Study Shows SC Public Montessori Students Outperform Peers

For Immediate Release

Contact: Gina Taliaferro Lofquist, Chief Education & Learning Officer
Phone: 212-358-1250 x335

American Montessori Society
116 East 16th Street, New York, NY 10003-2163

Thank you to Brooke Culclasure, PhD, for writing this announcement for us. Dr. Culclasure is research director of the Center for Education Policy and Leadership at the Riley Institute of Furman Institute, and principal investigator of the study she describes below.

March 8, 2018. Despite the growth and popularity of Montessori education, there has been a dearth of research on the topic. To help address this issue, the Riley Institute at Furman University developed and implemented a 5-year study of 44 Montessori and non-Montessori public schools in South Carolina— the most comprehensive evaluation of public Montessori to date.

The study, released in January, reveals that public Montessori continues to grow throughout SC, both in terms of the number of Montessori programs and student enrollment. While there is some tension between the Montessori model and the standards and accountability movement, most public Montessori programs in the state are implementing the Montessori model with fidelity.

The study also revealed that:

  • Montessori students generally exhibited higher levels of year-to-year growth in English language arts, math, and social studies, as measured by standardized tests, when compared to non-Montessori students. (While the effect sizes were often small, the differences were statistically significant.)
  • Montessori students demonstrated greater school attendance and fewer disciplinary incidents/suspensions than comparable non-Montessori students.
  • Montessori students had higher levels of creativity and executive function in some years of the evaluation. The results for affective outcomes were more mixed.

While this evaluation provided considerable evidence of a general Montessori advantage, the research team was particularly interested in the effect of public Montessori on education inequalities. Montessori education is often thought of as an elite approach to education for privileged students, primarily offered in the private sector. However, because of the promise the model has offered to students across the world for over 100 years, considerable investment was made in SC to implement Montessori education in public schools across the state.

These schools, many of which are classified as Title I, serve large numbers of low-income and minority students in oftentimes rural and poverty-stricken areas. The question of how these students perform and whether or not investment in Montessori has paid off for these students looms large.

This study attempted to answer these and other questions around the ability of Montessori education in the public sector to moderate the effects of poverty on students. It found that while public Montessori is not limited to high-income, primarily white students, these students may be overrepresented in public Montessori programs. Nonetheless, it was still an open question if the Montessori advantages in test score growth found in the general analyses were wide-ranging.

The sub-group analyses presented in the evaluation provide evidence of the egalitarian possibilities of Montessori education. Low-income students and low-achieving students seem to benefit from Montessori. Both white and black Montessori students exhibited higher growth than the matched comparison group.

This evaluation provides evidence that public Montessori has appeal to a broad range of parents in SC, and it appears that the benefits of Montessori education are wide-ranging, as well.

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