reputation in the Portland metropolitan area for their work.
In my brief visit, it looked and felt very much like a typical high school. There was no sense that the students felt anything other than good about “their school.” They were polite, and excited about the typical activities high school students are doing everywhere, which includes both studies and social activities. It was obvious the school was well structured and efficiently run. The exterior of the building was being extensively remodeled during our visit, indicating enough prosperity to continue providing a modern and up-to-date physical plant. The school is named after the famous American inventor who as a child was dyslexic, a problem child, and a mischief-maker, much like many of the school’s students were before enrolling here.
What became the Thomas Edison High School started in the 1970s as a type of storefront school, part of a popular education movement at the time. The students they attracted were for the most part either those with learning problems, or drug problems. It became apparent they could not be all things to all people so the school leaders had to make a decision. In the 1980s, they decided to emphasize working with special learning needs, and refer students with drug problems elsewhere. They still do not accept students with significant behavioral or drug problems. As a result of their reputation for working with students with special learning needs, they were eventually offered land next to the Jesuit High School on the Beaverton Highway. A symbiotic relationship has developed between them that has benefited both schools. Thomas Edison students who have shown they can benefit from taking classes in the regular school are given that opportunity, which allows them access to the specialized academic classes not offered at Thomas Edison. This arrangement also allows students from the Jesuit High School who need extra help, to take classes at Thomas Edison that otherwise would be unavailable.
Students who have had difficulty learning and have not been successful in a mainstream school are appropriate for Thomas Edison School. Most of their students have ADD or ADHD, and about 90% have some form of dyslexia. The school can also successfully work with a limited number of students at any one time with Tourette’s and Asperger's.
This school would be an excellent choice for parents in the Portland, Oregon metropolitan area whose child is having learning difficulties in school, but whose behavior does not indicate the need for a more structured residential placement.