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.
National education policy operates on a very broad scale at a correspondingly slow pace, and serves many powerful competing interests, so Montessori is a very small piece of a much bigger conversation. Still, organized voices have an opportunity to influence the conversation, and policies ultimately have a very real effect on Montessori implementation. Some national policy topics that concern Montessori:
Because education is largely a state and local activity in the U.S., policies that directly affect Montessori schools (both public and independent) are often set at the state level. (Federal Head Start and Early Head Start programming are notable exceptions.) And because every state has its own government, organizations, and rules, it’s mostly a different set of circumstances from state to state.
A number of Montessori organizations support and direct advocacy at the national, state, and local levels.
MPPI is a collaboration between the Association Montessori Internationale-USA (AMI-USA) and AMS organized to coordinate and support Montessori advocacy at the national, state, and local levels, across the Montessori community. MPPI helps coordinate the work of state level AMI-USA/AMS advocacy coalitions. MPPI worked with AMI-USA and AMS to develop the Montessori Essentials, a document defining essential elements of a Montessori program for policy makers.
MSJ is a network of parents, educators, and community members dedicated to two goals:
Studies of Montessori education and evaluations of children in Montessori programs have shown strengths in math, science, reading, writing, executive function, problem solving, and more. However, research and testing on Montessori can be challenging for two reasons:
A handful of studies and test results have delivered substantive findings:
The National Center for Montessori in the Public Sector (NCMPS) has a selection of current research, and the American Montessori Society (AMS) has an overview of the Montessori research landscape as well as a collection of articles, dissertations, and other publications. AMS, in collaboration with Kansas University, also publishes the peer-reviewed, open-source Journal of Montessori Research.
National Center for Montessori in the Public Sector – Our mission is to help public schools deliver high-quality, personalized education through Montessori.