Amazon.com was most recently in the news when it revealed its plan to open two new corporate outposts. Far less attention was paid to Jeff Bezos’s decision to invest $2 billion for a new network of tuition-free Montessori schools for low-income children (“Montessori, long a favorite for wealthy families, struggles to expand its reach,” The Washington Post, Nov. 5).
I wish him well in his new venture. But I think he is going to find it hard to enroll the kind of children he wants. I say that because culture plays a greater role in parental choice than he knows. Low-income black parents tend to favor a more structured learning environment than what Montessori offers. That’s why so many black students are enrolled in no-excuse charter schools.
Montessori schools have long appealed to wealthy parents. It’s hard to know why, but the evidence is there. A 2016 study published in the Journal of Montessori Research found six in ten public Montessori schools had a lower proportion of students of color than their surrounding districts, and two-thirds had fewer poor children.
If Bezos is to succeed, he needs to reach out to low-income black parents far more vigorously than Montessori schools have in the past. Two billion dollars is a good start, but how it is spent will largely determine its success.
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