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Obama ‘Model’ School in D.C. Hosts Symposium on ‘Character’ as Key to Successful Schools and Students

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    Lauren Parent

Expeditionary Learning Kicks off National Conference Showcasing a 20-Year History in Character-Building and Teaching Kids how to ‘Get Smart to Do Good’

(Baltimore, MD , February 27, 2013) – During his first term, President Barack Obama visited Capital City Public Charter School, an Expeditionary Learning school in Washington, DC, calling it an “innovative school ” and an “example of how all our schools should be.”  Today, Expeditionary Learning (EL), a non-profit leader in educational reform, hosted a symposium at Capital City with experts on what makes this school ‘innovative’ as well as an outstanding example of a school in a national network of 165 schools and 4,000 teachers across 30 states. The focus of the symposium was building student character and personal agency; what EL cites as the foundation of their educational philosophy for successful schools and students.

The Symposium featured two national experts on the subject of character. The first, Paul Tough, author of the NY Times bestseller, How Children Succeed, notes that many of the researchers he writes about “have identified dropping out of high school or college as a symptom of substandard non-cognitive ability: low grit, low perseverance and bad planning skills.” The second, Ron Berger, Chief Academic Officer for Expeditionary Learning, focused on the broader view that character is not an ‘add-on’ to academic achievement, rather it is central to all dimensions of an EL school experience – the curriculum, instruction, assessment, and school culture. Both Tough and Berger cited character traits such as grit, perseverance, resilience and optimism as traits that can be developed in students and can lift student achievement, however, character is at the center of EL’s instructional model, and has been for nearly 20 years.

The EL approach, Berger argued, puts a focus on relational character – expanding beyond performance character to ethical integrity, compassion and respect. This can have a profoundly positive effect on student motivation and success. “Our model,” he argued, “uses a focus on character to help students understand how they can get smart, in order to do good.” Results show that EL students study harder, work together more productively, and push themselves further when inspired by this kind of altruistic vision for their learning.

About Expeditionary Learning (EL)
EL partners with school districts and charter boards to open new schools and transform existing schools at all levels, pre-K–12, and in all settings-urban, rural, and suburban. The EL school model challenges students to think critically and take active roles in their classrooms and communities, resulting in higher achievement and greater engagement in schools. EL is currently at the forefront of creating classroom-ready Common Core State Standard curricular materials for New York State grades 3-8 and EL is also working with the authors of the Common Core State Standards to develop model secondary curriculum aligned to the standards. The EL network includes more than 160 schools, 4,000 teachers, and 45,000 students. For more info, visit

About Capital City Charter School (CCPCS)

Capital City Public Charter School is an award-winning public school of choice for children Pre-K through 12th grade. Capital City students complete a rigorous academic program that emphasizes both independent and collaborative learning within an inclusive democratic community. Through the Expeditionary Learning model, students study compelling topics through authentic hands-on learning experiences that result in high-quality products. The school serves a diverse population of 950 students. A public charter school is a free public school that operates independently of the local school system with funding determined by a per-pupil formula. Capital City Public Charter School is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization led by a board of trustees that includes parents, educators, community leaders, and financial and legal experts. Please visit for more information.