Montessori is a popular teaching style that is quickly gaining traction across America, but only some Montessori schools are accredited and licensed. Without accreditation, there’s no way for parents to gauge the quality or authenticity of the school’s Montessori methodology.
Parents wanting to enroll their children in a Montessori school should look for licensure with a recognized Montessori society such as the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) or the American Montessori Society (AMS). Without being accredited, any school claiming to be “Montessori-inspired” can’t be guaranteed as an authentic Montessori school.
Montessori schools can be an excellent option for teaching children with a kinesthetic, sensory-based, hands-on practice, but they need to be regulated to be effective and safe. Keep reading to learn more about accreditation and licensure for Montessori schools and what to look for.
How Are Montessori Schools Accredited?
Montessori schools are accredited through national or international Montessori societies. These societies offer accreditation and licensure in exchange for schools meeting the traditional Montessori standard of teaching methodology.
Montessori is a title that can be used by any school regardless of their actual teaching practices. However, the only real way for parents to ensure that their child is being taught by the Montessori method is to look for Montessori schools that have been accredited by one of two organizations (Source: Montessori Answers):
- Association Montessori Internationale (AMI): This Montessori society is the original Montessori school organized by Dr. Maria Montessori herself, and schools that are accredited through the AMI teach in the closest way possible to the original Montessori method. This is an excellent accreditation to look for if you want your child taught by the original Montessori method.
- American Montessori Society (AMS): The AMS is a Montessori society that took the teachings of Maria Montessori in the late 1960s and sought to translate the method for American culture, which is significantly different than the social cultures of Europe. Schools accredited by the AMS use American inclusions to the Montessori method, such as current events and technology.
Without accreditation or licensure from one of these two societies, parents have no way to tell whether their child’s school follows the Montessori method. Any school can claim to be “Montessori-inspired” without using any real Montessori methodology.
The problem is that Maria Montessori did not trademark the teaching method or patent it, so the word “Montessori” remains part of the public domain. Any school can call itself a Montessori school. Therefore, if parents don’t know enough about the Montessori method to tell the difference, they may end up putting their child in an inferior program.
Are Montessori Schools Licensed?
Montessori schools may be licensed by the state in which they reside, depending on the state’s individual laws (each state in America governs private and chartered schools slightly differently). Most schools are required by the state to be licensed as a safe place for children to be kept during the day.
States do not license Montessori schools for their teaching methods. Instead, Montessori schools receive accreditation, which is recognized through a third-party organization that is not associated with the government. For the Montessori method, accreditation is performed through either the AMI or the AMS, respectively.
Any schools that claim to be Montessori-based that don’t have accreditation cannot be trusted to follow the Montessori teaching method. Unless the parents can directly observe the school’s teaching methods to see which Montessori methodologies are followed, these schools generally aren’t good choices for getting a strong Montessori foundation.
Out of the more than four thousand schools across America that claim to be associated with the Montessori method, only 1,250 are associated with the American Montessori Society. Out of those, only 204 have real accreditation through the organization. Only 220 have recognition through the AMI. (Source: Slate)
Types of Montessori Accreditation
There are a few types of Montessori accreditation associated with the Montessori method. Schools with proper accreditation through the AMI—or the traditional, original school of Montessori—are few and far between. In the United States, parents will likely find a school associated with AMS, the Americanized branch of the Montessori method.
Teachers of the Montessori method can also be accredited through the Montessori Accreditation Council for Teacher Education (MATCE). This is an excellent accreditation to look for when parents are looking into Montessori-based private tutors or schools, especially smaller schools, where one teacher may be responsible for the entire program.
Here are a few of the accreditations associated with Montessori that speak to the quality of the teaching program:
- AMI accreditation
- AMS accreditation
- MATCE accreditation
- Pan American Montessori Society (PAMS) accreditation
Along with formal accreditations, Montessori schools also can be affiliated with a Montessori organization such as the AMS. This allows the Montessori school to advertise itself truthfully as a Montessori school associated with a significant Montessori organization while the school is still gaining its formal accreditation. For schools to be affiliated, they must be undergoing the accreditation program. (Source: American Montessori Society)
Why Look for an Accredited Montessori School?
Because the name Montessori is in the public domain and anyone can use it, parents must check into the credentials of their chosen Montessori program carefully to make sure that the school is following authentic Montessori methods. For some “wanna-be” preschool programs, slapping the word “Montessori” on their preschool means nothing more than emphasizing free play and lack of structure.
This can lead to preschool programs that may call themselves Montessori or Montessori-inspired but follow very few (if any) of the official Montessori methods. Some American Montessori-styled schools may claim affiliation with the American version of the teaching method to justify a learning structure with very little in common with the original tenets of Montessori.
Here are the main reasons why you should be picky about choosing an accredited Montessori school for your child (Source: Hechinger Report):
- Your child may not learn anything in a school that claims to be Montessori but isn’t. The name of Montessori is often exploited as free advertisement by shady private educators who aren’t qualified or trained.
- Your child won’t get the benefits of an authentic Montessori program. The real Montessori methodology for teaching has gained significant traction as a promising teaching style for several decades, with even Jeff Bezos dedicating several billion dollars to a fund supporting its advocacy. But without accreditation, there’s no telling what your child is learning.
Many schools that claim to be Montessori lack the qualifications even to call themselves a decent daycare, so parents need to be able to tell the difference between a school with trained Montessori teachers and one that is only pretending to know what they’re talking about.
What Are Some of the Classroom Elements to Look for in an Accredited Montessori School?
Schools that are accredited through a real Montessori society will share several central teaching practices. These include some of the following:
- Classrooms divided into work areas that cater to practical life skills, sensory interaction, math, language, and culture
- Daily three-hour work sessions where children are encouraged to gravitate towards whatever elements of the classroom most intrigue them, with the teacher as an observer and guide rather than a lecturer
- Multi-age teaching groups
- Self-correcting kinesthetic toys and teaching materials
Without teachers trained in the original Montessori method, children will not receive this unique educational approach’s creative benefits.
Parents Should Be Picky about Montessori Accreditation
Montessori schools are popular and sometimes expensive, so it’s essential for parents looking to enroll their child in a Montessori program to check into the program’s accreditations to make sure it’s legitimate. Without proper accreditation, anybody can call themselves a Montessori school and get away with it.
For the answers to more frequently asked questions about Montessori schools, click here.