postheadericon IMC School Accreditation Program - Policies and Procedures

The Mission of the International Montessori Council

The International Montessori Council (IMC) is a global community of Montessori schools, teacher education programs, school administrators, educators, trustees, parent leaders, and friends of the Montessori movement. Members of the International Montessori Council are dedicated to enriching the lives of children and adults through Montessori education by promoting Dr. Maria Montessori's insights into the human potential to the general public.

The International Montessori Council is a non-profit, non-governmental educational organization with members across the United States and a growing number of other countries around the world. Its members represent a diverse constituency of school owners and heads of schools, teachers, Montessori teacher educators, educational consultants, psychologists, school support staff members, volunteers, students, retirees and others associated with the operation of Montessori schools. The International Montessori Council is an international organization that offers accreditation to the entire community of Montessori schools.

The International Montessori Council defines a Montessori school as:

An educational institution which provides an educational program identified as being Montessori based, and which is consistent in its practice with the characteristics commonly identified as defining an authentic Montessori program. The program utilizes trained Montessori teachers and other human resources, along with the resources of the natural surroundings and local community to facilitate each student's intellectual, emotional, physical, social, and spiritual growth.

The programs of the International Montessori Council are administered through local or regional chapters. Officers are elected by the membership and serve without pay. The Council is supported primarily by the dues and contributions of its members. Other support comes from seminar fees, the sale of publications, project grants, and fees for services.

Members belong to the International Council itself and to a local or regional chapter responsible for delivering services, including the school accreditation programs.

Services of the International Montessori Council include educational programs and seminars, accreditation services, networking, monitoring of legislation at the national and state levels, Montessori Leadership Magazine, public relations services, and a publications center providing a wide range of books and other resources related to Montessori education, peace education, outdoor education, school leadership, and school design,

Purpose of the IMC School Accreditation Program

The primary purpose of the International Montessori Council school accreditation program is to educate the administrators and trustees of Montessori schools in the Best Practices basic to the development and leadership of Montessori schools.

Schools that are authentically Montessori in their practice are effective in their work with children and are worthy of public trust and confidence. The Best Practices place particular emphasis on the administration of key aspects of school operation, particularly those related to the quality and integrity of the school's educational program and the health and safety of students and staff. The standards establish guidelines for policies, procedures and practices. The school is responsible for ongoing implementation of those policies which are consistent with Best Practices.

A second purpose of the International Montessori Council School Accreditation Program is to provide the public with information which will assist in the selection of schools that meet recognized standards of excellence in Montessori educational practice.

While standards focus on educational, health and safety practices, accreditation is not a guarantee that the individual student will meet specific educational objectives, nor can it guarantee that no injury or harm will occur.

Accreditation does, however, indicate to the public that the school has voluntarily invited its practices to be compared with the standards of Best Practice established by leaders in the international Montessori school accreditation community. At least once every ten years, an outside team of Montessori school professionals trained in the International Montessori Council School Accreditation Program visits the school to verify compliance with the standards.

Unlike inspections by governmental licensing bodies, International Montessori Council School Accreditation is voluntary. The International Montessori Council does not have the authority to close or otherwise penalize an entity not meeting its accreditation criteria, except for the removal of the accreditation status. Licensing focuses on the enforcement of minimum standards. Accreditation focuses on education and evaluation of a school 's operation using criteria and standards that will normally go beyond the minimum requirements of governmental regulation.

International Montessori Council school accreditation standards identify practices considered basic to the creation and leadership of an authentic and effective Montessori school. They do not, however, require all Montessori schools to look alike. The International Montessori Council’s school accreditation program has been designed to serve a broad range of programs: schools that are private/independent and those that are public/state sponsored; schools that are large and small; schools that are proprietary and those that are run as not-for-profit organizations; those that offer elementary and/or secondary programs, and those that serve primarily early childhood students. Each school addresses, in its own way, the principles of Best Practice identified by the standards.

The International Montessori Council school accreditation protocol is designed to allow for the tremendous diversity among Montessori schools around the world. It is quite different from an "‘approval" model  of accreditation, where accreditation as a recognized member of a particular Montessori organization requires a school to follow that association’s guidelines for teacher qualifications, curricula, etc. The International Montessori Council understands and respects that integrity of that approach. IMC’s approach, however, is based on a different perspective, while still maintaining a sound pedagogical philosophy.

