Adams High School (Oregon)

John Adams High School was a public high school in Portland, Oregon, United States, managed by Portland Public Schools (PPS).[1] Located at 5700 N.E. 39th Avenue (now Cesar Chavez Blvd.), Portland, Oregon, the school opened in 1969. Its curriculum, based on ES-70 and further developed by students and faculty at Harvard Graduate School of Education,[2] had a unique and sometimes controversial approach to secondary education.[3]

John Adams High School

United States
Coordinates45°33′50″N 122°37′21″W / 45.5637607°N 122.6226227°W / 45.5637607; -122.6226227Coordinates: 45°33′50″N 122°37′21″W / 45.5637607°N 122.6226227°W / 45.5637607; -122.6226227
TypePublic high school
School districtPortland Public Schools

When Adams opened, there were many ways that it differed from a normal high school. The school was organized into four different sub-schools, or "houses", each with a multiple-discipline and general education focus, including a blend of students from all grades.[3] The general education classes gave students the opportunity to debate current events, such as pollution or automation. By studying these concepts, students would learn science and the humanities through hands-on learning about topics relevant to them.[4] Students were given the choice of selecting elective classes and were also offered the opportunity to gain educational experiences outside of the classroom, many of which were vocational classes. The governance of the school was inspired by the system of the United States government, with an executive, judicial, and legislative branch. This gave students and teachers the power to override the principal on decisions. Classes would also not be tracked. Counselors and secretaries would be a part of the four houses, and would interact regularly with students. 20 of the initial faculty members did not even have degrees in Education.[4]

Adams pulled students from areas that had previously been in the neighborhoods of Madison, Jefferson, and Grant high schools, which were 1%, 41%, and 9% African American, respectively. According to The Oregonian, "Integration of Portland's High Schools... will be expedited in the fall with the opening of John Adams High School."

Robert Schwartz, one of the Harvard graduates who founded the school, was appointed principal.[5]

As student enrollment fell, the school closed in 1981.[6][7]

In 1983, Whitaker Middle School moved to the former Adams building from another location.[8] However, the building, then referred to by PPS as the Whitaker-Adams site, closed again in mid-2001, with Whitaker students moved to two other facilities,[9] one of which was Whitaker's original location at 5135 N.E. Columbia Blvd.,[10] referred to as the Whitaker-Lakeside site[9] (which closed again in June 2005, the property sold by PPS to the Native American Youth and Family Center, or NAYA).[11] In 2003, the vacant Whitaker-Adams campus, on 39th Avenue, was used in the filming of the movie, Elephant.[6]

The entire school campus eventually became contaminated with toxic black mold and radon gas. It was subsequently demolished in 2007 and currently the site is an empty lot. However, the original track and field remains and is still in use.[12]


  1. ^ Melton, Kimberly (February 18, 2010). "School closures involve more than enrollment". The Oregonian. Retrieved April 30, 2012. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  2. ^ An Educational System for the Seventies, Final report, 1969 November 5 - p.204
  3. ^ a b Doremus, Richard (November 1981). "What Ever Happened to... John Adams High School?". The Phi Delta Kappan. 63 (3): 199–202. JSTOR 20386243.
  4. ^ a b Guernsey, John (31 August 1969). "What Kind of a Nuthouse is This?". The Oregonian.
  5. ^ Stevens, William (19 October 1970). "Report Hails Oregon High School's Experiment in Free Study". The New York Times. Retrieved 26 July 2017.
  6. ^ a b Dobbins, Allen. "Adams High School". The Oregon Encyclopedia. Retrieved April 30, 2012. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  7. ^ Collins, Huntly (25 May 1980). "John Adams High School: What Happened to the Experiment?". Northwest Magazine. The Oregonian. pp. 4–11.
  8. ^ "What's developing at Whitaker-Adams?" (PDF). Portland Public Schools. March 2002. Retrieved April 30, 2012. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  9. ^ a b "What's developing at Whitaker-Adams?" (PDF). Portland Public Schools. May 2002. Retrieved April 30, 2012. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  10. ^ Ottey, Michael A.W. (August 7, 2001). "Whitaker students shift to two district sites for year" (PDF). The Oregonian. p. C2. Retrieved April 30, 2012. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)[permanent dead link]
  11. ^ Beaven, Stephen (June 29, 2006). "Native Americans move into new home". Metro Portland Neighbors section. The Oregonian. p. 16.
  12. ^ "PDX Runs: Fernhill Park | Portland Running Company". Archived from the original on 2018-06-27. Retrieved 2017-07-20.

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