Innovative from the Beginning

Dearborn Academy was founded in the 1940s as the first of Lesley University’s “home-grown” lab schools, known as the Cambridge Town School, and focused on what it really means to learn – especially when a child learns in a different way.


One of the earliest pioneers in the field of reading was Walter Fenno Dearborn for whom the school is named. Dearborn, a Harvard University researcher in psychology and education, was the first scientist to realize that children with what we now call dyslexia were as intelligent and capable as children who had no trouble reading. What these students needed were simply different strategies for learning to read. 


After retiring from Harvard, Dearborn became head of Lesley University’s educational psychology program. His work at the lab school helped him refine his theory of reading, develop highly effective strategies for overcoming reading challenges, and train hundreds of new teachers in these techniques.


Over the next three decades, Dearborn Academy grew to include three schools: the Carroll-Hall School (1957), the Dearborn Pre-Vocational Program (1970) and the Dearborn Secondary Program (1978). In 1981 Lesley University voted to divest itself from its lab schools, and these assorted schools came under the management of the newly formed nonprofit organization, Schools for Children. In 1990 they were consolidated into a single entity, Dearborn Academy. 


Responding to Children’s Needs

In the 1990s, Dearborn began to share its approach with other schools, including schools with typical learners. That same year the school also started consultation services. Dearborn teachers and administrators visited school districts across the state to share their knowledge and teaching techniques.


These consulting relationships helped Dearborn become known for more than its innovative reading approach.


Dearborn STEP Assessment Program

“Creating a narrative for success


STEP is an intensive, therapeutic assessment day program that serves grades 5 through 12. We specialize in tailoring our clinical and academic program to each individual student. Students who have difficulties with school refusal due to learning and mental health challenges, pragmatics difficulties, and been bullied, have consistently found success at STEP.  We have a consulting psychiatrist that works with us during the week, and a supportive 2 to 1 staff to student ratio. We pride ourselves in being collaborative and informative with parents/guardians, school districts, and other specialists. STEP is located in Newton, Mass.

To contact us please email or call STEP Program Director Laura Rice at 781.641.3743.


The Dearborn Academy program today weaves together learning, therapeutic and emotional support for children. Every student can find the support and care they need.