Frequently Asked Questions

What is Montessori? How is it different from traditional classrooms?
Montessori education is child-centered and offers independence within clearly defined guidelines. It pays particular attention to and respects the child's natural stages of development. Dr. Maria Montessori believed in the child's inherent desire to learn through exploration and inquiry. Montessori classrooms include multi-age groupings which foster collaboration and children may work in groups or on their own. Montessori teachers carefully prepare the classroom environment to foster and encourage curiosity, independence, and freedom within limits. Children can guide themselves through this environment, making use of the lessons offered to develop themselves and interacting with the teacher for guidance and support as needed.
Montessori classrooms are?
  • Mixed-age
  •  Self-directed - children select activities from a prepared environment
  • Organized around uninterrupted work cycles
  • Places where children learn through discovery and inquiry  
What will my child gain by attending Shining Stars Montessori Academy (SSMA)?
Our children work hard, are held to very high standards and perform well on a wide range of formal and informal assessments. Students and their families work together to build an inclusive learning community that is reflective of our cultural diversity.
SSMA seeks to develop?
  • Self-directed learning so that children are capable of forming their own questions and are adept at assessing the broad range of available resources to uncover answers
  • Emotional intelligence so that children respectfully interact and engage with their peers and teachers
  • Creative confidence so that children have a process that they use to tackle challenges they are confronted within and out of school.
Will my child cover the same subject matter as in traditional education? Does SSMA
curriculum meets state standards?
Yes. School leaders and teachers carefully review the citywide guidelines and ensure that our Montessori curriculum covers the same subject matter as in the traditional public schools. The SSMA English language and mathematics curricula are aligned with the District of Columbia's Common Core State Standards for grades kindergarten through grade 6.
How do you assess students' progress? Do Shining Stars students take standardized tests?
Yes, Student progress and achievement are measured in a variety of ways. We utilize careful observation and record students' work in Montessori Compass. In particular, we note their demonstration of skills and their understanding and mastery of the materials. In addition, we administer standardized tests required of all DC traditional and public charter schools. Students in grades preK3- 4 are tested using the PPVT and TEMA-3 for emerging literacy and math computational ability. Students in kindergarten through Upper Elementary are tested using NWEA for reading, and easy CBM for mathematics. Students in grades 3-6 take the required end-of-the-year PARCC assessment in math and literacy. Combined with the Montessori observations, these standardized tests help teachers and parents determine individual student strengths and areas needing improvement. Our goal is to prepare our students to perform at grade level or above and to help them achieve their highest potential.
Are parents encouraged to speak with their child's teacher?
Yes, We encourage you to communicate freely and frequently with your child's guide via email and to observe your child's classroom by appointment. Our guides maintain communication with parents about students' academic progress and social integration (i.e., grace and courtesy), both informally (if requested) and formally through parent conferences and progress reports.
What is the teacher-student ratio?
Montessori classrooms are designed to enable and empower children as critical thinkers and independent learners. The teachers in the classroom act as facilitators of learning, working with small groups or individuals delivering targeted lessons while monitoring the classroom's learning. At Shining
Stars Montessori Academy, there is a minimum of two teachers in every classroom of 24 - 28 students, for teacher to student ratios of 1:12 to 1:14. We also have program assistants and specialists who rotate through the classrooms at different times of the day working with individual students or small groups of children.
What electives are being taught at the school? Is there music, art, PE or world language?
All children at Shining Stars Montessori receive instruction in art and music as part of the traditional subject areas. Our guides are trained to integrate music and the arts into the class projects and activities. We have art and music teachers who work with students weekly. In addition, peace education is a major component of the SSMA curriculum. We plan to have Spanish lessons 2-3 times per week during the work cycles (no cost to families). Recess is provided on a daily basis for 45 minutes at our onsite playground. We also have in-class and Friday afternoon movement activities (yoga, JAMM, hip hop & jazz, capoeira, theatre & creative movement) for students pK4 and up.
Are SSMA teachers Montessori certified?
Yes, All of our carefully-selected teachers are American Montessori Society (AMS) and/or Association Montessori International (AMI) trained, and certified. They continue their learning with ongoing professional development and study. Additionally, they all have undergraduate degrees and many have graduate degrees. We select our faculty for their love of learning and caring and understanding of children.
Is the SSMA accredited?
Shining Stars Montessori Academy PCS is a Full Member of the American Montessori Society (AMS) and is dually accredited by the American Montessori Society (AMS) and the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools. SSMA is the sole AMS-accredited Montessori public charter school in Washington, DC.
Who do l contact if I have more questions?
Please visit to RSVP for upcoming open houses. You may also contact SSMA Enrollment Team at (202) 723-1467 or [email protected]