Central Montessori Elementary School in Forest Lake became the first Montessori school to be named a Minnesota School of Excellence, according to an announcement Friday from the Minnesota Elementary School Principals’ Association.
Every elementary school in Independent School District 831 has now received this award, and Central Montessori is the third district school in the past four years to be validated as a School of Excellence. Lino Lakes Elementary was listed in 2009-2010 and Wyoming Elementary in 2010-2011.
Forest Lake Elementary was named a School of Excellence in 1992-1993, Scandia in 1997-1998, and Columbus in 2002-2003. Forest View (1992-1993, 2001-2002) and Linwood (1988-1989, 2000-2001) have both been cited twice.
“Central Montessori Elementary is a prime example of quality Minnesota education,” said Fred Storti, executive director, Minnesota Elementary School Principals’ Association. “The school strives to work and function as a professional learning community, successfully aligning student learning with six national standards that encompass Learning Centered, Diverse Communities, 21st Century Learners, Quality Instruction, Knowledge and Data, and Community Engagement.”
“It is a true honor to be identified as a Minnesota School of Excellence,” said Central Montessori Principal Kelly Lessman. “The process brought the staff and Central Montessori Elementary families together and gave a framework to talk about the excellent education we provide for students at Central Montessori Elementary in Forest Lake.”
Unlike most Montessori schools, Central Montessori is part of a public school district, allowing it to provide a tuition-free education for its students and also free transportation. The school currently serves 124 students in kindergarten through grade 6.
Except in kindergarten, Central Montessori groups several grades in one classroom. Students in grades 1, 2, and 3 are together, as are students in grades 4, 5, and 6. Multi-grade classrooms allow students to continue with the same teacher and many of the same classmates for multiple years, developing strong relationships with peers and adults.
The classrooms allow the development of relationships, which research has demonstrated is fundamental for learning.
“For many families, a Montessori educational program is a perfect fit for their children,” Lessman said. “A Montessori program allows the students to really build upon their innate curiosities and creative abilities in order to learn in a way that best suits them. This program has shown a lot of success over the years. Our excellent teachers ensure that our students are well prepared for success in junior high, high school, college and into their adult careers. In fact one of our former students is currently studying brain and cognitive sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.”
The Minnesota School of Excellence Program was established in 1986, combining the findings of current research on effective schooling with the practical on-site experience of working principals and education staff. Since the program’s inception, 161 schools have earned Minnesota School of Excellence validation. The validation remains in effect for seven years.
Only seven elementary schools in Minnesota were validated as Minnesota Schools of Excellence by MESPA for the 2012-2013 school year.
“We’re extremely proud that MESPA has chosen Central Montessori as a Minnesota School of Excellence, and I can say without hesitation that this school is well-deserving of this honor,” said District Superintendent Linda Madsen. “Every year, Kelly and her staff put in countless hours making sure that the students at CME are provided with nothing less than the best education possible. They worked very hard for this achievement.”
“CME has always been sort of a hidden gem in our school district,” Madsen said. “It’s a small school, located at our Central Learning Center, that really exemplifies our district’s commitment to providing students and families with a vast array of great educational options and opportunities.”