VMS Attains Montessori Validation

Last month, the staff at VMS quietly and unobtrusively accomplished a major milestone in the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) certification process:  we were deemed “Montessori”.  “Huh?” you might ask.  You probably know we are licensed through a variety of governmental institutions, as required by law, and we are licensed to conduct kindergarten through MSDE.  A little history might provide some insight…

Some people think that, being a Montessori school, we are part of some kind of franchise.  We are not.  Most schools are stand-alone schools.  We utilize the Montessori method of education, which is not licensed, trademarked or otherwise protected.  Schools may be affiliated with Montessori organizations, the most significant being American Montessori Society (AMS) and Association Montessori International (AMI) but these affiliations are not required to operate a Montessori school.  In fact there were no requirements to fulfill to call a school a Montessori school.  You (yes, you) could start a childcare establishment and call it a Montessori school… until a few years ago.  The state of Maryland recognized the wide disparity of methods and therefore education produced from this loose arrangement and decided to take steps to validate each licensed organization calling itself a Montessori school.  Wisely, the state chose not to carry out the validation process itself, rather, authorizing certain organizations recognized by those Montessori societies, above, on their behalf.

So what, you might ask, does it now take to be a Montessori school in Maryland?  The list basically boils down to the following:

·         All teachers must be educated and credentialed through either AMS, AMI or NCME

·         All staff must meet MSDE Office of Childcare required certifications

·         Each classroom must have the full suite of Montessori materials, or indicate how classrooms share them

·         Each teaching team must demonstrate that their classroom operates in the manner developed by Dr. Maria Montessori

·         The above must be proven to one of the sanctioned validating organizations by July 1, 2015

Seems pretty straight forward, right?  Not necessarily: there are more than a few Montessori schools scrambling to fulfill those criteria, or change their names. 

Last November, we submitted the required documentation to Montessori Schools of Maryland, our validating organization.  We were inspected in January (and told we have a beautiful school J) and were notified in February that we had passed the inspection.  Check out the certificate posted prominently on the wall in Kate’s office!  Every four years, validated schools will be re-inspected to ensure we are still meeting the above criteria.

Personally, I applaud the state in requiring this validation.  Sure, it required some extra work to get all our ducks in a row for the process but it was well worth the effort to weed out schools that weren't delivering a real Montessori experience to their students, and to provide parents with the peace of mind that the tuition they’re paying is for the real deal.