Last night, deep into Edutwitter (the Twitter sub-universe consisting of educators debating over daily topics), I came across a tweet that made me think. It was a conversation started by Benjamin Riley, (@benjaminriley); Riley was discussing Jack Schneider's conversation (@Edu-Historian) regarding zillow using Greatschools' ratings to guide people to pick the best areas for home buying. This is the tweet from Riley that made me FULL PAUSE:
"This is an important thread about education, data, and inequality in a world of limited information. What do we mean by “great school”? For many, we mean white rich kids." (@benjaminriley).
So what does this specifically have to do with Montessori?
A LOT of people associate Montessori with rich, white kids. Why? Montessori schools are primarily private. Many Montessori schools are located in affluent neighborhoods.
When I researched the private Montessori schools in our area, some schools have a student population with only 5% students of color. Most of them had between 15% and 35%. By comparison, for the entire city, 34% of all private school attendees are students of color. 63% of public schools students in the entire city are students of color. So private Montessori schools in the city are grossly under representing minorities.
What about public Montessori schools? In our city, there are 2 public Montessori schools. One is in an urban area, and has a 91% minority population. The other is in an affluent suburb and has a 45% minority population. The average of these 2 schools is a 68% minority population, which is more aligned to the entire student population percentages.
According to the American Montessori Society, there are currently over 4000 Montessori schools operating in the United States. Only about 10% of these, or 400 of these schools, are public or charter schools.
There is good news! "In 2012, AMS launched the National Center for Montessori in the Public Sector (NCMPS) to assist with the growth and sustainability of Montessori programs in magnet, charter, and district schools across the country." (https://amshq.org/Montessori-Education/Introduction-to-Montessori/Montessori-Schools). AMS and other organizations, homeschool groups, and charter groups have begun campaigning for Montessori options for all students. Hopefully, we will continue to see more minorities given the choice of Montessori, so we can change the Montessori stereotype of being a program only for rich, white kids!
Stephanie Stephens and Holly Fitzharris are both Montessori educators- collectively with over 30 years of experience in education.