The Montessori program at Birch Lane Elementary School has always been conceived of as a program that would serve the entire Davis community. Selection is by lottery, which should theoretically result in a student body that reflects the demographics of the district as a whole, assuming that the pool of students applying to the program reflects the district as a whole. However, data presented at recent school board meetings suggest this is not the case and that certain segments of the community are underrepresented in the Montessori program.
There are many reasons why this may be the case. Certainly, some parents have greater access than others to transportation and greater flexibility in their work schedules, which allow them to be able transport their child to a program that might be outside their home neighborhood. This is a real structural issue that deserves attention and a solution.
In addition, it is likely also the case that many parents may not understand what the Montessori program is and how it may benefit their child. This is particularly troublesome given that evaluations of Montessori programs have documented the benefits of Montessori for both minority students and non-minority students. For example, Dawson (1987) found that black and Hispanic students enrolled in a Montessori magnet program in a Houston school district exhibited significantly higher test performance than both the test norms and the district means.
On Tuesday, March 19, Birch Lane Elementary will host an informational meeting at 7 p.m. for parents of incoming kindergartners who are interested in learning more about the Montessori program. If you are a teacher, a parent, a caregiver or just a member of the community who wants to see enrollments in the district’s choice programs better reflect the community, you can have an immediate impact by getting the word out about the Montessori informational meeting.
Increasing the diversity of the students who apply to the Montessori program is the quickest and most efficient way of ensuring that the Montessori program truly serves the entire Davis community.