While non-haredi Jewish day school enrollment in general has been flat, the Montessori niche is growing.

At this week’s North American Jewish Day School conference, in Washington, D.C., attended by 900 people, leaders of the Jewish Montessori Society reported that their eight largest member schools nationwide have collectively experienced a 75 percent enrollment growth over the past five years.

Despite the seemingly dramatic gains, Jewish Montessori schools are still small in number and represent less than 1 percent of total Jewish day school enrollment: the eight schools cited by the society enrolled 601 students in fall 2012, out of a total of 83,000 students reported in a recent Avi Chai Foundation census of centrist/Modern Orthodox, pluralistic, Conservative and Reform day school enrollment.

The Montessori method emphasizes mixed-age classrooms, student choice and hands-on learning.

This week’s conference, sponsored by the Partnership for Excellence in Jewish Education and networks of Orthodox, pluralistic, Conservative and Reform day schools, focused primarily on governance and leadership issues; integrating technology into instruction; strategies to increase enrollment; and potential solutions, including pursuing various forms of government funding, to address financial challenges.

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