The International Montessori Council School Accreditation Program is based on the principle that an accredited school must be ‘worthy of public trust,’ rather than requiring that it meet the standards of one model of Montessori education.

The essential issue, in addition to the question of whether a school is worthy of trust is whether a school representing itself as a Montessori school actually follows the Best Practices of an authentic Montessori school. (“Worthy of Trust” meaning: Is the school clear in what it says it offers? Does it actually do what it says? Is it operated in a sound, stable, manner that deserves public confidence?)

Dr. Nancy McCormick Rambush and Dr. John Stoops in their work The Authentic Montessori School (1992 Middle States Association and American Montessori Society) identified six basic areas that have served for some time as a basic definition of those essential characteristics. The International Montessori Council School Accreditation Program incorporates the essence of those principles. We believe that they allow for tremendous diversity, while speaking to the central issue of what one should expect to find in a responsible school that wishes to represent itself as being a Montessori program.

The IMC Accreditation Self-Study Process Consists of Three Integrated Phases:

Phase 1 The school clearly defines its institutional identity, Montessori principles, enduring values and beliefs, and educational outcomes.

Phase 2 The School initiates a Self-Study, in which the school documents how it meets the basic characteristics and principles of Best Practice found in all excellent Montessori schools. This phase follows an easily understood, objective self-study approach. Each standard is carefully laid out with examples and suggested resources. In most cases, schools will have access to sample policies, handbooks, and other resources on an accompanying series of CD-ROMS that can be adapted for individual schools.

Phase 3 The School develops a written strategic plan, in which the school prepares an ongoing plan for continuing to move the entire school (educational program, faculty, administration, facilities, membership and enrollment, marketing and public relations, fund raising and capital resource development, governance, finances) closer to its ideal as set forth in its vision and blueprint.


Eligibility for IMC School Accreditation

International Montessori Council School Accreditation may be sought by any school member in good standing with the International Montessori Council, which has been in operation for at least three years. Schools applying for accreditation should meet the standards that follow, which together verify compliance with the criteria of Best Practice related to the school site, program, and operation.

To be eligible to apply for candidacy for International Montessori Council School Accreditation, the school must:

1. Deliver a Montessori educational program consistent with the International Montessori Council's definition of school and the characteristics of an authentic Montessori school.

2. Submit an initial application and an annual Statement of Compliance with applicable mandatory standards and other criteria for accreditation as noted at the time of the visit.

3. Pay appropriate dues and fees as determined by the International Montessori Council.

4. Be visited by an International Montessori Council school accreditation on-site visiting team during a period when the school is in full operation.

Content of the Standards

Accredited schools are responsible not only for state/provincial and local laws, but also for those requirements defined by the standards. Those requirements include:

1. Educational Program, including characteristics of authentic Montessori programs, group size, student-teacher ratios, and curriculum

2. Human Resources, including qualifications, screening, training, and supervision of school faculty and staff.

3. Facilities, including preventative maintenance, accessibility, traffic flow, etc.

4. Administration, which includes:

a. Operational Management, including administrative practices, safety regulations, emergency procedures, and risk-management planning;

b. Health and Wellness, including supervision of health-care practices, availability of first-aid equipment and personnel, the use of health histories and health examination forms, and the use of recommended treatment procedures. Transportation standards, including driver qualifications and training, vehicle maintenance, safety procedures, and the availability of emergency transportation.

5. Governance, including roles of board or ownership.

6. Financial, including financial management, planning and reporting.

7. Recruitment/Marketing, including admissions, advertising and public relations.

8. Retaining Students/Building Community, including parent roles, communication with families, developing communication, trust, and confidence.

9. Fund Raising/Gathering Capital for Improvements, policies and practices.

IMC School Accreditation Symbols Are Protected

The use of International Montessori Council accreditation signs, seals, and logos is a privilege reserved for schools that are currently accredited. Such symbolism represents to the public that a school has met certain standards. All indications of International Montessori Council accreditation are protected by international trademark and copyright laws. Any improper use of symbols should be reported to the International Montessori Council offices and may be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

Administration of the IMC School Accreditation Program

The International Montessori Council School Accreditation Commission is responsible to develop and administer the school accreditation program of the association. Its members are selected according to defined criteria and operate within specific guidelines and procedures approved by the Board of Directors of the International Montessori Council.

