Fast Facts: Public Montessori Schools

Public Montessori education is an option for preschool through high school students attending all types of publicly funded schools—neighborhood, magnet, and charter.

Public Montessori programs range in size from single Early Childhood classrooms to school-wide Elementary or High School programs. Some operate as a “school-within-a-school,” sharing a building with other classrooms that have a different instructional approach.

By the Numbers

Montessori Schools in the U.S.

  • 5,000 total Montessori schools
    • 500 public Montessori schools
    • 4,500 private Montessori schools
  • 10% of total Montessori schools are public

Public Schools and the American Montessori Society

  • 120 public Montessori schools are members of AMS (membership is voluntary)
  • 65% increase in AMS public school membership, 2011 – 2018
  • 16 AMS public member schools are AMS-accredited (AMS accreditation is a rigorous, voluntary process)


Core Components

The American Montessori Society recognizes 5 core components as essential to all quality Montessori programs, both public and private: properly trained Montessori teachers, multiage classrooms, use of Montessori materials, child-directed work, and uninterrupted work periods.

State and National Standards

Montessori public schools must meet the same standards as other public schools; they receive a state “report card,” are accountable for their students’ achieving adequate yearly progress, and comply with other federal education regulations.

Public Montessori school students are required to take the same standardized tests as students in traditional public schools.

Teacher Certification

Public Montessori schools guarantee that Montessori classroom teachers are licensed by the state at the level they are teaching in addition to being certified by an accredited Montessori teacher education program.

Barriers to Implementation

  • Lack of knowledge about basics of Montessori philosophy and method on the part of principals and/or other school or district administrators
  • Emphasis on state standards vs. following the Montessori curriculum
  • Focus on state-mandated testing, which can compromise the character of the Montessori program
  • Pressure to use extrinsic rewards, especially in schools with both Montessori and non-Montessori classes
  • Inability of schools to be released or exempted from state or district regulations in order to implement practices aligned with Montessori


Important Dates

1907: Dr. Maria Montessori opens her first school. It is a public Montessori school in San Lorenzo, Italy.

1960: Dr. Nancy McCormick Rambusch founds the American Montessori Society.

1967: Hilltop School in Reading, Ohio, becomes the first public Montessori school in the U.S.

2003: Bunche Montessori School in Fort Wayne, Indiana, becomes AMS accredited, making it the first public Montessori school to achieve this distinction.

2010: Clark Montessori Junior and High School, an AMS-accredited public Montessori school in Cincinnati, Ohio, becomes 1 of 6 semifinalists—and then 1 of 3 finalists—in President Barack Obama’s “Race to the Top Commencement Challenge.” (Thousands of schools applied nationwide.)

2012: AMS founds the National Center for Montessori in the Public Sector (NCMPS) to support the growth of public Montessori in the U.S.

2013: AMS and the Association Montessori International/USA collaborate to form the Montessori Public Policy Initiative, with a vision of ensuring a policy landscape in which children of all ages have access to authentic Montessori education. 

2015: AMS recognizes the NCMPS as an independent nonprofit organization.

2017: Public school membership in AMS reaches an all-time high.