There are more than 500 public Montessori schools in the U.S., including district, magnet, and charter programs, and that number is growing fast as the education world recognizes and seeks out the proven effectiveness and depth of the Montessori approach. The National Center for Montessori in the Public Center (NCMPS) maintains a database of public Montessori programs in all 50 states (and Washington, D.C.), and new listings are added monthly. Public Montessori schools are typically larger than private programs, so these 500+ schools can serve an estimated 125,000 children from ages three to eighteen.
Public Montessori programs also offer unique opportunities for the children they serve
Access and equity: Tuition-free, publicly supported Montessori programs bring this progressive, effective, and sought-after educational approach to children and families who could otherwise not afford it, and in many cases would need have been aware of it or sought it out.
Populations in need: Montessori can bring its mix of support for early literacy and “soft skills”, such as attention, memory, and self-regulation, to children from high-poverty, traumatic environments where the need for this support is strongest.
Public Montessori programs face a number of challenges:
Philosophy and fidelity: Montessori education, centered around student exploration and discovery, takes a different approach than the conventional content-delivery model typical of public education, and this calls for a deep level of commitment and buy-in from existing teachers and school leaders. In addition, Montessori has been shown to deliver the best results with a wholistic, “high fidelity” implementation, which requires a similar investment and commitment.
Trained teachers: Full implementation requires Montessori trained teachers, which are in chronically short supply. Information about Montessori teacher education programs can be found at Teach-Montessori.
Prepared environments: Montessori education requires a carefully prepared environment and specialized materials for full implementation, and this can pose a challenge for existing facilities and institutions.
Funding: Public Montessori schools organized as charter schools may face per-pupil or capital cost limitations some charters present. Montessori pre-K and kindergarten classrooms function best as mixed-age three to six year old classrooms, so funding for early childhood education and kindergarten need to be co-ordinated.