BEST PRACTICES FOR CREATING AND MAINTAINING DIVERSE SCHOOLS
The following resources are drawn from best practices observed at public schools around the country, community conversations with public Montessori schools and are expanded from Mira Debs Diverse Parents, Desirable Schools: Public Montessori in an Era of School Choice. (Harvard Education Press, 2019).
Here is the link for best practices on creating an empowered and diverse parent community.
School Vision & Start-up
- Ensure founding group has neighborhood/community representation
- Develop a school mission that emphasizes intentional diversity
- Attend trainings together to develop a common language to discuss and identify issues of race/class privilege in education, so that you are aware as you develop your school proposal
- Locate the school in a community of color or low-income community to attract students from the neighborhood
- Make sure the building can be physically accessed by persons with disabilities per ADA standards
- Provide full-day programming and before- and after-care to support working families
- Provide transportation to all families and especially preschoolers
- Participate in the district lottery process to simplify enrollment for parents
- To support a wide variety of families, consider broader interpretation of how siblings are defined if you have sibling priority
- Use a weighted lottery to increase enrollment of disadvantaged students
- Provide tuition-free preschool/sliding scale tuition if the preschool program is not free.
- Follow federal guidance that charter with private preschools conduct open lotteries at age 5 to access to the elementary program
- Offer summer programming
- Develop an outreach plan and share it publicly with your school community
- Refrain from using the language of “a good fit” in communicating with parents. The school’s responsibility is to serve all of families, not just those who know and love Montessori.
- Print brochures in multiple languages, and include translations or a translation service on website
- Hold information sessions at community libraries, public housing, Head Start facilities, places of worship
- Stream outreach events and parent/caregiver meetings on Facebook Live, etc.
- Develop a virtual tour for families who have a hard time getting to open houses
- Publicize Montessori’s efficacy with English Language Learners and Students with Special Needs
- Publicize Montessori’s rich curriculum around cultural diversity as well as Montessori pioneering educators of color
- Share academic results so that parents will know they are choosing a college preparatory curriculum
- Make sure enrollment /lottery processes is not steering away students from certain backgrounds, especially those with documented disabilities
Cultural Diversity & Student Support
- Hire diverse staff, and create school-based pathways for training and hiring from within the local community
- Use curriculum materials that accurately represent economically and racially diverse students and families
- Use these materials throughout the year, not just during Black History month
- Include books in each classroom and the school library that feature students of color being children (not only overcoming adversity, or slavery or discrimination.) Whenever possible, select books written by authors of color.
- Include a parent-outreach coordinator on staff who recruits a diverse population of students and supports a diverse population of families
- Have the trained staff to provide all the services required on a student with disabilities’ IEP or collaborate with a school district or cooperative to provide these services, develop a process for evaluations and IEP meetings.
- Provide ongoing training to teachers on how to support children with disabilities in their classrooms
Talking about Race, Class & Bias in Classrooms and Schools
- Create community norms to facilitate having courageous conversations and prioritize professional development around race & bias
- Develop a schoolwide anti-bias anti-racist (ABAR) plan and rubric to measure progress.
- Connect with other parents and educators doing similar work via national education organizations like Educolor, Teaching Tolerance and Montessori for Social Justice