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Schools across the U.S. will begin working with the Common Core standards this fall, in preparation for full implementation in fall 2014.
It presents a potential challenge to Montessori programs.
Should Montessori schools insist on looking at their work as helping children reach their full potential or look upon the tests as a more significant measure of their success?
Is this Common Core transition an effort to speak more clearly to authorities in terms they understand or is it the first step in a process that will undermine all that is valuable about Montessori education?
There are surely many efforts underway now to align Montessori practices with the Common Core. One available at no charge is the work of Anna Perry of the Seton Institute:
We will look further at this issue in our fall issue. We would like to include your thoughts. Just e-mail them to email@example.com by Aug 3.
With a half-million dollars grant, the American Montessori Society is beginning to define the work of its new National Center for Montessori in the Public Sector (NCMPS).
Keith Whitescarver, an educational historian who sits on the AMS research and archives committees, has been appointed NCMPS director. Jackie Cossentino, a researcher and former principal of CREC Montessori Magnet School in Hartford, CT., is senior associate.
The two have long been consultants to AMS on public Montessori programs, and wrote a concept paper and led a planning seminar on the work of the center before being appointed in early March.
Both Whitescarver and Cossentino have taught at the university level and have multiple academic publications on Montessori education. They are taking a measured approach to getting started.
The first step will be a detailed census of public and charter Montessori schools in the U.S., Whitescarver said. Public and charter school should expect contacts from them soon.
After that, the center’s work will be in four areas: advocacy, technical assistance, dissemination of information, and research.
Both Whitescarver and Cossentino agreed that the Essential Elements of Successful Montessori Schools in the Public Sector document, approved by all major organizations, will be a centerpiece of their efforts.
“From beginning, there has been an emphasis on transparency, on creating a continuous feedback loop,” Cossentino said. “As we’ve been talking to people, they have told us two things—they need information to support Montessori, to justify it to public officials. They also needed a way to package all the knowledge.”
Whitescarver and Cossentino downplay their personal authority in the success of the center.
“It is not our agenda to bring various factions together,” Whitescarver said. “This has to be more of a community effort.”
One part of their organizing will be the identification or creation of regional Montessori groups that could provide technical assistance.
The center also has plans to publish a monthly newsletter, perhaps online.
Information will be available at its website,
Montessori advocates in Santa Cruz, CA, agreed in early April to delay submitting a charter school proposal to the local school board.
The decision heads off a parent-versus-parent fight within the district over the cost of approving a charter—reportedly $6,000 per student.
It also revisits a larger philosophical battle pitting Montessori parents, described as elitists, against those defending their public schools. It is not a battle Montessori advocates can win the public arena.
The confrontation that began long ago when public school officials across the U.S. pushed Montessori education to the periphery of school reform and sent parents to establishing their own schools. That these schools endured should provide some evidence of the power of the approach. That these schools ended up charging five digit tuitions rather than being taken as proof of the commitment of parents, is taken as evidence of elitism.
Newspaper coverage of the Santa Cruz confrontation featured Anglo parents seeking to avoid high tuition at their first-choice private Montessori programs and Hispanic parents seeking to avoid cuts to basic programs at public schools.
That is not the way most Montessori advocates would prefer to see the battle characterized but with public school funding under fire nearly everywhere, it is likely to happen again.
The Santa Cruz district is reportedly researching a small in-district Montessori program. That has happened elsewhere. But advocates of Montessori charters should be prepared for charges of elitism and privilege.