Progressive Education

At Capitol Hill Day School

Progressive education developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries as an alternative to the rigid, authoritarian uniformity that characterized many schools at that time. It very much reflected its era—an era of incredible invention and creativity, one that gave us artists like Picasso, composers like Stravinsky, and pioneering educators like Maria Montessori, Francis Parker, and John Dewey.

As you’d expect from a tradition that began as an alternative to uniformity, “progressive” schools today are different from each other. A definition that fits them all may not be possible, or helpful. But at Capitol Hill Day School, progressive learning means that we:

  • Respect children as whole, complete people
  • Emphasize the social and emotional parts of learning along with the intellectual, and understand the multiplier effect that comes from focusing on all three
  • See teachers and students as learning partners and co-owners of the learning process
  • Empower students by encouraging them to take initiative and express themselves
  • Are child-centered—student interests help shape the curriculum and guide learning
  • Engage students in projects, and provide abundant opportunities for them to explore connections between the classroom and the larger world
  • Ensure that learning is challenging, engaging, and playful
  • Connect learning across subjects rather than presenting subjects in isolated silos
  • Emphasize social justice and prepare students to become engaged citizens

A truly impressive collection of research has demonstrated that when students are able to spend more time thinking about ideas than memorizing facts and practicing skills - and when they are invited to help direct their own learning - they are not only more likely to enjoy what they are doing but to do it better. Progressive education isn't just more appealing; it's more productive.

Alfie Kohn, Progressive Education, Why It's Hard to Beat, But Also Hard to Find

Learn more about our program:

A group of students on a field trip walking in the forrest.