1. Most progressive schools don't issue report cards.
Professor John Dewey disliked the notion of children sitting in rigid rows listening to a teacher, memorizing facts and regurgitating those facts on command. Dr. Dewey felt that students needed to learn by doing. Implicit in this philosophy of education is an aversion to testing and report cards. You will monitor your child's progress in less traditional ways. Instead of receiving a document with traditional grades such as A's and B's you will receive a reporting detailing your child's progress in a variety of areas which the school feels are important.
2. Montessori, Waldorf and Reggio Emilia schools are progressive schools.
Instrinsic in a Montessori education is the idea that a child needs to explore in order to learn. Learning is guided in the Montessori classroom. The teacher does not direct the learning. She guides it. Classes are multiage so that a younger child learns from older children. Waldorf schools are world-famous for developing children's imaginations. Reggio
Emilia inspired schools emphasize the involvement and collaborative aspects of educating their students. These are approaches and ideas which are not usually found in traditional schools.
3. Lab schools are progressive schools.
A lab school by definition is a school attached to a university's college of education. It is a place where teachers can experiment with new and different methods and approaches to education. All under the watchful eye of seasoned professionals who know a thing or two abut education and pedagogy. Over the years many lab schools have separated from their original university affiliations and developed their own administrative and governing bodies.
4. Graduates from progressive schools matriculate to college.
Even though there are no AP courses offered in most progressive high schools, graduates from progressive schools tend to get into the colleges to which they apply. Instead of spending months, even years, learning material which will be the subject of a series of standardized tests in spring of their senior year, students in a progressive school typically will undertake in depth exploration and study of English, history, languages and all the other subjects one would expect. The difference is that these subjects become the means for developing critical thinking and an understanding of the world at home and abroad.
5. Progressive schools are not permissive schools.
The notion that students in a progressive school get away with all kinds of stuff is simply not true. The point of a progressive education is to allow young people the opportunity experience ideas and things for themselves. As opposed to just reading about it. Experiential learning is a vital part of a progressive education. But banish any visions of your little darling doing whatever she wants whenever she wants. That's not the way it works. Progressive schools have a strong sense of community. Everybody is expected not only to learn and play together but also do the physical work necessary to make the school community a better place. A progressive school is not simply an institution where you learn in an academic setting. You learn while camping, gardening or participating in a host of activities designed to bring out the full potential of each child.