|Montessori education, which began in 1906 as a publicly supported program for working families, has expanded its presence in public and charter schools in recent years. The Montessori Census Project of the National Center for Montessori in the Public Sector (NCMPS) counted 439 public program in 2014, and that number has grown past 500 since then.
MontessoriPublic, a digital and print communications and advocacy platform for public Montessori supported by NCMPS reports on public Montessori developments.
Implementation: Implementing Montessori in a public setting can challenge existing practices. Individuals and institutions sometimes resist change, and additional training, Montessori materials, and co-ordination with pubic regulations all represent an investment and time and money. All of these considerations call for strong, committed leadership within the public system.
In addition, there are some logistical issues. Montessori calls for mixed-age environments, which will be an adjustment for single-age classrooms, and for teachers responsible for additional curriculum and managing a wider range of academic ability. Groupings may not correspond to existing structures. Many public systems begin middle school at sixth grade, and high school at ninth, but Montessori elementary groups fourth through sixth grade and seventh through ninth grade students. Many public systems begin with five year old children in kindergarten, but Montessori Primary begins with two or three year old children. Public programs implementing Montessori Primary have to find a way to include three and four year olds or substantially limit their Primary classrooms.
Finally, access is an issue. The Montessori approach anticipates that students will begin in Primary and move through the program as they grow older, with new experiences building on foundations laid in previous years. Private Montessori programs with good retention from year to year can count on having students with a continuous Montessori experience. Public programs need to balance open enrollment practices with this expectation.
None of these challenges are insurmountable, and the number of public programs continues to grow. The NCMPS website offers further information and resources.