Adjust Licensing Regulations to Larger Classroom Sizes Necessary for Montessori Programs.
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Best Practice for fully implemented Montessori school:
a. With the appropriate multi-aged groupings: 2.5/3-6, 6-9, 9-12, or 6-12 years of age.
b. With class sizes and adult/child ratios that align with Montessori principles. Montessori classroom standards require larger class sizes and higher student to teacher ratios than is typically seen in traditional classrooms. Adding additional teaching staff to a Primary classroom can interfere with, rather than encourage, child-directed learning. It would not be uncommon to see 30 or more children in a classroom at the early childhood and elementary levels.
From “Montessori Essentials”- a document that is a collaboration between different Montessori organizations.
Rational for request:
To authentically implement Montessori programs class sizes need to be larger than the proposed ratios and group sizes would allow.
Multi-age grouping is an integral part of the Montessori philosophy at all levels. Philosophically, the rationale is that individuals learn from each other with opportunities to lead, share, and serve as role models for their peers. Students can accelerate or take additional time as needed to learn skills.
Suggested language for Montana:
In the current proposal, there is nothing written regarding mixed age groups. If the maximum group size regulations follow the current practice that the youngest child in the group dictates the ratio needed that would mean that our early childhood program (from 2.5 or 3 years until six years of age) would be required to have a group size of 16 children. This regulation would be detrimental to the implementation of an authentic Montessori program.
A Montessori exemption/variance: Many states allow for a set exemption/variance for Montessori programs. These are different than a waiver process where each program would need to apply individually.
Montessori programs with children from 2.5 to 6 years of age will have an adult child ratio of 1:10 and a group size of 24.
Any group size below this would not allow Montana schools to meet the national/international Montessori standards.
A change in language that is general:
From other states:
Kentucky: Ratios and group size do not apply during normal school hours to centers providing ECE to mixed-age groups of children ages 2.5-6 that are accredited by or affiliated with a nationally-recognized education association that has criteria for group size and staff-to-child ratios contrary to the requirements.
Tennessee: For mixed age groups ages 3-6, max group size is 24 with a ratio of 1:13.
Montana currently has some of the lowest adult to child ratios in the nation. This combined with multi-age grouping necessary for a Montessori program, Montana Montessori schools are facing crippling challenges. There are a few examples included in this document (above) from other states that would work with the current ratios/group sizes, without being Montessori specific. Many state’s regulations do defer to the youngest child in the space but have ratios and group sizes that are larger than Montana and therefore still allow for Montessori schools to function within standards.
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