Building Integrated Classrooms


VIDEO TOUR — Inside Steele Montessori Academy, San Antonio’s Public Program Designed for Inclusion, Integration, and to Serve Special Education Students

October 1, 2018

When San Antonio Independent School District Superintendent Pedro Martinez asked Principal Laura Christenberry to open a public Montessori school – a surefire enrollment draw for families from outside the district – she had a condition. Montessori education was originally created to teach children with disabilities, and Christenberry wanted special education students to be well represented at Steele Montessori Academy.

And she wanted to extend the philosophy of inclusion — which says everybody is a full participant, no matter what — to all of the families with kids at Steele. Which meant creating a school community where all families are welcomed and involved, and middle-class parents don’t dominate.

Martinez’s invitation to open the school was part of a radical school integration effort, in which families from some of the most isolated and impoverished neighborhoods in the country are guaranteed fair access to a portfolio of innovative and high-performing schools. Based on census data laying out household incomes for every block in the district, San Antonio ISD has pioneered an unprecedented system for enrolling its new diverse-by-design schools. Student achievement is rising, and Christenberry is seeing her dream realized.

Meet Christenberry and watch some of Steele’s littlest scholars engage in Montessori activities. And then read more about the city, its schools, and the leaders behind a revolutionary integration experiment. (Click here to read the full 74 Special Report)