I recently had the honor of attending the Montessori Public Policy Initiative (MPPI) Retreat where 26 states were represented to advocate for Montessori education in the public, charter and private sector. The leaders of the two largest Montessori organizations in the United States, Association Montessori International/USA (AMI/USA) and American Montessori Society (AMS) came together with the purpose of pro-actively affecting public policy.
In Michigan, we are striving to have Montessori recognized as a high quality early childhood education program as it relates to the Quality Rating System. We have worked with researchers at High Scope to provide observable evidence as to how we meet the goals and standards of early childhood programs and best practices. Currently we are asking for a licensing rule change that will recognize the Montessori training credential for more equitable credits.
With over 150 Montessori programs in Michigan, our advocacy group is striving to define the essential elements of our Montessori programs as recently defined by MPPI and recapped below.
Montessori schools should allow the child to develop naturally-children are able to learn at their own pace and follow their own individual interests, learning primarily through the hands-on use of scientifically prepared auto-didactic materials, and interacting with the environment under the guidance of a specially trained adult, enabling motivation and knowledge-building through internal development rather than external teaching or rewards.
An authentic Montessori school will apply the following pedagogical elements. It is critical that all of these elements be present in order for the Montessori approach to be successfully implemented.
- Implement the Montessori curriculum which must include a classroom design compatible with Montessori “prepared environment” principles, a full complement of Montessori materials, and uninterrupted daily work periods with 3-hours work periods being ideal. Instruction characterized by a high degree of freedom given to the student to choose what to work on, where to work, how long to work with instruction that primary takes place in small groups (elementary) or one-on-one (Early childhood).
- Have appropriately trained instructional staff in each classroom from accredited teacher education programs at the level being taught, as well as, on-going Montessori professional development.
- Have classrooms with appropriate multi-aged grouping – 2.5-6 years, 6-9, 9-12 or 6-12 years. Children from birth to 3 years of age may be grouped in varying multi-age configurations.
Have class sizes and adult/child ratios that align with Montessori principles to encourage child-directed learning.
- Assess student progress through teacher observation and detailed record keeping.
The goal of these essential elements is to bring clarity to policy makers in regards to the unique components of a Montessori classroom.