Advancing Montessori Public and Charter Schools

By Ungerer, Richard A. | Montessori Life, Spring 2011 | Go to article overview

Advancing Montessori Public and Charter Schools


Ungerer, Richard A., Montessori Life


Recently, I have been pondering the issue of Montessori public and charter schools. Understanding that where AMS and Montessori education have stood on this issue is critical to where we will go in the future, I asked Dr. Phyllis Povell, author of Montessori Comes to America: The Leadership of Maria Montessori and Nancy McCormick Rambusch, to share with me her research on Nancy McCormick Rambusch's position on Montessori public schools, as well as her own thoughts:

Thirty-five years ago, when Nancy McCormick Rambusch began the first Montessori public school in Cincinnati, OH, she said, "Bringing Montessori education into the public schools signalledj the introduction of private school quality education into the public sector" (Rambusch, p. 158). Rambusch insisted that the school be a Montessori public school and not a public Montessori school.

The opening of this school served to fulßll one of the main missions of the American Montessori Society. From the Society's founding in 1960, Rambusch and John McDermott endeavored to bring Montessori education to all American children. In helping to put Montessori education into an American context, McDermott counseled the necessity for moving the Montessori system out of the private sector into the mainstream in order to have a successful educational and social movement. He envisioned a movement, reaching all children from all cultures, existing not on the periphery of society but rooted in the public school system.

McDermott's and Rambusch's rationale, formulated 50 years ago, is as important, if not more so, in today's culturally diverse society. It is incumbent on the American Montessori Society to strengthen its support of Montessori public schools and encourage their expansion in the United States. It should serve as the guardian to encourage Montessori public schools (and not public Montessori schools). If Montessori' s insights can be adapted to the demands of public education, then the revival so patiently nurtured by Nancy Rambusch and others will make a permanent contribution to American education. (Phyllis Povell, personal communication, October 1, 2010)

AMS is a unique educational organization because our member schools include both Montessori private and independent schools and Montessori public and charter schools. (Most other membership associations include only one type of school - private or public.) Currently about 95% of our school members are of the private-school category, but we are encountering a growing interest throughout the country in the creation of Montessori schools that are government-funded.

Over the past 2 years, many states, with backing from both Democrats and Republicans, have pursued major changes in their policies for charter schools in response to the U.S. Department of Education's Race to the Top initiative. With increased interest in charter schools - frequently seen as a vehicle for fostering innovation - there are numerous opportunities for starting new Montessori charter schools. And as more families and local school boards learn about the power of the Montessori philosophy and method, I am confident there will be steps taken to develop additional Montessori "schools within schools" and Montessori magnet schools.

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