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I am a parent of a 2nd grader at Urban Montessori Charter School. Let me add to the reviews from earlier in the year -- the honeymoon is over. I think that the lack of a Montessorri background for many of the kids has made for a very challenging environment. The school tried to prepare for this by having 5 half-day orientation sessions. This was not enough. I have witnessed regular behavior problems in my child's classroom which never seem to get addressed. The Executive Director has informed us that she is leaving after this year. The school is having financial difficulties and the Board -- well meaning parents who have children in the school -- will have to figure out how to handle that, as well as the various other administrative issues the school is dealing with. We are researching other schools as of today. UMCS disappointed mom
We are considering Urban Montessori for my daughter entering next year for kindergarten. I understand some families left after the first year, and I would me most interested in learning the reasons for the decisions to leave. If you were a family that left Urban Montessori, would you be willing to share why? Thank you kinder mama
I do, however, know parents who have chosen not to stay at UMCS, and I'm happy to share some of the reasons they gave me.
I don't think UMCS is the perfect school for everyone. And I think everyone should have a good idea about the character of a school as a part of making the decision to send their children there. UMCS has a definite character and quality to it. It is intentionally inclusive (one of the most ethnically and socio-economically diverse schools I have ever even seen in this area) and that means that, especially in this first year, there has been the challenge of integrating some of the most diverse backgrounds you could imagine into a new culture that promotes freedom with responsibility. This is definitely a challenge but one I think the school is up to. UMCS is also working diligently at being a real Montessori school (not a Montes-sortof version) I think that Montessori education can work for every child, but it may not work for every family.
Let me clarify that there are not that many who have left compared to those who have stayed, and we currently have a waiting list for people who wish to enroll. However, the reasons for those who have not chosen to stay at UMCS relate to these two qualities of the school. The first, let's be honest, may have to do with parents who want a free private school or another option of a hills school. Which this is not. It is an amazing school with an immense resource pool ( lots of active parents and fundraising) that can make you feel like it is. It is an innovative curriculum and incredibly skilled teachers. But it is not free private school. It is an inclusive environment, and the challenges that come from that are not present in private schools.
The second reason families have articulated to me is that they were not liking the Montessori education. They thought it was ''not rigorous enough'' or not academically focused enough. Montessori education is holistic in that the skills of owning your own work, creativity, collaboration and socialization (like the skills needed in the real world) are as much the focus, as math and reading. When the school started, none of the parents had been able to take a school tour, so many of them had no prior experience or knowledge of what Montessori looked like. No homework? Small group instruction instead of class lessons? Why isn't my kid producing reams of worksheets? Some families are attracted to a school that is more military style (sorry I don't mean to make that sound bad, but I can't think of another word). I could tell that for the first few months there was more emphasis on socializing the kids and norming them in the classrooms than academics. That doesn't mean that academics weren't happening, it means that they were balanced with other needs. I won't lie, this made me nervous because I am a person who values rigorous education. I hunkered down and decided to give the school a chance to norm and to really give the Montessori system a shot. A month into school my child came home having multiplied for the first time - and enjoying it because they were working with a material they called the stamp game. My other child came home excited about learning geography because of the materials they were working with - a light box on which they were tracing huge maps and watercoloring different countries - how cool. So that's when I was hooked. Even as I know the school is continuing to work to build culture I am confident my children are working up to grade level - doing multiplication/division, learning grammar, earth science/zoology, and geography, etc. But more than that they are really loving their learning. Owning their work. They are working on making friends, and there is a diverse group of wonderful kids for them to be friends with.
I absolutely love UMCS, and am passionate about the schools mission, which to be frank I think is bigger than any individual students experience. It's about bringing the amazing opportunity of alternative learning to a broad population of our town. Having said that, my kids (I have two at the school) are having a wonderful experience. UMCS Parent
We are so thrilled with our daughter's elementary school, Urban Montessori. It is a free public charter school located near Mills college (in a quiet residential neighborhood). The school is in its first year and it has already done some amazing things! We've been there 5 months and we feel that our daughter has really blossomed. Since each child moves at their own pace with individual projects, there are no limits for how fast a bright child can learn. Our daughter is already doing fractions in kindergarden! There is a lot of excitement in the school about creating a brand new, better type of learning experience for students which allows each to learn at their own pace, intuitively and freely following their interests within a structured framework. The school follows the Montessori method which has been around for 100 years and has given rise to some of the most successful entepreneurs of our time. It is also incorporting design thinking principles---definitely a concept which will be essential for future leaders. The teachers, principal and staff are extremely dedicated and the after school program has amazing variety of creative and physical activities. Diversity is highly valued, as is a peaceful environment. I highly recommend this school.
Re: Hands-on, no-homework private/charter elementary?
Urban Montessori is the school you want then. A public charter school in Oakland, the school was founded on Montessori/Design Thinking philosophies. Hands on, project based with no homework is pretty much the exact model of the school. For more information visit http://www.urbanmontessori.org/about/our-mission UMCS parent
I would love to hear how Urban Montessori Charter is going in its first month and what thoughts anyone has on this school. My child has just started kindergarten at a top-performing Oakland public school but I'm already wondering if the high-pressure, cookie-cutter setting is one she'll really thrive in. She loved learning so much until now.... Please share any insights into where UMC is at, and appears to be headed. Thanks so much!! -Want my child to love school!
For a brand new school, it's incredibly well organized. Yes, there are glitches-- information isn't always easy to get, and they're still trying to figure out their best practices-- but far fewer than I expected for a start-up. Everyone I've encountered has been friendly and supportive: from parents to staff to teachers.
The location stinks-- it's way out by Mills College-- but they won't be there forever, they're going to outgrow it soon, and they're hoping for a more BART central, Uptown-ish location.
At this point, I have no regrets, and I'd tell anyone looking for a 'different' approach to school to try it! I have a feeling in 3 years it'll be like NOCCS, and everyone will be desperate to get in. New Montessori Mama
Last year my daughter was in kindergarten at a different first year charter school. I can tell you that the staff at Urban Montessori is doing a much better job at dealing with the inevitable issues that come up when starting a new school. I believe this is a school that will continue to improve over time. I am very impressed by the teaching staff and the administration. They have a very ambitious mission and they seem to be on track to achieve it. happy UMCS mom
I won't deny that there have been some hiccups regarding communication to parents, but this is a start up public school with limited funding so I am patient and working hard to correct this issue as a volunteer.
I will fully disclose that my family has been involved in the start up of the school so i have tried to focus on my child's progress and comments to me. Christina
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