Montessori for All: Cincinnati Public Schools Adopts Montessori as a Curriculum
Currently, more than 570 public and charter schools around the world offer Montessori programs. Public schools sometimes adopt a few of the principles of the Montessori Method, using them alongside other more traditional educational approaches, while other public and charter schools have fully embraced the pedagogy.
Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) have adopted Montessori as a curriculum. In a district where one in seven students attends a public Montessori school, this monumental feat will empower Montessori teachers to prioritize Montessori over other curricula and policies the district mandates and will allow administrators to better support teachers without feeling the tension of navigating multiple curricula from district leadership. Moving forward, other district curricula will be supplemental and Montessori will be at the forefront.
The process for adoption was rigorous and spanned the course of three years. The project began when a Montessori work team composed of representatives from all age bands and from all six elementary schools was formed. High school representatives were added to the team later that year.
Representatives worked to create a Montessori scope and sequence that showcased the materials, state standards, lessons, and assessments. They started by aligning Ohio Learning Standards to all Montessori materials and then organized those concepts into a monthly scope and sequence. After that, team members created monthly observation and formal assessment processes tailored to Montessori concepts and materials. Each year, team members have added or created new aspects to improve and strengthen the curriculum. They took their progress back to their home schools for feedback and suggestions.
Managers and Montessori coaches collaborated with other content area managers, the teacher’s union, directors of school leadership, and other administrators. District staff members also made connections in Montessori communities and schools, listening to the needs and desires of teachers and administrators. After several rounds of revisions, focus groups reviewed the team’s work and provided their input and suggestions for additional revisions. From there, the work, along with Montessori albums and other compiled evidence, was sent to the superintendent who presented it all to the board of education.
CPS parents have also worked diligently throughout the entire adoption process. Montessori teachers and leaders have kept parents informed with the progress of the work team and the importance of this project. Heather Gerker, parent of three children in CPS Montessori schools, has also connected with other parents and community members who support Montessori in Cincinnati. She has made an intentional effort to provide updates on the process and progress of the project and has informed them of instances when they could center their voices. Parents clearly communicated their desire for high-fidelity Montessori programs in CPS to district administrators and board members, knowing that the adoption of the Montessori curriculum was a big step in making this happen.
Eric Higgins, principal of Clark Montessori High School, remarks on the powerful impact of the district’s decision, stating, “It is going to mean great things in our community for generations to come.” CPS Montessori guides and leaders are hopeful that this adoption will increase the accessibility for all families in Cincinnati. They anticipate that this will create additional leadership roles for Montessorians and will provide funding for teachers and classrooms, enabling them to continue providing high quality, Montessori programs. These economic resources will allow all teachers to become credentialed and will fund the purchase of traditional Montessori materials, serving as another step towards all Montessori schools in the district obtaining accreditation from the American Montessori Society (AMS). Goss affirms, “This change will allow teachers to [implement] Montessori with fidelity, ensuring that each student in a Montessori school receives a rich learning environment that develops the whole child.”
Jess Kimmet, Early Childhood educator at Parker Woods Montessori, highlights the importance of this district decision, stating, “In the board agreeing to this adoption, it shows trust in the Montessori philosophy. It shows trust in the teachers, students, families, and communities. Trust that the Montessori philosophy works and meets the needs of all students. It also shows that there is a place for Montessori education in 21st century education.”
Sarah Fullen, Elementary 1 guide at Sands Montessori, emphasizes:
The major value of this decision is being recognized as a usable and beneficial curriculum, not just in the private sector of education. Maria Montessori wanted to reach all children, not just those with means, and by recognizing that it is not only possible to teach Montessori education in public schools, but that it is a solid curriculum in one of the state’s largest districts, I think that Maria Montessori would be proud.
CPS hopes that their efforts can encourage the adoption of Montessori curriculum in other public school districts across the nation, allowing Montessorians to continue meeting the needs of their students. Gerker shares, “As public Montessori programs continue to grow, we must learn from each other, advocate for what is suitable for Montessori schools and what is right for families and students. The policy decision can be a model for other public Montessori schools nationwide.”
AMS is excited to see the fruits of the labors of Cincinnati Public Schools’ Montessori teachers and leaders come to such positive conclusions. AMS looks forward to supporting their efforts as they continue expanding the influence of Montessori pedagogy, providing access to more children than ever before.
About the Author
Heather White, EdS, is a Montessori coach and consultant, content creator, and educator for adult learners, as well as a moderator and manager for the Montessori at Home (0 – 3 years) Facebook group. Formerly, she was a Montessori teacher, in-home caregiver, Lower Elementary coordinator, and associate head of school. She also has experience as a school psychologist intern. She is AMS-credentialed (Early Childhood, Elementary I) and is a Nationally Certified School Psychologist (NCSP). Contact her at email@example.com.