When Jeff Bezos announced that he is donating $2 billion to create a network of free Montessori-inspired preschools, he was praised for not following in the footsteps of other titans who have chosen to financially support top-down charter schools (“How to Realize Preschool Dreams,” The New York Times, Sep. 21).
That’s because recent research conducted at the University of Virginia found that children from low-income families in public Montessori programs were more likely to catch up to their advantaged peers than those who attended programs elsewhere.
But the study did not specify what those other programs were. That’s an important omission because it leaves unanswered if the other programs were charter schools or traditional public schools. For example, how did children in Montessori schools compare with children in Success Academy? How did they compare with children in public schools in affluent suburban areas?
Montessori schools may be a godsend for some children but a disaster for others. So much depends on what parents believe their own children need. The Montessori model emphasizes child-directed learning in multiage classrooms. It individualizes instruction. I vividly remember the media hoopla given to Summerhill School in Suffolk, England in the 1960s. It appealed to parents who saw traditional British and American schools as rigid, joyless places.
I’m glad that Bezos is going to invest in a Montessori network. His funding will give parents even more options than they have now.
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