Independently owned nonprofit and for-profit Montessori schools add vitality and variety to the educational landscape. The majority of the American Montessori Society’s member schools are private schools.
Private Montessori schools provide flexible program options for students from infancy through high school, although the age levels served vary from school to school. Some offer parent-and-infant programs or extended early morning or afternoon programs for children of working parents. Individual schools may be small and homelike or large institutions serving hundreds of students on a multi-building campus. Montessori schools are sometimes sponsored by another organization, often a nonprofit agency or religious institution.
Some private Montessori schools offer enriched programs—opportunities for overseas travel, immersion in a second language, or curricular themes such as nature, music, or science. Others provide services for students with special needs.
Unlike public schools, which are government funded, private schools depend on tuition as a major source of revenue. Tuition for private Montessori schools in different geographical locations can vary widely. The ages and grade levels taught and the number of hours in the school day also affect costs.
Some schools offer scholarships for families in need of financial assistance. Many offer reduced tuition for families that enroll more than one child. Some offer tuition breaks for the children of school staff members.
AMS surveyed member schools about tuition in 2008. Of those responding:
- 59% offer partial scholarships, and
- 27% offer full scholarships for children from families in need.
- 67% offer reduced tuition for more than one child in the same family.
- 88% offer reduced tuition for children of faculty and staff.
For complete results from the lastest tuition survey, order a copy (free for AMS members) from the Shop AMS Catalog.
Most private AMS-member schools—like all private schools, Montessori and otherwise—have an admissions process to help determine if the school and the child are well matched.
Typically the process includes having the parents visit the school—both with and without their child—to meet with the admissions director or principal. Children of elementary age and older may be invited to spend time in the classroom.
Depending on the child’s age, the school might ask for recommendations from previous teachers and/or student portfolios.
Although applying to traditional private schools is reputed to be a stressful process, the private Montessori school application process is seen by some as refreshingly low key.
Schools that are full members of AMS or accredited by AMS require the lead teacher in every classroom to hold Montessori credentials from an accredited Montessori teacher education program. Associate AMS-member schools also provide credentialed teachers, although not necessarily in every classroom.
In addition, depending upon state and local regulations and the ages of students served, teachers in some private Montessori schools are also required to have bachelor’s degrees and/or state teachers’ certificates.
Private schools in certain states are required to administer the same standardized tests as public schools. In states where standardized testing in private schools is optional, some AMS member schools do choose to administer them, particularly if the tests are required by the schools into which their students transition.
However, recognizing that children master skills at different ages, other private Montessori schools opt not to administer standardized tests. Montessori instruction is individualized so that each child can fully master beginning levels of a subject before moving on to more complicated material. Montessorians believe that a teacher’s observation of students at work in the classroom allows a more accurate assessment of their development than test scores.
Choosing a School
An estimated 4,000 private Montessori schools exist in rural to suburban to urban settings across the United States. Thousands more are located in countries worldwide.
Before making a choice, parents are encouraged to visit and observe classes at all of the Montessori schools in their area to ensure the best match between their child and her school.