The scheduling of visits and assigning of visitors within any given region will be handled by the International Montessori Council’s national, state, or regional chapters, as designated by the IMC Board. These chapters are chartered by the Council on an annual basis and are held responsible for the orderly local administration of the accreditation programs under the supervision of the International Montessori Council School Accreditation Commission and the staff of the Standards Department in the international office.

IMC Accreditation Criteria

The International Montessori Council accreditation programs are international programs that utilize the local chapter as the implementing agency within the IMC structure. The minimum criteria for accreditation are established and monitored by the International Montessori Council School Accreditation Commission.

Chapters schedule and conduct on-site visits. They also approve accreditation for schools that meet the standards established by the International Montessori Council School Accreditation Commission. Chapters reject accreditation for schools that have not met at least these criteria.

Chapters do not have the authority to waive the established standards or the specified criteria established for compliance. If a chapter deems that it is highly desirable to waive such criteria, such request must be made to the International Montessori Council School Accreditation Commission according to the procedure set forth by the commission.

Steps in the IMC School Accreditation Process

Preparing For The On-Site Visit

Step One — Apply for membership in the International Montessori Council by completing appropriate membership form and signing the Statement of Compliance that is sent when the International Montessori Council receives the SchoolÂ’s application.

Step Two — Remit dues and fees as described in current membership materials.

Step Three — Attend the International Montessori Council School Accreditation Orientation Course offered by the national council or the regional or local chapter, which explains the process and describes the requirements for accreditation. At the time of the accreditation visit, the school must be represented by at least one staff member who has completed the Orientation Course and has participated in the development of the Self-Study.

Step Four —. Submit an application to become a candidate for International Montessori Council school accreditation, which includes an Institutional Profile, Mission Statement, Range of Programs, Numbers of Students, roster of Faculty & Staff, description of Ownership and Governance Structure and the School Accreditation Compliance Statement. The School pays the School Accreditation application fee, which is due at this time

Step Five — School is Accepted to Candidacy.

Step Six — School Chooses to:

  • Attend regional accreditation workshop or
  • Contract for pre-accreditation consultation.

At least two representatives of the School are given a more thorough introduction to the School Accreditation process and are trained to serve as members of an On-Site Visiting Team. Over the next year they will be asked to serve as members of an On-Site Visiting Team to conduct an On-Site Visit to another IMC School.

Step Seven — School organizes an Accreditation Self-Study Committee, which should include a broad cross section of the school community, including parents, teachers, non-teaching staff, older students, administrators, trustees, and others as appropriate. The Self-Study Committee is organized into several sub-committees, coordinated by a Steering Committee. Over the next six to eighteen months, the Self-Study Committee develops the School’s Self-Study, responding to the standards and collecting written documentation as required. The committee also reviews and evaluates each area of school operation utilizing the guidelines in the standards.

Step Eight — School submits appropriate number of copies of the Self-Study as defined in IMC policy to the Director of IMC School Accreditation.

Step Nine — Self-Study is reviewed for completeness by the Director of IMC School Accreditation.

Step Ten — On-Site Visiting Team is identified by the Director of IMC School Accreditation.

Step Eleven — On-Site Visiting Team reviews School’s Self-Study.

Step Twelve — The On-Site Visit is conducted by On-Site Visiting Team, a team of IMC-trained visitors who will spend from one to five days on campus observing the school in operation and validating the information provided in the self-study report. This visit will occur when the school is in full operation during the regular academic year.

Step Thirteen — On-Site Team Report Sent to School & International Montessori Council School Accreditation Commission.

Step Fourteen — School Prepares Quality Improvement Plan (QIP) and Submits to International Montessori Council School Accreditation Commission.

Step Fifteen — International Montessori Council School Accreditation Commission Reviews Team Report & QIP.

Step Sixteen — The International Montessori Council School Accreditation Commission Makes Accreditation Decision. *

Normal Accreditation decision options

  • Full Accreditation for 10 years, with annual report,
  • Provisional Accreditation for 1 or 2 years, with annual report, while recommendations are addressed, or
  • Accreditation Denied until deficiencies are corrected with verification.


