The second annual Montessori Public Policy Initiative (MPPI) Retreat took place in Washington D. C. last weekend (September 29th through October 1st), and MontessoriPublic was there to give you the highlights.
MPPI is a collaboration between the American Montessori Society (AMS) and the U.S. affiliate of the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI-USA) launched in 2012 with support from the Montessori Leaders’ Collaborative to coordinate and foster national and state advocacy and public policy work for Montessori education.
Highlights from the Retreat
Danny Carlson from the Education Division of the National Governor’s Association spoke on Thursday evening, focusing on the importance of the 2015 transition from No Child Left Behind (NCLB) to the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). (ESSA is the federal law governing national education policy. The law’s formal name is the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), first passed in 1965 and reauthorized every 10 years.) ESSA essentially hands NLCB’s accountability requirements back to the individual states, so states are in the process of developing measures and Montessori has an opening to advocate for our voice in the process. This is the first time in fifteen years this opportunity has come up, and previous measures have not taken early childhood or classroom quality into account. Carlson pointed out that since principals and superintendents typically stay in positions for five years or less, and testing typically begins in third grade they often don’t see the value of investing in early childhood education programs since they won’t be around to when young children’s test scores factor into their performance evaluations down the road.
Friday morning kicked off with a surprise video message from Secretary of Education (and Montessori parent) John King:
MPPI leaders also announced the receipt of a Strategic Planning Grant, and presented their 2016-2019 Strategic Plan.
Next up: a panel on Public Policy Challenges with AMI-USA and AMS Executive Directors Bonnie Beste and Rich Ungerer and NCMPS’ own Senior Research Associate Jackie Cossentino. The key challenges they identified were state licensure for Montessori teachers and school accreditation. Beste mentioned a global AMI whole school accreditation program currently being piloted, and Ungerer spoke about the developing collaboration with the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP), which could lead to state recognition of Montessori teacher education programs. Cossentino let us know about the Developmental Environmental Rating Scale (DERS), a new tool from NCMPS which could replace tools such as the ECERS and the CLASS, which don’t represent the developmental basis of Montessori classrooms. She also mentioned work with the Northwest Educational Association (NWEA) on combining data from the 14,000 children in 94 Montessori schools who use NWEA’s Measure of Annual Progress (MAP) assessment in order to study Montessori educational achievement and influence future versions of the tool.
During the panel session, Daniel Petter-Lipstein of Montessori for Social Justice pointed out that we might soon have a “Montessori mom” in the White House (Hillary and Bill Clinton’s daughter Chelsea attended Montessori school, and Bill Clinton gave Montessori a mention at the Democratic National Convention in July). He asked the panel what we might want to say to Hillary Clinton if Montessori were to get a few minutes in the Oval Office. A consensus of three national priorities emerged:
- National recognition of MACTE-accredited Montessori teacher education programs towards teacher licensure
- Extending Universal Pre-K to cover three-year-olds
- Montessori implementation in Head Start
Saturday afternoon featured a presentation from AMS Senior Researcher and University of Kansas professor Dr. Angela Murray, summarizing eleven studies validating Montessori education and four more supporting Montessori techniques, such as tracing letters, math manipulatives, and sensorial materials, even in non-Montessori settings. She previewed the results of the massive South Carolina Fuhrman study, detailed on MontessoriPublic here, as well as several research projects and frameworks underway. No longer can it really be said that there isn’t much research out there — it’s piling up.
The weekend continued with breakouts supporting state-by-state Montessori responses to QRIS and other regulatory issues concerning early childhood programs, MACTE efforts towards teacher licensure, challenges and opportunities presented by the Every Student Succeeds Act, and more. So much of the public policy work is on the individual state level, because policies differ from state to state, so it’s a real benefit to Montessori to have the national organizations supporting and facilitating these grass-roots efforts. We’re looking forward to this year’s progress and an even bigger event next year.