See how our modest investment in the Montessori movement has produced extraordinary results.
In 2011, Trust for Learning invested in what would become a multi-year convening process of the Montessori leadership across the country, which encouraged them to think big for the first time, as well as to establish trust in the idea of working collaboratively, not in the interest of any one organization, but rather in the interest of the child.
A look at movement building.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
— Margaret Mead
In 2011, the Trust for Learning team began turning its attention to early childhood education when they had the opportunity to watch so many children (including some of their own) experiencing the joy of learning in brilliantly designed, time-tested and child-centered environments. Although they believed that the national “achievement gap” could be erased by building on the child’s peak potential for learning in the earliest years of life, through a student-centered learning experience that fosters a broad range of “21st century” skills, they observed that this was not where education reform was heading. The question that prompted their initial commitment and investment in this work was simply, “Why don’t all children have access to these high quality developmentally focused early childhood opportunities?”
Montessori offered precisely this opportunity as well as great potential for replication and for providing equality of experience for students across a wide socioeconomic spectrum. There were countless others who shared their insight and excitement, and if cultivated, this latent potential could translate into significant momentum for expansion and outreach to greater numbers of children, particularly those in failing systems who needed it most.
Trust for Learning was prepared to make an investment that could build on this existing energy. The Trust then began to explore the answer to a simple question: “Where would resources best be placed in order to support and grow this movement?” Upon closer inspection, however, they found that decades of inward focus, infighting, limited capacity, and a tangle of public misperceptions, had relegated Montessori to the fringes of the education sector, hobbling its growth as a movement that could effectively express and advocate for the needs of developing children. the Montessori movement was content rich, and system poor — there was no control over the Montessori name or “brand”, no coordinated communication effort to promote the method on public or policy agendas, little data defining the scope of the movement or the efficacy of its outcomes, little collaboration among numerous state and national organizations, and a leadership that was divided along some historic fault lines.
The only path forward was to convene the leaders and see if they were ready to explore a collaborative movement with a unified voice. Trust for Learning acted as a neutral convenor to facilitate this complex bridge-building process.They proceeded to make a focused and strategic investment in a small group of stakeholders — later to be known as the Montessori Leaders Collaborative (MLC).
As of June 2014, this diverse group (which had never met all together prior to the MLC) had met in person seven times to envision collectively for the future. By the end, they had launched an important dialogue, with the stage set for a respectful discussion and exploration of mutual interest, and a future-focused environment that acknowledged the past, but was not limited by this history.
In a few short years, this investment yielded outcomes that many had considered impossible — a network of constructive relationships and a collaborative, strategic agenda that would raise all ships in a growing and strengthening Montessori movement.
The convenings supported by Trust for Learning encouraged them to think big for the first time, as well as to establish trust in the idea of working together on collaborative projects.
Outcome #1 — The Trust created a safe space from which the MLC could arise, from a very tentative first meeting to a productive, ongoing community.
Outcome #2 — With skilled facilitation and guidance, the MLC defined a series of long-term strategic program goals to bring a collective vision to fruition, in areas such as, Research, Early Childhood Education, Communications & Advocacy and Teacher Training.
Outcome #3 — On July 31, 2013, the MLC entered into a formal collaborative agreement that set out the terms of engagement for how the group was going to strive for achieving its collective vision of “re-imagining education to meet the needs of our children through the implementation of high-quality Montessori.”
Outcome #4 — Montessori is attracting increased interest from funders as a quality education model.
Outcome #5 — Building a cohesive collaborative of Montessori leaders, supported by a separate collaborative of funders, resulted in a significant return on a relatively modest investment.
The articulation of a shared vision and commitment by all participants, including the organizations that were perceived to be the root of the historic divide, was unprecedented.
Trust for Learning’s modest investment in the Montessori Leaders Collaborative has produced extraordinary results: a 100-year old educational approach now looks and thinksmore like a movement in the United States – and they are now well equipped to lead confidently and collaboratively in the exploding field early childhood education field.
PAST AND PRESENT MEMBERS OF THE MONTESSORI LEADERS COLLABORATIVE As of June 2014
Bonnie Beste, Executive Director, Association Montessori Internationale USA
Jackie Cossentino, Senior Associate, National Center for Montessori in the Public Sector
Sharon Damore, Co-Founder, Montessori Public Policy Initiative.
Jennifer Davidson, Executive Director, Montessori Northwest
Stephen Hughes, Researcher, Paediatric Neuropsychologist, AMI Global Research Director
David Kahn, Director, North American Montessori Teachers’ Association
Jacquie Maughan, Board President, North American Montessori Teachers’ Association
John Moncure, President, Montessori Educational Programs International
Molly O’Shaughnessy, Trainer and Board member, Association Montessori Internationale, Global
Rebecca Pelton, Executive Director, Montessori Accreditation Council for Teacher Education
Joyce Pickering, Board President, American Montessori Society
Sue Pritzker, Chair, Montessori Administrators Association
Tim Seldin, President, Montessori Foundation
Richard Ungerer, Executive Director, American Montessori Society
Trevor Eissler, Author, Montessori Madmen, Parent Advocate
Janet McDonnell, Past Board Member and Trainer, Association Montessori International USA
Virginia McHugh, Past Executive Director Association Montessori Internationale USA
Mark Powell, Montessori teacher/advocate
Ginny Riga, Independent Montessori Consultant
Andre Roberfroid, President, Association Montessori Internationale, Global (Amsterdam)
John Snyder, writer, Past Chair, Montessori Elementary Alumni Association