John and Julie Forman were newlyweds with a vision when they founded a small school in Litchfield in 1930 that would give individual attention to young boys. Opening the school with just three students, Forman grew quickly and added a separate school for girls in 1942. The two schools formally merged in 1971.
Einstein, Orton, and Forman CollaborateAs a graduate of Princeton University, one of John Forman's contacts was Professor Albert Einstein, who also faced reading challenges of his own as a student. This relationship led to Dr. Einstein joining The Forman School's Academic Board of Advisors and his input to the school's groundbreaking curriculum.
The Formans were committed to utilizing the best available resources and latest research-driven techniques to address the specific learning disabilities of their students, a tradition that has continued throughout the school's history. They turned to Dr. Samuel T. Orton, a pioneer in reading methodologies and a mentor of John Forman, in determining how to teach the fundamentals of reading. The Formans established the Remedial English Department and employed the Orton-Gillingham method of teaching reading phonics. They were also awarded a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation to conduct research in teaching reading.
The Formans also believed physical exercise played an important role in students' well-being. A strong athletic program was established with participation in local independent school athletic leagues. The school successfully competed in securing grants from the Ford Foundation to fund the cost of athletic domes that existed on campus for decades until they were replaced by more permanent facilities.
Leaders in Educating Students with Learning Differences
Following John Forman's death in the late 1960s, Julie Forman turned to her brother, S. Dillon Ripley, to chair the school's Board of Trustees during this transitional period. Ripley served as Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution from 1964 to 1984 and his leadership on the Forman board ensured that the school continued to maintain the highest standards in addressing the needs of LD students. Upon Julie Forman's death in 1975, the school entered a new era. Despite a then-current economy that saw many independent schools close their doors or merge with other institutions, Forman's longstanding experience in the LD field, dedicated staff, trustees, and alumni ensured it was well-positioned to continue helping students reach their true potential.
Research-Driven Educational Approach
In the following decades, commitment to the use of computer technology to assist those with LD became a hallmark of the school's educational approach. In fact, as early as 1986 the school had developed the first computer-aided writing course in the country. Apple Computer referred questions about the use of computers for those with learning disabilities to the school. The School curriculum also experienced a significant transformation, most notably the integration and application of learning strategies for the classroom. To this day, Forman continues to be on the leading edge of applying validated research-driven approaches to teaching and supporting students in and out of the classroom.