Sunday, February 03, 2008

Measuring Student Achievement in the Montessori Classroom: Grading

student achievement NAMC montessori classroom grading boy with plants
Many parents today have concerns about the level of education their children are receiving. There is much competition between schools to uphold high educational standards, with schools, teachers and students being held accountable. Student test scores are being published in local papers, and schools are pitted against each other as to which one holds the highest scores. Schools with lower test scores are sometimes penalized by having funds withheld.

With this focus on grading so focused on, how do teachers in the Montessori classroom measure student achievement...and how can they explain it to parents?

Measuring Student Achievement in the Montessori Classroom: Letter Grades or  Progress Reports?


Montessori education focuses on the process of education, not the end product. In a Montessori classroom, a child’s natural development is nurtured while empowering the child to become independent and self-aware. Montessori students understand that learning is not a race against others or a clock, but is suited to their own independent pace. Montessori teachers seek to prepare their students for life, rather than requiring them to memorize information to write the perfect test. Children in Montessori schools learn self-reliance, and independence, which also provides them with advanced research and study skills. We know that when students leave the Montessori environment, they are well equipped to succeed in college or university, as well as lead meaningful lives.

With this in mind, Montessori teachers much prefer anecdotal reports to letter grades. Letter (or numerical) grades evaluate students against each other, and encourage unhealthy competition. Rather than looking to the teacher for the right answer, the Montessori philosophy encourages the child to turn inward to think and research the answer for themselves. Letter grades encourage rote memorization for test taking instead of lifelong learning.

Even though there is pressure by anxious parents in Montessori schools to assign hierarchical grades, Montessorians should stand firm in the belief that in order to show student progress, the progress of students needs to be reviewed individually. This is done through personal narratives, portfolios, teacher observation, and parent-teacher conferences. Parents should be educated well before progress reports are sent out; ideally, it should be discussed during the enrollment process.

Expectations of a Montessori education should also be mentioned at back-to-school nights and open houses. If parents are truly seeking hierarchical measurement of their child’s achievement, then Montessori education may not be the right choice for them.

For more information on Montessori education, read: Being a Montessori Parent: A Family Decision
As much as possible, NAMC’s web blog reflects the Montessori curriculum as provided in its teacher training programs. We realize and respect that Montessori schools are unique and may vary their schedules and offerings in accordance with the needs of their individual communities. We hope that our readers will find our articles useful and inspiring as a contribution to the global Montessori community.
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Sunday, February 3, 2008.

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