Sohan Joshi dances during multicultural day at Desert Garden Montessori on Friday, Jan. 24, 2013

[David Jolkovski/AFN]

Staff at Desert Garden Montessori in Ahwatukee recently got word that the school was officially approved for International Montessori Council (IMC) accreditation.

The primary purpose of the IMC accreditation program is to ensure best practices of Montessori leadership and education, and to evaluate the world’s most respected and successful 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, said Shetal Walter, director at Desert Garden Montessori.

Currently, Desert Garden Montessori is only the seventh Montessori school in the world to receive IMC accreditation, and the fifth Montessori school in the United States to receive accreditation.

“The IMC is a global organization of Montessori schools and communities, with its mission to protect the vision and legacy of Dr. Maria Montessori. The Montessori Foundation incorporates policies designed to promote the essential principles of best practices and authentic Montessori education,” Walters said. “Over 600 schools in 45 countries ascribe to the IMC as ‘members,’ but only a small percentage of schools have attempted to become accredited, because the process is incredibly difficult.”

The accreditation process involved encompassing a team within Desert Garden’s community conducting a “self study,” carefully examining and evaluating aspects of the school, according to 500 pages of IMC standards.

Some of the IMC standards included educational program quality, instructional effectiveness, operational and financial health, facilities and site utilization and future growth potential.

“Being accredited means a Montessori school is worthy of public trust, is clear in what it says it offers and actually does what it says, and actually follows the criteria of authentic Montessori best practice,” Walters said.

The accreditation allows Desert Garden Montessori to hone its skills on staying authentic to the Montessori model and not to waver off course, Walters said.

“A secondary purpose of the accreditation program is to provide the public with information that can assist them in selecting a school that meets internationally recognized standards of excellence in Montessori educational practice,” Walters said. “Going through an accrediting process demonstrates to the public that a school has voluntarily permitted its programs, facilities, policies and procedures to be evaluated against the Best Practice standards and to be re-evaluated every 10 years after achieving accreditation.”

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