In Kids & Family

A new pathway should help Montessori schools overcome a shortage of trained teachers. (PHOTO: Milwaukee Public Schools)

Montessori pathway is a silver lining in the education omnibus

Amid the expansion of taxpayer funding for private and religious schools and a plan that potentially privatizes public schools, the education omnibus amendment to the state budget that passed the legislature last week and was signed by the governor this week does have one upside, according to Phil Dosmann of the Wisconsin Montessori Association.

The WMA managed to get an alternative teacher-licensing track included in the omnibus that allows graduates from a program accredited by the Montessori Accreditation Council for Teacher Education, (MACTE) to apply for a Wisconsin state teaching license to teach in a public or charter Montessori school.

According to a WMA statement, trained Montessori teachers must hold a bachelor's degree and complete a three-credit special education course. Additionally, the candidate must pass "any standardized examinations required by the State Superintendent for a license to teach the same education levels and subjects issued in accordance with existing state law regarding teacher license."

The new pathway means that teachers no longer need to obtain an education degree in addition to their Montessori training.

An adequate supply of Montessori-trained teachers has long been an obstacle to expanding successful Montessori schools in the state. Milwaukee's public Montessori schools – of which there are seven, counting Highland Community School, a school chartered by MPS – is the largest in the country, and perhaps the world.

Many of the schools are among the highest-achieving in the district.

"This really solves the teacher shortage in a big way," Dosmann said. "A lot of people were reluctant to spend $12,000 on Montessori training – which is as rigorous as an education degree – and then another $11,000 or $12,000 on a degree program at a university or MTEC. And they felt like they were going through the motions."

The candidates will also be mentored by an experienced Montessori-trained teacher during their first year in the classroom.

"The mentoring component was really important," said Dosmann, "and I really pushed hard for that."

Dosmann and lobbyist Sarah Archibald, a former aide to Sen. Luther Olsen, met with legislators to explain the issues and express their support for the new pathway.

"Senator Olsen who was very supportive of what we wanted to do," Dosmann said.

The result is that Wisconsin is just one of six states that now recognizes a MACTE credential for a state-licensing pathway, said Dosmann, a retired long-time Montessori teacher who also served as principal at Craig, Maryland Avenue and Howard Avenue Montessori Schools in Milwaukee. The other states are Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Ohio and South Carolina.

"It is a bit bittersweet," said Dosmann, "as we had no idea the (Sen. Alberta) Darling motions would come along and our motion would be part of the omnibus. We started this process back in March shortly after the WMA conference, where we announced our intentions. However, we kept this quiet as more controversy began to occur around the Darling takeover bid."

A MACTE accredited AMS graduate Montessori program is located at UW-River Falls and an AMI Montessori training institute is located on Milwaukee's South Side.

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