Frequently Asked Questions
- What is a charter school?
- How did this particular charter school come about?
- What is the Montessori method?
- Why did we choose Montessori?
- How do families work together in this school community? How much parental involvement is required?
- How will this school be different from traditional public schools?
- How is this school similar to traditional public schools?
- Do children learn the traditional subjects and Common Core?
- Won't classes be chaotic with so many children working on different projects?
- What about logistics?
- Why were classes smaller for the upper elementary class than for the lower in the early years?
- If we win the lottery, how long do we have to decide or respond?
- How do I enroll my child and how does the lottery work?
- Where do I find more information about Montessori?
- Who is MMCI?
A charter school is a public school, free and open to all district students of the right grade level. It is financed by public tax dollars and authorized by the local school board, but usually conceived and run by a non-profit corporation of parents and/or teachers. It is accountable to the local school board. Some bureaucratic regulations are waived (the degree varies by state) - to enable the sponsors to experiment with different academic programs, schedules, etc.
The founders of this charter school are a group of committed parents who worked for two years with the local Board of Education to provide a public alternative to traditional school settings. Because no one educational approach is successful for all children, we set out to expand the educational options available in Frederick County.
In a nutshell, the Montessori classroom is a prepared environment in which a multi-aged group of children self-select their "work" during long periods (2-3 hrs) of uninterrupted time. Children work independently, in pairs, or in small groups of their choosing. They work at their own level and pace, with as much repetition as needed. There are no curriculum ceilings holding fast learners back, and children who require more time to master a concept or skill do not have to move on before they are ready. The Montessori method of teaching reading is multi-sensorial and rigorously phonetic. The mathematics program includes a graded series of manipulatives that allow children to master concepts in a concrete form before moving to the abstract. Particularly in the early grades, each activity or project is designed for self-education and is self-correcting; that is, the educational activities can be done independently and the materials make a child's errors obvious. Therefore, the learning process is within the child's control.
Modern research in the fields of neuroscience, cognitive science, child development and linguistics has strongly supported Montessori's methods. Studies have shown that children attending Montessori preschools on average are one to two years ahead in learning to read and write and in learning math skills. The Montessori method has a 100-year history of being a successful educational program for the vast majority of children, including many who do not thrive in a traditional classroom. Many of the Founders of this school have had experience with Montessori education in the past, and the research results confirmed their personal experiences.
At any school, a high correlation exists between the parents' involvement and their child's success. But at our Montessori charter school, parental involvement is not just important for the individual child, but for the success of the school as a whole. Given our funding constraints, we must rely on volunteers for support of many functions in the school, both inside and outside the classroom. Every parent and every staff member is a member of the non-profit corporation that sponsors the school and from which the board is elected that will govern the school. In other words, it really is the parents', teachers' and children's school. The families who founded this school formed a community, making new friends, developing a common vision, and working together to make the school a reality. Then in the spring and summer before the opening of the school in 2002, new families, chosen by lottery, joined the founders and threw themselves into all the work of actually opening the school and creating a nurturing learning environment for our children.
This involves more than the typical PTA-style fundraisers. Parents are contributing in a broad range of ways: helping to collect books and organize the library; offering presentations or short courses in classes; editing the school newsletter; monitoring lunch and recess times; advertising for, recruiting and interviewing new faculty; serving on the governing council; developing and delivering the art curriculum; assisting teachers as requested in the classroom; installing computers and developing our website; etc., etc. We ask that each family pledge 30 hours of volunteer service a year to the school (10 for single parent families), and our experience is that many families give two to ten times that much to make this a truly exceptional school.
Can I donate money instead of doing volunteer hours? We encourage donations of any kind. Monetary donations go a long way to support our community. However, becoming involved on a more personal level is a great way to get to know other parents, staff, and students and to feel like part of our dynamic community. Give as you are able.
Here are some highlights:
- Classroom design. You won't see rows of desks, even in the upper elementary classrooms. Instead, there are study centers for different subject areas, clusters of student-sized tables, and open areas for work on the floor. Students will move freely around the room, choosing their own resources to pursue their work. They will work independently or in small groups for long uninterrupted periods of time.
- Montessori materials. In addition to books, art supplies, maps, and other resource materials, the Montessori materials include specially designed manipulatives, each of which focuses on a particular concept or skill. These materials are designed to be self-correcting so students receive immediate feedback about their understanding and proficiency.
- Teacher's role. The teacher will rarely be found talking to the whole class, but will be circulating among the students assessing their progress, or introducing them individually or in small groups to a project or task. The teacher is always looking for the moment to direct students to the next level of an activity that will enhance mastery of a particular skill or concept. Behind the scenes, the teacher is responsible for setting up the classroom environment in such a way as to challenge and entice the students, and for carefully monitoring each student's progress relative to the curriculum.
- Mastery learning at the individual's own pace. Students are not all working on the same topics or skill or moving ahead at the same rate, but following their own interests at their own pace. No child is held back to wait for the rest of the class, nor rushed on to the next concept before an earlier one is mastered. A student can easily work at a higher grade level in one subject than another.
- Teaching assistant in every classroom. Class sizes are similar to those in regular public school classrooms, but each teacher has a full-time assistant. The assistant supports the teacher in maintaining the prepared environment, introducing the use of new manipulatives, managing the room while the teacher gives the Montessori lessons, etc. Almost all our current assistants have college degrees, several have prior teaching experience, and a few have Montessori training and experience.
