Tag Archives: advocacy

Forward, Adovcacy! Now With ECERS-R

That comment the other day about advocacy for public Montessori obviously caught my attention. More people should know about the outstanding advocacy work at Montessori Forward, a website, blog, Google group, and community of Montessorians which make up a crowd-sourced yet deeply researched source for the latest advocacy and public policy news.

Now the MForward community has come out with a tool that could be a huge boost for Montessori Primary programs engaging with QRIS (Quality Rating and Improvemt Systems) policies in their states.  You may have heard of the Early Childhood Environmental Rating Scale, or ECERS-R, a widely used instrument for rating pre-school programs under QRIS.  Montessori schools can do badly on the ECERS-R for lacking multiple sets of materials, plush toys, and dress-up.

MForward’s The Montessori Guide to ECERS-R, professionally written and incorporating successful work from several states, aligns Montessori practice with the goals of the ECERS-R standards and explains our developmental theory and pedagogy. It’s available on the site for anyone to use.

I can’t tell you how much I’ve learned from Montessori Forward. Here’s a sampling:

  • Montessori Forward was first on the scene with QRIS and keeps a running narrative of Montessori schools’ struggles, strategies, and successes. There’s a great page of resources here.
  • Ohio recently passed charter school legislation allowing children under 5, as well as providing state teacher credentials for AMI and AMS trained teachers.
  • The Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG), a multi-billion dollar piece of legislation will be revised this year for the first time since 1996 with huge implications for all of early childhood education. Here’s the post; here’s a deep dive. Amendments specifically mentioning Montessori were under consideration, but may not make into the final draft.

Follow the blog for so much more. It’s an incredible resource.

MontessoriForward.org Tackles QRIS

The State Advocacy work I wrote about previously now has a national presence with a new website: Montessori Forward, a collaboration among AMS, AMI, and the Montessori Leadership Collaborative (MLC).

From the website, it seems that the AMS Public Policy Committee has been renamed the Montessori Public Policy Committee (MPCC) “to better reflect the action of greater inclusivity with representation from AMI/USA and MACTE, and with the future intent to include more Montessori organizations in its membership. ”  Now, a subcommittee  of  the MPPC  has launched the website as a clearinghouse for state organizations.  The site is hosted by Montessori Schools of Maryland and the Association of Illinois Montessori Schools.

Montessori Forward launches with an issue many state organizations are wrestling with: QRIS, or Quality Rating and Improvement System.  QRIS is a star rating system for childcare and early education centers, and the rating rubrics, while well-intentioned and safety-oriented, often miss what’s great about Montessori and penalize for large group sizes and the absence of dress-up, fantasy play, plush toys,  praise and rewards, and conventional teacher certification.

Montessori organizations in several states are working with regulators to develop Montessori-friendly ratings systems and incorporate Montessori training into certification standards.  Montessori Forward links organizations and collects information so states can share their work and successes.

The new site has lots of information and resources.  There’s a lot more to say about QRIS and the ratings systems it uses, so stay tuned!

Montessori Advocacy

Here’s another piece of “Montessori On the Move” news that came out  of a Congress session.

For years—make that decades—Montessori in the United States has operated mostly outside the regulatory and academic framework which supports, oversees—and constrains! “mainstream” education and child care programs.  Montessori schools in most states have struggled with regulations designed to protect children from overcrowded, poorly supervised, and low-enrichment environments.  (It’s no wonder daycare can at times be as dismal as it is, given the low pay, low respect career path it is in our culture, but that’s a different post.) Regulators look at our classrooms of 28 or more children with glass pitchers and no dress-up area and don’t know what box to put us in.

The exciting news is that AMI-USA and AMS have joined forces on a national Montessori advocacy endeavor called the State Public Policy Project.  The multi-year, multi-state project has ambitions goals:

  • to improve the regulatory environment for Montessori schools
  • to raise Montessori awareness in the pubic policy world
  • to attract the notice and support of mainstream academia

Beginning in March 2012, AMI-USA hired Public Policy Project Manager Jaye Espy, who helped organize state coalitions in Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Maryland, Minnesota, and Texas. Illinois and South Carolina formed coalitions in January 2013, and eight more states (Arizona, Florida, Michigan, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, and Tennessee) came on board this year.  Coalitions in each state are co-chaired by representatives for AMI and AMS, and often work with existing state Montessori  associations.

Here’s a sampling of work that’s happening in several states:

Colorado: The Colorado Montessori Association has built a relationship with a state Senator and has an alternative licensure bill for Montessori teachers coming up in the January session. They have also made Montessori part of the QRIS (a widespread child-care rating system) conversation.

Maryland: Montessori Schools of Maryland has managed to get special considerations for Montessori schools written directly into the state child care regulations, effectively recognizing AMI and AMS training as fulfilling qualification requirements, allowing larger class sizes, and validating Montessori classroom work as “a balanced schedule of daily activities”.

Connecticut: Montessori Schools of Connecticut (MSC) Heads of School formed the Connecticut Montessori Advocacy Coalition (CTMAC) under the MSC.  This group of Montessorians with diverse trainings and backgrounds developed a set of common talking points describing ideal, authentic Montessori practice.  CTMAC is working with Connecticut Associatiobn of Independent Schools (CAIS) on an accreditation process for Montessori 3-6 programs as schools, in place of regulation by the Department of Public Health.

More to come in another post.  Also, QRIS (Quality Rating and Improvement System): What is it, why does it matter, and how are AMI and AMS working together to help state coalitions respond?  More information coming soon!