Association of 

Sharon Damore


Executive Director

Sharon Damore

September 2014

Dear AIMS Members,

Welcome to the 2014-2015 academic year.  No question that you are actively immersed in getting families, and faculty, acclimated to an exciting year of Montessori education in your respective schools. 


Wednesday, October 8 - AIMS Meeting: 12:00 Noon, Montessori Academy of Chicago.  (Watch the AIMS website and for an e-mail for additional details).

February 20 and 21, 2015. - AIMS ANNUAL CONFERENCE:  A call for proposals on the AIMS website has generated a balance of offerings with practical content for you and your teachers.  Keynote speaker, Dr. Sharon Maxwell, Boston psychologist, will speak on Technology and Impact on Sexuality.  Please mark the conference on your calendar and plan on spending Friday night at the Crowne Plaza networking with your administrative colleagues. 

Membership Renewal: Remember, that current AIMS members receive priority conference registration.  Registration goes live December 1 for AIMS schools. The membership application will be available soon on the AIMS website.

REFLECTING, AIMS, 2013 – 2014

  • The February 2014 AIMS conference was a tremendous success! Thank you for your participation and Near North Montessori School for  hosting us..  Thanks to those of you who participated in the post conference survey – the feedback gave us great ideas for planning the 2015 conference.  Congratulations to survey participant, Selena Brosnan, Lower Elementary Directress, Brickton Montessori School, for winning the Crowne Plaza hotel gift certificate. 

  • In June, 2014, the AIMS Board engaged in a strategic planning retreat.  Goals of professional development, increased membership, improvements in use of technology, policy and advocacy, and partnership with Montessori public and private, all dominated the conversations and will provide strategic movement for improving services and benefits for AIMS schools.

LOOKING FORWARD, 2014 - 2015

This year, I will both chair the AIMS conference as well as continue to focus, on policy and advocacy on behalf of AIMS schools. I do want to take this opportunity to update you on the policy work and recent accomplishments, as well as encourage you to help promote high quality Montessori education for the children of Illinois.

Montessori Public Policy Initiative (MPPI)

  • Huge Accomplishment - AMS School Accreditation approved by the Illinois Governor’s Office for ExceleRate.  As a result, AMS accredited schools will receive more favorable ratings on the rating scales implemented in ExceleRate.  The AMS accreditation is now considered the same gold star quality level as the NAEYC accreditation.  Below you will find more information on ExceleRate.

A group, led by Bonnie Beste, new AMI/USA Executive Director, will provide leadership to gain approval of the AMI/USA Recognition Program for ExceleRate. The Illinois State Coalition will now begin to investigate how to leverage this approval for non-accredited schools and requirements of teacher credentialing and approved curricula. 


  • The partnership between AMI/USA and AMS, focused on advocacy, has strengthened and provided Illinois increased support.  As a founding member of the MPPI Council, I am pleased with accomplishments to date.  It is difficult not to credit the MPPI with the AMS Accreditation approval with ExceleRate. Relationships and shared resources have afforded the organizations to hire part-time consultants, to help support the states.  Christine Lowry, MPPI Consultant and Sara Wilson, AMS School Accreditation have been instrumental in developing the required ExceleRate Illinois (QRIS) alignments with Montessori accreditation/ recognition.  And AIMS’s relationship with Karen Yarborough Consultant on ExceleRate and Montessori parent, and others in the Governor’s Office, has kept us going in a forward direction with the new ExceleRate expectations.  So exciting and productive!

  • MPPI staff and other Montessori state advocacy leaders have developed useful advocacy tools that will advance Illinois efforts in navigating and influencing the systems of regulations and policy that impacts Montessori schools.  Curriculum alignments to Illinois Early Learning Standards; NAEYC and a new Montessori Guide to the ECERS now exist.  Check out Montessori for templates and other useful tools for state groups to utilize.

  • Jaye Epsey, previous MPPI Policy Manager, received a Presidential appointment to work on a special initiative, My Brother's Keeper, created by President Obama, and housed in the US Department of Education.  In Jaye’s departing remark, she indicated that she has gained a lot of experience and knowledge about Montessori and will remain our advocate.  A loss for MPPI; but a potential gain for us in Montessori understanding and appreciation in the Department. 

From my perspective, Illinois is stronger, and more mature, organizationally, than many of the other state groups because of the history of the state’s Montessori leaders, and their attention and proactive response to regulation.  I continue to be part of the MPPI Council and state groups network: I learn about  the accomplishments and strategies of the other state groups as they learn from Illinois. A significant professional learning community exists with common goals.

Illinois Coalition

Our Illinois Coalition, which is a committee of AIMS, will regroup this fall and focus on next steps with Illinois advocacy.  We are still in need of increased representation in the Early Learning Council committees and will continue to follow up on our recommendations for Montessori appointments.  We need to promote Montessori licensed programs to register their heads of schools and toddler teachers on  Gateways Registry.

Excelerate Illinois training for Montessori Schools and Staff

       As the new school year commences, I see a Chicago Catalyst reporter, highlighting ExceleRate, and that parents should watch for the new ratings of “licensed centers.”  

      So again, I would urge you to be proactive with ExceleRate.

 Just a reminder, in case we’ve forgotten, ExceleRate Illinois, is the new QRIS system for our state.  QRIS, a federal initiative, is delegated to the states for the purpose of promoting quality early childhood programming with the utilizations of a “One Size Fits All” rating system.

Just a couple of our schools, to my knowledge, have taken the ExceleRate and program assessment tools training. We are not yet sure how or when ExceleRate impacts all of our schools, but the more knowledge we have collectively, and the sooner,  the better we can address impacts.

I urge you to sign up for ExceleRate training in 2014 AS WELL as register yourself and your teachers (for levels 3-6 and under) on the Gateways Professional Development Registry

Training on ExceleRate (QRIS) and classroom assessments (ECERs, ITERs, CLASS) are available at your local professional development provider.  These providers range from Illinois Action for Children serving the Chicago area to INCCRA affiliates which serve schools outside of Chicago; you will need to locate your local INCCRA provider. 

Training providers and their websites: 

Illinois Action for Children 



Assessment tools used for ExceleRate school/program evaluations include:

DCFS Exemptions for Montessori Programs

  When viewing the DCFS exemptions for Illinois Montessori schools, I continue to see great variance in which Montessori schools are considered exempt from licensing.  Here is the link to the most recent DCFS language on exemptions.  Please review and consider carefully if your school is eligible for the exemption:

ISBE Non-Public School Recognition Program

Another exemption for Montessori schools is the ISBE Non-Public School Recognition Program. 

This past year, I have served as an ISBE team leader for the Non-Public School Program.  I believe that this is an excellent choice for exemption and recognition for many of our Montessori schools that include elementary programs.  If you are eligible, I would recommend that you apply.  I would be happy to talk with you further about the eligibility and details of the recognition program.

AIMS can offer a webinar on the ISBE Recognition Program.  If you are interested, please contact me at

The Importance of Exemptions, Recognition and Accreditation Programs

As we navigate the unfamiliar landscape of QRIS in Montessori schools, we should pursue and maintain all appropriate school exemptions, recognitions, and accreditations that articulate that we represent high quality schools that implement high quality Montessori education.  In doing so, we strengthen our voices in support of high quality Early Childhood education for the children of Illinois.

Please follow my updates in the Executive Director’s Column on the AIMS website.

This is the time for you to show your courage and your willingness to work towards the collective good.   I am confident that Illinois Montessori schools will rise to the challenge. Together we can keep Montessori education in Illinois strong.

@ Association of Illinois Montessori Schools