- Mixed grade classrooms. The Montessori classroom is designed to be a mini-community. The multi-age makeup of the group facilitates meaningful observation and exposure to advanced lessons, peer modeling, reduced competition, and the opportunity to solidify one's understanding of their material by "tutoring" others. New students enter a class that is already functioning smoothly and over the years can move up to take leadership in the group. Teachers develop a strong relationship with each child.
- Evaluation of student progress. The method of assessing student progress in the Montessori classroom is different and reflects understanding concepts and work effort; it does not involve letter or number grades. Instead, parents, students, and teachers meet together to set goals and assess progress. Because students are always testing their own skills as they work and do not proceed to the next level until they are ready, formal tests are not required, we administer Global Scholar twice a year in reading and math. We also give the PARCC test to 3rd-8th graders as required by the State of Maryland. As the children grow older, they will collect samples of their academic and creative work in a portfolio for periodic review. Current regulations require that students participate in standardized tests required by the state.
- Homework. Students spend most of their time at school actively practicing their skills and working on projects, so the need for homework is minimal.
- Volunteering. 30 hours of volunteering is expected for 2 parent family.
- Transportation. There is no bus transportation - drop off and pick up from school follows a strict agreement with the county. Parents are encouraged to study the maps and understand our restrictions.
- We don't have uniforms and follow FCPS dress code regulations.
- We have a before and after care program for Kindergarten and up.
- We follow FCPS calendar and the general policies and regulations of FCPS.
- We have breakfast and hot lunches delivered daily from FCPS food services.
- We administer PARCC assessments for grades 3-8, Global Scholar assessments for grades 2-8, KRA for kindergarten students, and informal assessments for all students.
- Parents of children not currently enrolled in FCPS will have to also complete an immunization form and a record of physical examination, provide proof of residency (i.e. current utility bill), and proof of birth for each child.
Yes. The course of study uses a comprehensive, integrated approach that ties the separate disciplines of the curriculum into studies of the physical universe, the world of nature, and the human experience. Literature, the arts, history, social issues, political science, economics, science, mathematics and the study of technology all complement one another. This integrated, interdisciplinary approach is one of Montessori's greatest strengths. We use the Montessori curriculum for instruction and follow Common Core; we align the Montessori curriculum with Common Core State Standards and ensure our students are exposed to CCSS when appropriate. Our 7th and 8th graders follow a more traditional approach and teachers follow FCPS curriculum for math, language arts, science, social studies, and Spanish I & II.
Established Montessori classrooms often surprise visitors. Students are intently concentrating on their work, speak in calm tones, and demonstrate respect for their peers' needs for space and focus. They move freely about the environment and often assist each other with their tasks. This behavior is modeled by the teacher, and encouraged by the teacher's respect for the students, clear communication of instructions, and clear expectations for proper use of the materials. The prepared environment and close observation of the individual child enables the teacher to introduce specific materials that will arouse an intense interest on the part of that child. This begins a cycle of repetition, concentration and satisfaction which leads to the development of inner discipline, self-assurance and preference for purposeful activity. It takes time to establish this cycle, and we are seeing more "Montessori behavior" as our first year proceeds.
The School opened on August 26, 2002 and was located on Rt. 26 at the intersection of Monocacy Blvd. in Frederick. In 2005 the school moved to 217 Dill Avenue (formerly the First Baptist Church) for additional space. There were 168 students in the first year and there is continued growth each year. Class structure and size include:
- 2 primary 3-6 year old classes. 3 & 4 year olds attend five half-days and Kindergarten attends full-day. The 3 & 4 year old program became a part of the public school as of the 2005-6 school year (there is no fee).
- 4 lower elementary classrooms of 25 students or less in each (grades 1 through 3 grouped together) with one teacher and one instructional assistant per classroom.
- 4 upper elementary classrooms with approx. 25 students.
- 1 middle school program (grades 7 and 8).
The county is not providing buses, but many car pools have been arranged among parents. We are happy to help you make contacts with other families to arrange transportation. Before and after school care is provided from 7 AM to 9 AM and 3:45 PM to 6 PM. Availability in future years will continue to depend on whether interested families take an active role in maintaining it.
Most Montessori schools "grow" their elementary classes by starting with Kindergartners who have had Montessori pre-school. In planning this school, it was anticipated that older students who have spent their school careers in traditional classrooms would need the most support in making the transition to the Montessori method. We are observing the students' gradual transition from expecting external control and direction to experiencing and understanding the freedom, need for self-regulation, and responsibility for one's own educational program that is inherent in the Montessori classroom.
Registration is online and available beginning in January of each year. If the number of registrations exceed the number of openings in any grade (after preference has been given to the children of founders and the siblings of children already in the school), a lottery will be held to select students and establish the order of the waiting list. Please see the Enrollment Info page for more details.
Typically we expect a prompt turnaround. When you are given a spot through the lottery, we request an acceptance or denial of the spot within a week or two (dates given in your acceptance letter). After the lottery, when we begin pulling names from the waitlist, we move to a 24-48 hour timeframe, with the understanding that weekends and holidays can affect this timeframe. Sibling and staff priority is a policy. Staff members' children have priority for enrollment. Siblings of current students have priority. Once a child is offered a spot and enrolled in MVM, any siblings move to the priority waitlist.
For more information about Montessori, start here.
Monocacy Montessori Communities, Incorporated (MMCI) is the parent organization that operates Monocacy Valley Montessori Public Charter School (MVMPCS). MMCI is a 501(c)(3), non-profit, tax-exempt membership corporation. MMCI ensures that MVMPCS is in compliance with the charter agreement MMCI has with the Frederick County Board of Education (BOE) and the budget approved by the BOE. All MVMPCS parents and staff are voting members of MMCI.