A new opportunity for families at MMSD

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Madison parents are excited about a new opportunity for their children to pursue a nontraditional learning style at Madison’s first public Montessori School.

Last week the Madison Metropolitan School District Education Board voted Isthmus Montessori School to become a charter school for the 2018-2019 school year.

Parents attending an MMSD education board meeting on the topic in January found the Montessori’s emphasis on accommodating all learning styles promising. Moreover, the Academy administrators believe the unique curriculum could help minimize the district’s stubborn achievement gap.

According to the American Montessori Society, Montessori curricula stress the importance of individualizing each learning style to every learner and making schools a trusting and welcoming community –a feature Isthmus Montessori founder Carrie Marlette takes pride in at her school.

From a very early age, the Academy teaches children the importance of serving others.

“We try to teach our kids that this is your world, and try to take care of it,” Marlette said.  “It is a place where you come and everybody is equal, everyone belongs, all are welcome.”

Marlette believes a Montessori education could be a “real answer to the achievement gap,” but many families could not afford the private academy’s tuition.

Isthmus Montessori parent FL Miller is inspired by the school’s teaching philosophy and service orientation and hopes new families will be satisfied, too.

“As parents of Montessori children, it is not fair that we have access to this amazing thing and other people don’t,” Miller said. “What we need to get past right now is this disparity in access.”

Academy members were hoping to open Montessori school to the public sooner.  However, it did not meet certain rubric expectations including staffing and budgeting.

According to The Nation’s Report Card Wisconsin’s average math scores differed by 38 points between black and white students in 2015. These findings are not just isolated to any one subject area.

UW–Madison educational policy Professor Erica Turner is skeptical of seeing a Montessori School as a magic solution and believes life beyond the classroom may be what affects the achievement gap.

“It’s not to say that schools don’t make a difference – they certainly do. But long line research also suggests that a big predictor of student academic performance is related to socioeconomic status, and in that respect it’s not that schools don’t matter, but they may not be the sole solution either,” she said.

Turner prefers to use the term ‘opportunity gaps’ to call attention to the systemic issues leading to the achievement gap.

“This distinction is really paying attention to the idea that a lot of children are or are not able to achieve is dependent upon the kind of opportunities they have and resources available at their schools and so forth,” Turner said.

Marlette is excited for the future, hoping the curriculum will grow in the first Montessori High school.

“It’s the beginning,” she said.

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