More and more schools throughout the country are bound by the common vision of offering a high-quality, Montessori-based education that is designed to allow children to achieve their full human potential. These schools are transformative environments for children, their families, and even their communities. Building the Pink Tower (working title) will shine a light on how Montessori schools demonstrate what is working in education right now. These powerful stories of success for children from toddler age to high school will illustrate why so many parents, children, and educators have embraced this approach and why the best practices of Montessori education should be more broadly available to children nationwide.
Lumin Education operates in one of the poorest communities in Dallas. Longitudinal studies of graduates of their program that ends with third grade demonstrate high school graduation rates of 95% and college attendance rates of 85%, much higher than for similarly situated students in the same community. At the core of the Lumin Education philosophy is a commitment to start early and engage parents. As a result, gaps in education are closing and graduation rates and college attendance are growing significantly.
Through the inspiring leadership of founder and executive director Terry N. Ford, the Lumin schools have transformed the lives of families in some of the lowest wealth communities in Dallas. The program starts with home visits to parents of infants that are led by peer educators. Although the schools only go through the third grade, Lumin has demonstrated the increased success of students who attend their schools by tracking them through high school graduation and beyond.
Cornerstone Montessori School & Montessori Partners Serving All Children
St. Paul, Minnesota
Cornerstone Montessori is situated next to a public housing development where families from all over the world are transitioning to new lives. Students are enjoying measurable, transformative outcomes while discovering new possibilities for creating a diverse community that supports families and embraces their differences.
Led by internationally recognized Montessorian Molly O’Shaughnessy, the Montessori Center of Minnesota (MCM) offers numerous programs that are at the core of Cornerstone’s success. Physically connected to the school, the MCM offers AMI teacher-training programs for the primary and elementary levels. In addition, their Montessori Partners Serving all Children (MPSAC) program has been instrumental in the growth of many innovative Montessori schools in Minneapolis-St. Paul and beyond. Their mission is to be a catalyst for creating culturally grounded Montessori opportunities in communities that have not had access to high-quality education in the past.
Beyond Cornerstone Montessori, MPSAC has been instrumental in the founding of a Spanish language Children’s House in South Minneapolis, an American Indian program that offers both Dakota and Ojibwe language, and the first Hmong Montessori program in the world. All of these environments demonstrate the unparalleled adaptability of the Montessori approach as it respects and builds on the cultural experience of children and their families.
City Garden Montessori School
St. Louis, Missouri
This charter school demonstrates how a community’s intentional commitment to fighting racism intersects with its Montessori philosophy, transforming students, families, teachers, and the community beyond the school. The racial tension and segregation experienced in St. Louis led City Garden’s executive director Christie Huck and her colleagues to establish a racially integrated Montessori program that practices the grace, courtesy, and comprehensive learning that grounds the Montessori approach.
In this school community, children learn the executive function skills of collaboration and problem solving as they master traditional academic knowledge. Children and families work with school staff to practice both the racial healing that is necessary to address historic oppression and the activism to build a more just community. The success of this program has created new opportunities for leadership as the school staff initiates conversations with the broader community to preserve affordable housing for their families.
Lake Country School/ Land School
Minneapolis, Minnesota/Glenwood City, Wisconsin
Lake Country is a 40-year-old independent Montessori school that serves children from three years old through eighth grade. This story will focus on how the school empowers adolescents. The Lake Country junior high program is highly regarded as a model for applying the Montessori methodology to adolescent education, focusing on the developmental needs of the adolescent and nurturing their nascent adulthood.
Beyond academics, the junior high program offers opportunities for every student to experience working with their hands on a Land School in rural Wisconsin, as well as experiential learning through an all class, end-of-year 100-mile bike trip. These character-building experiences allow adolescents to discover themselves as the community oriented, independent young adults they are becoming and their individual styles of leadership.
Milwaukee Public Schools - Montessori Programs
The Milwaukee Public Schools is home to the largest district Montessori program in the country, with seven schools serving students from pre-school through high school.
The history, growth and success of public Montessori schools in Milwaukee demonstrate how key elements, including the availability of high-level teacher training (both AMI and AMS), internal school district support, and a strong parent and educator advocacy community have come together to make widespread Montessori education possible. This success has come with challenges, from securing public funding for early childhood programs to the push for licensure through Montessori training.
This story will explore the policy strategies that make public Montessori successful, and offer lessons on overcoming policy challenges so that other communities see the possibility of making Montessori education available to all children.