Friends of Montessori (FOM) advocates that our supported public Montessori schools keep their magnet status along with the funding and transportation associated. Montessori is best described as a magnet, as defined by the federal government, numerous national and international educational organizations, and by HISD up until this point. It is an award-winning program and a success story of HISD, turning an IR campus (Wilson) and under enrolled campus (GOMM) into two of the most successful magnet programs in the district. GOMM and Wilson have approximately 60% magnet transfer students and over two thousand students on their waitlists. Further, the recent feeder pattern expansion of the program as a pathway within Waltrip High School underscores the increasing demand for the program at all levels. With the district discussing ways to market to the public, HISD would be better served by fully supporting these two successful Montessori programs and a growing feeder pattern option. These programs have resulted in academic success for students and reflect the diversity of Houston. Montessori magnets that are supported by HISD magnet funding and transportation are accessible and equitable and would allow Montessori for ALL in the district.
What do our Montessori schools give HISD?
Money – Before offering a Montessori program, Garden Oaks Montessori Magnet (GOMM) was a declining neighborhood school facing potential closure and Wilson was an Improvement Required School. IR schools cost the district $60 million a year. Turning around a failing school through implementing a Montessori program is less expensive.
National recognition – GOMM is the largest PreK- 8th grade Montessori school, public or private, in the nation. The Montessori pathway at Waltrip High School is the first public Montessori high school option in the state of Texas. GOMM is in the process of attaining accreditation with national organization including, International Montessori Council and MSA. Our programs are recipients of federal grants and awards.
Prior Investments – Our school district has already invested millions of dollars into these programs through the Magnet School Assistance Program Grant, community grants, and the investments of bond monies to design schools to house Montessori programs in our district.
Who will primarily lose from this proposal?
Our children – Not only will our children be forced out of their Montessori education, the loss of bussing means that many of our children could not continue at their schools. An unintended outcome of this effort to achieve equity will be a segregated school district where students are walled off from other quadrants.
GOMM current enrollment: 1% Asian, 5% African American, 56% Hispanic, 5% multiracial, 32% white
GOMM magnet transfers: 6% African American, 64% Hispanic, 25% white
Wilson current enrollment: 7% Asian, 6% African American, 42% Hispanic, 6% multiracial, 39% white
Wilson magnet transfers: 6% Asian, 9% African American, 45 % Hispanic, 37% white, 4% multiracial
Montessori pathway at Waltrip: 90% minority enrollment (program has yet to publish official statistics due to its length of existence)
Our families – About 50% qualify for free and reduce lunch (used to indicate low socioeconomic status).
What will HISD lose if these Montessori programs are defunded?
Future grants – GOMM received $2.6 million of a total 10 million grant from the federal Magnet School Assistance Program with the promise that once the grant money ran out, HISD would continue to sustain these programs. Wilson was completely funded by HISD and the help of fundraising efforts of Friends of Montessori. If HISD undercuts these programs, it reduces the district’s chances to receive future highly-competitive grants.
Bond money – Taxpayers voted to invest $28 million in rebuilding Garden Oaks and $25 million to renovate Wilson, for a total of $53 million in bond money, to give these schools world class facilities designed for the needs of Montessori. GOMM’s new building is set to be complete in August 2018 for move in for the 2018-2019 school year. This proposal subverts the intention of taxpayer money and may affect future votes for similar tax dollar increases.
Families and taxpayers – Montessori draws students into HISD from all parts of Houston and from outside the district. Should these programs be underfunded and closed, many families will relocate outside the district or choose private options.
What do Montessori schools give our children?
Peace education – The necessity of this curriculum is evidenced by our current political climate. Additionally, our schools have some of the lowest disciplinary referrals of any school in HISD.
Strong academics – Montessori includes differentiated learning that meets students at their individual needs. By using materials, students have a concrete foundation of concepts that allow them greater academic success.
Whole Child – The Montessori curriculum teaches students self-motivation, time-management, global advocacy, social justice, self advocacy, self discipline, and group/soft skills, all critical to future success.
21st Century Learning – All of the requirements of HISD’s goal for 21st Century Schools were developed in the turn of the previous century. Contrary to popular belief, the Montessori method was developed for the children from the slums in Italy who were thought not to have the mental capacity to be teachable. Montessori was never meant to be a school only for children whose families can afford private school.
Why does Montessori require extra funds to exist?
Montessori is an educational method with program requirements mandated by national Montessori organizations. The National Center for Montessori in the Public Sector’s Essential Elements of Successful Montessori Schools in the Public Sector include, but are not limited to the following:
Montessori Materials – Designed by Maria Montessori these materials teach core lessons, are self-correcting, and isolate concepts for mastery. Materials for each classroom cost up to $18,000, but are durable and used repeatedly over many years. These unique materials also reduce the consumable demand and cost because the nature of the instruction is different.
Assistants – As a STEM program require computers and art programs require art teachers, Montessori programs requires assistants. Assistants are mandated by all leading national Montessori organizations. With 22-25 students in a classroom working on 22-25 different tasks and the teacher leading small group lessons, the assistant is necessary to manage the classroom to ensure safety and student progress.
Credentialed Montessori Teachers and Administrators – Montessori credentials require extensive training. This training is required for a Montessori program with fidelity and required by the accreditation we are seeking.
Why should Montessori be considered a magnet?
The federal government identifies our HISD Montessori programs as magnets and awarded the grants from the federal Magnet School Assistance Program. The national organization Magnet Schools of America has awarded GOMM the Magnet School of Distinction multiple years and this has been lauded in marketing by HISD as to the success of these magnets. Montessori is a separate and distinct delivery system and follow exact requirements and guidelines as established by national and international organizations that establish the fundamental of authentic Montessori in public schools for credentialing purposes. The Montessori method is the foundation of the entire school organization, structure and instruction for the campus. This magnet theme is the basis for all decisions made on the campus as there are requirements that define the parameters of Montessori that influence each and every campus decision.
Finally, as frustrated and concerned as we may be, may we all follow the guide of Maria Montessori in expressing our concerns. Montessori promotes peace, respect, and empathy through differences, and we need to model this for our children as we advocate for them.