Our Classrooms

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Are teachers credentialed?AMS Certificate An accredited Montessori Training Center certifies all lead teachers (guides) at Undercroft Montessori School. Guides are hired on the basis of their love of teaching and children, their years of experience, their commitment to excellence, and their ability to be team players. The majority of our faculty has several years of experience and we are proud of our extremely low turnover.

Are teachers regularly evaluated? By whom?
Teachers practice self-evaluation on a daily basis. Peer coaching is encouraged, and teaching teams work together to solve problems. The adminstrator conducts regular observations and a formal evaluation each year of each staff member. Consultants are also brought in to evaluate the program as a whole.

What is the average class size?
The average class size is twenty-one students. It is important to remember, especially in the primary classrooms, that each class has a balance of ages. While a classroom of 20 four-year-olds might be difficult, a classroom of 7 three-year-olds, 7 four-year-olds, and 7 five-year-olds is easily managed. Dr. Montessori recommended class sizes of 25 to 35 students to better facilitate peer tutoring and grouping.

What is the teacher/student ratio?
There are two adults in each class of twenty-one students. Thus, the ratio is approximately 1 to 11. In most classes both adults are Montessori certified guides.  In the primary classrooms, serving children ages 3-6, the youngest children usually go home or go to the nap room at 11:30, after which the ratio drops to approximately 1 to 7.

Are there arts and physical education programs?_M2D0417
Undercroft has a rich arts program with a full time fine arts specialist, as well as specialists teaching music, steel drums, rock band, physical education and Spanish. Primary students receive music, art and spanish instruction. Elementary and middle school students receive fine arts, music, physical education and spanish instruction. Additionally, upper elementary students receive weekly swimming lessons and steel drum band instruction, and middle school students enjoy rock band electives.

What curriculum or method of instruction does Undercroft use?
Undercroft Montessori School has utilized the Montessori method of instruction since it was founded in 1964. The elementary classrooms were added in 1981. Dr. Maria Montessori (1870-1952) is credited with the development of the open classroom, individualized education, manipulative learning materials, and programmed instruction. A key component of Montessori is learning respect for self and others. What later became known as the “Montessori Method” was derived from Dr. Montessori ‘s observation and work with Rome’s most disadvantaged children. She often said, “I studied my children, and they taught me how to teach.” Montessori’s prime productive period lasted from the opening of the first Children’s House in 1907 until the mid-1920′s. During this time, she continued her study of children and developed a vastly expanded curriculum and methodology. Montessori schools were established throughout Europe and North America, and Dr. Montessori gave up her medical practice to devote all her energies to advocating the rights and intellectual potential of all children. Nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1948, Dr. Montessori was acknowledged as the world’s leading educator, but today there is growing consensus that many of her ideas were decades ahead of their time. Educators trained in the Montessori method continue to observe children and expand the curriculum begun by Dr. Montessori over 90 years ago.

Is religious instruction part of the curriculum?
Undercroft celebrates a diverse, multi-cultural environment. It was founded as a non-sectarian school. If religious discussion occurs, it is in the context of a book or historic or cultural subject being studied. Children are taught to be respectful of others, including others’ religious views. Peace education is a significant component of our curriculum.

_M2D0391How are students assessed, and how do parents get results?
Undercroft utilizes an observational and portfolio assessment style. Guides are trained in the art of observation to assess students through constant observations and interactions. After being given individualized instruction on a lesson, at his/her own pace, a student masters a skill, demonstrates the skill, then moves on to the next portion of the curriculum. Students are not given grades such as A, B, or C since each child is compared to his/her self, not to the group as a whole. The progress reports are done in a narrative fashion and explain the concepts explored and mastered.

The portfolio assessment is presented to parents/guardians at parent/guide conferences that are held two to three times per year. Additional conferences are held throughout the year at the request of the parent or the guide. Undercroft strongly encourages parents to observe in their child’s classroom for at least twenty minutes twice per school year. At Undercroft we feel that it is developmentally inappropriate to give standardized testing to children before their third year in lower elementary. Standardized testing is considered merely an additional tool that supplements a guide’s yearlong observations of each child.

How do students score on national tests?
Since we believe that the scores on standardized tests are merely a snapshot of a portion of a whole child’s abilities on one particular day, we do not publish our national (Stanford Standardized Test) test scores. Parents receive only their individual child’s test results. However, it should be noted that our median test scores tend to run 2 – 4 grade levels above current placement. The higher the level completed in the Montessori program, the higher the scores tend to run in comparison to other children.

What provisions are made for gifted children?
The Montessori method is geared to individual children. The child advances at his/her own pace through each strand of the curriculum. For example, if the materials contained within his/her classroom no longer challenge a child, materials are borrowed from the next level (such as lower elementary for a primary student). Also, for example, a child who is excellent at math may need to spend extra time in the language area to read fluently. Thus, the child’s entire academic needs can be met while the child gets his/her social needs met by remaining with peers.

How does the school serve students with special educational needs?                                                                                                                               The prepared environment, with its full range of developmental options serving a multi-age group, givent the number of hands-on, open ended explorations implicit to the materials, does accomodate a wide range of different intelligences as well as personal learning styles. A speech pathologist and reading specialist are available on campus to provide additional support should parents choose it for their children based on faculty recommendations. Faculty also work closely with childrens’ doctors and specialists to incorporate unique methods for that child into the classroom.

What opportunities are there for parents to become involved in the school?
Undercroft works hard to develop close relationships with families. Parents have many opportunities to get to know their child’s guides well and participate in a variety of class, level and school-wide activities throughout the year.  Social gatherings allow families to get to know the other families in their child’s class. Parent education events are hosted throughout the year to help parents understand the Montessori approach and curriculum. School-wide events, like Fall Festival, Folks Day, and Earth Day celebrations are great occaisions to enjoy with your children at school. There are many opportunities for parents to volunteer, and the Community Building Committee (similar to a PTO) organizes activities and volunteers throughout the year. As a non-profit organization with a governing Board of Directors, parents are members of the organization,  and as such, are welcome to attend Board meetings and participate in annual elections of the directors.


How does the school communicate with parents?
is that parents communicate regularly with their child about his/her school experience, that they read the newsletters and notices sent home and that they participate in the parent-teacher conferences. The school needs to be kept informed of changes in a child’s home life that might affect his/her performance in the classroom. The parents are the primary teachers of a child and we consider it a team effort to educate the child. Beyond the minimum requirements listed above, parents can become involved at any level they desire. We have parents who volunteer by offering weekly cooking, reading or fitness sessions in the classrooms. Parents can substitute as assistants in the classroom, drive for field trips, help out in the office, coordinate fund-raisers or special functions, serve on the Board of Directors, beautify the school grounds or repair books in the library. The list is nearly limitless and all assistance is greatly appreciated.