RE-1 ends Montessori
The Roaring Fork School District disbanded alternative education in Carbondale Elementary School last night, saying the school’s Montessori program has led to an insurmountable rift within the academically struggling school.The unanimous decision by the district board, which will be enacted next school year, is a potential victory for a group of parents attempting to start a new Montessori school in Carbondale next year. The new school, if it is approved by the state, will likely see a boost in enrollment due to the closure of Carbondale Elementary’s Montessori program.The board’s decision comes after a contentious, four-hour board meeting last month in which district officials said the Montessori program may be partially responsible for poor test scores and ethnic segregation at Carbondale Elementary. Montessori education, which stresses loose grade demarcations and conceptual learning, has been offered for six years as an optional program for Carbondale Elementary students. District Superintendent Fred Wall, who urged the board to vote for the program’s dissolution, said Montessori education has brought tension to the school and has sharply divided teachers and administrators there. On one side are the traditional educators struggling to meet a state-mandated plan to improve scores on standardized assessment tests. On the other is the school’s Montessori educators who believe the state plan to improve test scores goes against the “pure” Montessori tradition.Carbondale Elementary is in its third year of probation from the state due to poor test scores.”We’ve had concerns about the pace of learning and the unequal distribution of Anglos and Latinos in Montessori, but that’s not why we should disband the program,” Wall told the board. “The school now has a clear, focused plan for improvement and that plan is at odds with the Montessori program.”Speaking by phone yesterday afternoon, assistant superintendent Judy Haptonstall said Montessori teachers do not oppose the disbandment of the program and agree that Montessori education is incompatible with the district’s improvement plans. At last night’s meeting, no teachers or members of the public spoke against ending the program.A representative for the Ross Steering Committee, a group of 12 Carbondale parents applying to charter a new Montessori elementary school through the state, said the board’s decision will likely boost enrollment if the new school goes forward.”We have known this [decision] was going to happen since last spring. It’s one of the reasons we went to charter [the school] in the first place,” spokeswoman Carolyn Fisher said. “We are pretty confident there are a lot of parents out there who want Montessori education. The district has not always done a great job of educating kids in Carbondale and we have a different way.”The Ross Steering Committee will meet with the state chartering institute this month; a decision on their application is expected later this spring.Carbondale Elementary School Principal Karen Olson told the board that the end of the Montessori program does not mean the end of diverse or alternative programs at the school.”Because of our focus this year on improving reading, writing and math, we need to take a deep breath and look at bringing back some of the richness and diversity that this community embraces,” she said.Olson did not elaborate on potential new programs at the school.Eben Harrell’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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