In Summary: A Description of Elements in the IMC School Accreditation Process

School Profile

The School Profile provides a brief introduction to the school including size, level and range of programs offered, governance structure and history (including accreditation status). School must also provide evidence that it is in compliance with all applicable state and local regulations. The profile guides the International Montessori Council in determining accreditation fees, identifying an appropriate regional workshop and/or consultant and identifying potential members of the on-site visiting team.

The Regional Accreditation Workshops

School representatives may elect to attend a one-day workshop, which overviews the accreditation process, explains the self-study procedures, and reviews the standards. Workshops are conducted by leaders trained by the IMC.

Pre-Accreditation Consultation

Schools may elect to contract with an IMC approved consultant in lieu of attending the regional workshop. This option may be attractive to schools seeking to involve large numbers of faculty/staff in the self-study process or those who feel they need additional help with the process. While the International Montessori Council will assist schools in identifying an appropriate consultant, the contract is negotiated directly with the individual.

School Self-Study

In the self-study, the School must document how it meets the basic characteristics and Best Practice principles of Montessori education. Each standard suggests how compliance may be documented. Appendices to the Standards provide examples and sample forms for selected standards.

On-Site Visiting Team

The On-Site Visiting Team is a team of three or more visitors, including a sufficient number of Montessori educators to address the standards regarding the educational program and classroom practice, which is selected by the International Montessori Council School Accreditation office. In the selection, every attempt will be made to select team members whose experience is comparable to that of the candidate school. Prior to the on-site visit, team members will review the School Profile and Self-Study.

On-Site Visitors are volunteers. They are persons with a background in education and school administration, who have completed a training program prior to conducting visits for the International Montessori Council. They also have completed an apprenticeship as members of an On-Site Visiting Team. The majority of any visiting team will be made up of Montessori educators, who understand the importance of accreditation and the scope of laws, regulations, and procedures of schools.

The On-Site Visit

The purpose of the on-site visit is to validate the documentation presented in the institutionÂ’s self-study. During the 1 to 5 day visit, the team will tour the facilities; interview students, staff, faculty, administration, trustees, and parents; observe in each classroom; and review appropriate documentation and records. Prior to the end of the visit, the team will meet with the school administrator and/or designated staff to review any discrepancies and to present a preliminary report.

Accreditation visits occur during a typical school week and generally requires from one to five full days, depending on the size of the school and the number of members appointed to the visiting team.

During the On-Site Visit, the team will observe in each classroom and carefully visit the entire campus.

During this observation, visitors will interview staff, students, parents, and trustees.

During the on-site visit, the team will meet with the school administration to confirm the schoolÂ’s compliance with the standards. Written documentation required by the standards will normally be evaluated prior to the on-site visit and may be verified by the visitors at this time. The visitors will score the standards based on compliance as observed at the time of the visit.

On-Site Team Report

The written report is submitted to the International Montessori Council School Accreditation office within two weeks of the on-site visit. The report indicates the observed level of compliance for each standard, identifies any areas of distinction or of non-compliance, and recommends an accreditation action.

School Quality Improvement Plan

This strategic plan is based upon the self-study, on-site visit, and team report. In it, the school establishes an ongoing plan for advancing the total school. The Quality Improvement Plan becomes a benchmark for subsequent accreditation reviews.

Procedures for Revisitation

A school may be revisited at any time as determined by the chapter board of directors. Reasonable notice will be provided so the school will have the opportunity to update any written documents required for the visit.

An accreditation visit is scheduled when:

1. Ten years have passed since the last visit,

2. The school is in an ongoing process of meeting standards,

3. The school is a new applicant for accreditation.

Revisitation may occur at the chapter’s discretion when there are major changes in a school’s administrative leadership, location, or other factors related to accreditation or changes which may indicate to the Board that a revisit is needed.

Removal of Accreditation

Accreditation may be removed by the International Montessori Council School Accreditation Commission under the following circumstances:

1. Refusal to schedule an accreditation visit by the chapter when required by the procedures identified above, or

2. The visit occurs, but minimum criteria established for accreditation failed to be met, or

3. For reasons as described in the current Statement of Compliance.

The school retains the right of appeal to the International Montessori Council Board of Trustees in such circumstances.

Last Updated (Tuesday, 10 August 2010 09:41)