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What Can Montessori Teach Public Education?

OPB | Aug. 2, 2013 12:35 p.m. | Updated: Sept. 11, 2013 1:16 a.m.

Portland is hosting the 2013 International Montessori Congress this weekend. The Congress is held every four years, but this is the first time in over four decades that it’s been held in an American city. Some argue that the Montessori philosophy is incompatible with the way America has structured its public education system, but a handful of schools are trying to make it work.

One of the major differences between public education and Montessori schools is Montessori schools don’t grade and tend to downplay, or totally avoid, standardized testing. These differences, along with a pressure to conform to state standards can be a point of friction for Montessori schools trying to operate in public districts. But the schools also focus on character education, which is something critics of the American education system point out as a blindspot in how we educate our kids. That approach has led some public districts across the country to try to adopt Montessori systems in their schools.

Oregon is home to four charter Montessori schools (in addition to many more private Montessoris). What are the barriers to implementing Montessori education in a public school? What can either pedagogical system learn from each other?

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