Diverse Families, Desirable Schools: Public Montessori in the Era of School Choice

Mira Debs

paper, 240 Pages 
Pub. Date: April 2019 
ISBN-13: 978-1-68253-307-9 
Price: $33.00

In Diverse Families, Desirable Schools, Mira Debs offers a richly detailed study of public Montessori schools, which make up the largest group of progressive schools in the public sector. As public Montessori schools expand rapidly as alternatives to traditional public schools, the story of these schools, Debs points out, is a microcosm of the broader conflicts around public school choice. More
Drawing on historical research, interviews with public Montessori educators, and ethnographic case studies, Debs explores the forces that pull intentionally diverse, progressive schools toward elitism. At the heart of Debs’s book is a thoughtful analysis of the notion of “fit” between parents and schools—an idea that is central to school choice, which is often marketed as an opportunity for parents to find the perfect fit for their kids. By exploring parents’ varied motivations in choosing these schools and observing how families experience—or fail to experience—a “good fit” after having chosen a particular school, Debs makes an original contribution to the literature on school choice and sheds light on the dilemmas entailed in maintaining diversity in progressive charter and magnet schools.
Praise for Diverse Families, Desirable Schools
“Through interviews with parents and school personnel, Debs grapples with both the promise and the challenges of implementing a more psychologically optimal form of education. Debs’s book is a tour de force that will assist and inspire everyone who sees education as a means to bring us closer to a truly integrated society.”— Angeline Lillard, professor of psychology, University of Virginia
“Mira Debs provides a fascinating and unprecedented window into the development and expansion of Montessori education in the United States. She complicates the stereotype of Montessori as an elite and exclusive movement, making this book a must-read for anyone concerned about bringing alternative pedagogies to a more diverse group of students.” — Dana Goldstein, bestselling author of The Teacher Wars: A History of America’s Most Embattled Profession
“In this fascinating book, Mira Debs shatters the stereotype that white families want open-ended creative learning while black families want ‘No Excuses’ schools that emphasize structure and discipline. In fact, as her brilliant analysis of Montessori schools shows, families of all backgrounds are coming together in diverse-by-design schools, where their children can become empowered thinkers rather than obedient rule-followers.” — Richard D. Kahlenberg, senior fellow, The Century Foundation
Parents & Educators respond to the book
“Moving from traditional educator to educational advocate to Montessori parent has been an interesting journey. This book helped guide me through how to better advocate for underserved communities through public education. It also helped put into eloquent words my own concerns with Montessori.” – South Carolina Montessori parent
“[After reading this book] We’ve have taken some actions steps already. Our PTO is using the action items from the appendix to evaluate their work and we’ve eliminated fees to join PTO so that ALL families as members.  I’ve also planned to do ABAR [Anti-Bias Anti-Racism] training for staff at each staff meeting this year and to incorporate this in parent coffees. I don’t know that I feel completely confident in my ability to do this work, but I feel it’s necessary to get our staff moving in the right direction.” – South Carolina Montessori principal