Montessori model on tap for Frayser school


  • More than 475 public Montessori programs exist in the country now with more than 280 of them created since 2000.
  • The growth, experts say, is a direct response to the results-driven and discipline-heavy culture that’s grown out of the past decade’s “reform” movement.
  • The model allows students to chose subjects that interest them most for hours at a time with gentle guidance from teachers. In mainstream Montessori models, classroom lectures, tests and grades are avoided. Students instead use a series of self-correcting puzzles or materials that are intricately connected.
Students at Evergreen Montessori School work on a lesson together.

Here’s how Bob Nardo envisions fixing one of Tennessee’s worst-performing schools.

Children move about a carefully constructed classroom working with hands-on math and literacy materials for two to three hours at a time. They are sometimes alone, sometimes with a handful of their peers. Teachers observe and periodically give small group or individual lessons. Discipline is built around “grace and courtesy,” where children are encouraged to channel their energy into “purposeful movement.”

Nardo’s Libertas School of Memphis will become the first Montessori charter school in Tennessee, if the Achievement School District gives it the go-ahead to take over either Brookmeade or Hawkins Mill elementary schools in Frayser next year.  Nardo hopes that the Montessori model, wildly popular in white affluent communities, can take a majority-black school in one of the poorest sections of  Memphis to the top performing quartile in the state within five years.

“Let’s take the quality of an elite private school education and make it available as a free public school,”said Nardo, a former ASD adminstrator.  “We’ve treated education like it’s mass production and it just isn’t. Montessori is transformative, it’s personalized, it’s rich and it’s rigorous.”

The Libertas teaching style, culture, student grouping, and curriculum diverge markedly from the highly structured turnaround efforts the local, state, and federal governments have poured millions of dollars into in recent years. In many ways, it also differs from most Montessori schools, by incorporating some more traditionally structured elements. These disparate elements of the Libertas model have never all been combined in one school before.


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