Frequently Asked Questions
1Are teachers credentialed?
All lead teachers at Undercroft Montessori School have college degrees and are certified through AMS or MACTE accredited Training Centers. Montessori teacher training is a rigorous two year process. The average tenure of our faculty is 16 years at Undercroft, and we are proud of our extremely low turnover.
2What is the typical class size?
Our typical class size is twenty-one students. It is important to remember, especially in the primary classrooms, 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.
3What is the teacher/student ratio?
There are two adults in each class of twenty-one students, thus the teacher/student ratio in each class is approximately 1 to 11. If we factor in specialists and support teachers, the school-wide teacher/student ratio is 1:7. 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 to the nap room at mid-day, after which the ratio drops to approximately 1 to 7.
4Is religious education 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.
5How are students assessed, and how do parents get results?
Students work on developing skills in all areas of the curriculum until they can demonstrate mastery. Undercroft utilizes a variety of assessments to determine whether mastery of a concept has been achieved, including observation, rubrics, portfolios, and, to a lesser degree, tests. Montessori guides are specifically trained in the art of observation as a means to assess student progress and growth. Parents receive progress reports at parent/guide conferences three times a year. In addition, interim reports are sent home at the end of each work cycle. (bi-weekly for lower elementary, monthly for upper elementary and at the end of 6 week cycles for middle school.) Nationally normed standardized tests are administered once each year from students in 3rd through 8th grades.
6What provisions are made for gifted children?
Montessori instruction is individualized, allowing children to advance through each strand of the curriculum at their own pace. Children excelling in a particular area may advance according to their ability and motivation and it is not unusual for students to work a full year or more in advance of their grade level.
7How does the school serve students with special educational needs?
The prepared environment, with its full range of developmental options serving a multi-age group, given the number of hands-on, open ended explorations implicit to the materials, accommodates a wide range of intelligences and learning styles. A learning specialist on staff serves as advisor to the guides, and assists them in making appropriate modifications and accommodations for students with learning differences. A speech and language pathologist and reading specialist are available on campus to provide additional support, should parents choose it for their children, based on faculty recommendations.
8What 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 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 occasions for families to enjoy 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.
9How does the school communicate with parents?
Guides send weekly email updates, with highlights about what is happening in the class. Class webpages are updated with pictures helping parents get a glimpse of the activity taking place in the classroom. Parent/guide conferences are scheduled three times a year, at which time progress reports and standardized test results are shared. In addition, school-wide communication includes weekly email updates; quarterly newsletters, flyers and announcements delivered via children’s take home bags, and the parent portal on our website.