Not all schools with Montessori in the title are actually accredited Montessori schools. Because the name is not trademarked, anyone can put the Montessori name on their business—and many do, in order to lure parents into enrolling their children. However, these parents are not getting the top education they should be for their money!
A Montessori classroom is unlike any other—the materials and environment are all carefully prepared for the students, and the classroom is always mixed age—since the children learn independently, there is no need for a cookie-cutter plan per day for the group. Note that Montessori techniques may be used at both public and private schools, so there’s no need to think you must go private.
However, you must make sure that the school has an American Montessori Society (AMS) Accreditation or is recognized by American Montessori Internationale. To receive the AMS accreditation, a school must have an AMS trained teacher for each class, a consultation by an AMS trained consultant once every three years, a complete set of materials for each class from an AMS-authorized manufacturer, and an approach that is philosophically in accord with the AMS training program. This means that the classes are made up of about twenty-eight to thirty children within a three-year age range, with a balanced division in terms of age. Other requirements include a three-hour work cycle in the mornings.
To find a school nearby that meets AMS standards, please visit the AMS website, which has a host of other resources and valuable information to help you on your journey to the Montessori experience. Of great help is their document School Accreditation Standards and Criteria. I also highly recommend Montessori Schools and the American Montessori Society websites. Schools may also be accredited by Association Montessori Internationale.