Finding Quality Montessori Schools

How do you know if a school is truly following the Montessori philosophy?

Montessori is a method of education—not a corporation or brand—that takes its name from physician and educator Dr. Maria Montessori, who founded her first school more than 100 years ago. The word cannot be trademarked, meaning anyone can open a school and call it “Montessori”—regardless of the school’s fidelity to the philosophy and practice of the Montessori Method.

If you are a parent seeking a Montessori school for your child, this can be confusing. But rest assured, there are questions to ask that will help you identify schools that are authentic practitioners of Montessori education. Below are the questions we suggest. They have to do with accreditation, the AMS Pathway of Continuous School Improvement, core components of Montessori, and accreditation by non-Montessori accreditors.

AMS Accreditation

Is the school AMS-accredited?

The American Montessori Society is a professional membership organization. Schools can opt to join as members to benefit from opportunities for professional development, networking, and more—but they are not required to, and merely being a member is not an indicator of the quality of the school.

Those that join and meet certain requirements—for example, regarding the proper credentialing of their teachers and specific multi-age groupings in their classrooms—have the option of pursuing AMS accreditation.

Accreditation by the American Montessori Society is the highest level of recognition bestowed by the Montessori community.

The process of becoming AMS-accredited is rigorous and multi-year. It includes examination and documentation of all aspects of the school, including governance, curriculum, fiscal and personnel policies, facilities, health and safety practices, teacher preparation, and learner outcomes, to ensure that they align with AMS Accreditation Standards.

Approximately 15% of our member schools have successfully undergone the process and are AMS-accredited. This elite status signals that they meet and maintain compliance with rigorous standards of excellence recognized by educators worldwide.

When you decide to explore a Montessori school for your child, be sure to ask if it’s AMS-accredited. If it is, you can be confident that the school represents Montessori at its best.

Filter & find an AMS-accredited school.

A Teacher's Perspective

Andrea Sanger

Parent, Seton Montessori School, Clarendon Hills, IL

A Parent’s Perspective

My husband and I always do a lot of research when it comes to deciding what is best for our children. Evaluating Montessori education is no exception, and accreditation by the American Montessori Society is an integral piece of this research. AMS accreditation assures that at our child’s school we are getting the highest quality education, adherence to the Montessori approach, and highly trained staff, whether at the Infant and Toddler stage or beyond.

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AMS Pathway

Is the school on the AMS Pathway of Continuous School Improvement?

The AMS Pathway is a school-quality initiative available to AMS-member schools that supports them in incorporating and sustaining core components of Montessori into their programs. Once a school has integrated the core components, the Pathway supports it in aligning itself with AMS School Accreditation Standards & Criteria. The standards are considered best practices for all AMS member schools, even if they are not accredited. As with AMS accreditation, participation in the Pathway is voluntary.

There are 10 steps on the Pathway.  Step 1 is the entry point for member schools that commit to engaging in continuous improvement. Step 10 is School Accreditation, a goal for some of our member schools.

If you are interested in a Montessori school, ask if it’s on the AMS Pathway. If it is, talk with them about their Pathway journey to discover the areas in which they choose to continuously improve. If the school is not on the Pathway, don’t hesitate to ask why not.

And, if you are using our School Locator, you will know a school is on the Pathway if it is has a Pathway seal on its profile page. The number on the seal indicates the school’s current Pathway step.

Core Components

Does the school incorporate the core components of Montessori?

While many components are integral to quality Montessori implementation, the American Montessori Society recognizes 5 core components as essential in Montessori schools:

  1. Properly trained Montessori teachers
  2. Multi-age classrooms
  3. Specially designed Montessori learning materials
  4. Child-directed work
  5. Uninterrupted work periods

Fully integrating all of the core components is a sign of a quality Montessori school. They are part of AMS accreditation standards, and schools that are AMS-accredited have been affirmed as incorporating all them. Schools on the Pathway may incorporate all of the core components or just some, depending on their step level. Schools that are neither AMS-accredited nor on the Pathway may—or may not—incorporate core components. This will be something to ask about when you explore the schools of your interest.

Core Components of Montessori Education

5 Indicators of Quality

1

Trained Teachers

Teachers must hold Montessori credentials for the program level at which they teach.

2

Multi-Age Classrooms

Three-year age groupings promote peer learning and leadership development.

3

Montessori Learning Materials

Specially designed materials bring concrete meaning to abstract concepts and provide great choices for learning.

4

Child-Directed Work

The Montessori classroom provides opportunities for learning that engage and motivate children naturally.

5

Uninterrupted Work Periods

During 2 – 3 hour-time blocks, children can deeply explore and learn at their own pace.
Read More about the 5 Core Components

Other Accreditation

Some Montessori schools are accredited by a non-Montessori school accreditor, such as a regional independent school accreditor or a national accrediting agency. While these accreditations do not speak to the authenticity of the school’s Montessori program, they do indicate that the school abides by an external association’s standards for school quality in areas such as governance, curriculum, facilities, personnel, and health and safety. Accreditation, whether by AMS or another reputable accreditor, signals a school’s commitment to upholding standards of quality and to engaging in self-reflection and improvement.