To address pervasive opportunity and achievement gaps in the U.S. education system, some researchers are looking to progressive pedagogies,[1] such as Montessori and Waldorf, that may have the potential to meet children’s unique learning and socio-emotional needs.[2] In particular, the number of Montessori programs within public schools has increased significantly. Most public Montessori pre-K programs (those serving children ages 4 or younger) admit students through a lottery because the demand for available slots typically exceeds the supply. However, certain enrollment policies or practices may create barriers to access, as flagged in the Brady Education Foundation Montessori Initiative Network’s initial research on public Montessori in 2017.

To explore how public Montessori pre-K program enrollment policies might facilitate or limit family access, Child Trends conducted the Equitable Access to Public Montessori project with further support from the Brady Education Foundation. Our team conducted a national landscape scan of 288 public Montessori pre-K programs, surveyed 37 program administrators about their enrollment practices, and interviewed 13 families about how they chose pre-K options. Below, we outline key takeaways regarding potential barriers to access, along with some ways in which programs are promoting more equitable access.

Most public Montessori pre-K programs are located in majority White communities and serve mostly White students; these programs are also more likely to charge families tuition at the pre-K level.

Jackson Fojut and Rowan Hilty are co-lead authors of this blog.

Footnotes and References

[1] Progressive pedagogies are those that tend to focus on experiential learning, critical thinking, problem solving, and both independent and collaborative learning.

[2] Debs, M. (2019). Diverse families, desirable schools. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.

[3] For the purposes of this analysis, we defined the “majority” racial/ethnic group of public Montessori pre-K programs and their surrounding communities according to whichever racial/ethnic group made up 50 percent or more of their respective populations. More details regarding our methods and data sources can be found in our final report.

[4] Latine is a gender-neutral version of Latino and Latina.