McCarver’s kindergarten in Tacoma, a Seattle suburb, isn’t quite ordinary. First, it’s a Montessori school. At the start of the school year, the week of September 5, pupils from 3 to 5 years old found in her light wooden classrooms the kind of material designed by the famous Italian teacher to develop autonomy: alone or in small groups, on a table or a carpet on the ground, they will draw in a sandbox, count with pebbles and cards decorated with numbers…
Another originality, the establishment does not welcome the usual wealthy families of Montessori schools: free and located in a disadvantaged neighborhood, it targets the 50% of Americans deprived of kindergarten, because they are too rich to access free public classes, and too poor to pay 13,000 dollars (13,000 euros) a year for a private school.
Finally, an even more distinctive sign is written in white letters on a blue sign at the entrance: Bezos Academy. Indeed, McCarver is one of five Montessori preschools opened since 2019 by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ philanthropic fund. This structure specifies that it wants to create “17 others between 2023 and 2025, in Washington State, Florida and Texas”, for “1,300 students”.
“Make a prototype, improve it and deploy it widely”
The rise of these schools of a new kind is, for the time being, ” modest “, notes Mira Debs, director of the department of educational sciences at Yale University (Connecticut). But the Bezos Academy and its president, Michael George, have “a precise approach, inspired by companies like Amazon”, says this author of a book on Montessori schools, who, during a signing session in 2019, received a visit from this veteran of the e-commerce company where he spent sixteen years. “Their approach is to make a prototype, then improve it, then deploy it widely,” she analyzes.
“We will use the same principles as Amazon, in particular a real obsession with the customer. The student will be the customer. had theorized Mr. Bezos when announcing the project. What does M thinkme Bezos Academy Debs? She was ” Pleasantly surprised ” that the organization makes contact with the Montessori community, but also establishes partnerships with town halls, donors or retirement homes, which make premises available to it. But, regrets the academic, Mr. Bezos could have “an even greater impact” by also supporting existing Montessori organizations that are already working with disadvantaged populations.
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