Friday, October 14, 2011

Elementary Standardized Testing and Montessori Education - Is Testing Right for Your Classroom?

NAMC montessori education standardized testing right for your classroom smiling students I recently spoke with a NAMC student who, during the course of our conversations, told me that she did not give tests and quizzes in her Montessori classroom nor was she a fan of standardized testing, as there is no ”standard child.” But she went on to ask me which standardized test she should administer to her Montessori students.

I was immediately curious. Why she would want to give a standardized test if she didn't believe in them? If she did not give tests and quizzes (and rightly so!), then I need to question her on the need for a standardized test. Was it an administrative decision? Was it to appease parental concern?

Elementary Standardized Testing and Montessori Education - Is Testing Right for Your Classroom?

In the private Montessori schools in which I have taught, we only started standardized testing in the fourth grade. It was felt across the board that testing children before fourth grade is developmentally inappropriate.
One Montessori school in which I worked used the test for internal purposes only; the administration wanted to see how our Montessori curriculum was lining up with the public schools. The information was never given to parents, as it was only to be used as a diagnostic tool for teachers.

At another private Montessori school, the scores were given to the parents who were asked by the school administration not to share the results with their children. That approach did not work at all. It seems the test scores were the topic of many dinner conversations that same evening. Children came to school the next day bragging about how well they did, according to their parents. Consequently, those who learned that they did not do as well felt terrible. Those who did not hear about their test scores from their parents were understandably confused. For a philosophy of equality and non-competitiveness such as Montessori is, the sharing of standardized test scores was extremely counterproductive. For weeks I had to reassure students that they were not poor students and should not compare themselves to the test scores of others.

When I taught at a public Montessori school, we were mandated by the state to administer standardized tests according to No Child Left Behind legislation (NCLB). It was devastating. Scores were posted for the whole community to see. It was humiliating and demoralizing for all.

If a Montessori school is testing to appease parents, I would suggest reminding parents of the Montessori philosophy and principles. I have explained to parents that standardized tests measure what a student is capable of doing on a given day, at a given time, under laboratory conditions. It is not a true measure of individual student ability. It is not holistic; it provides a brief snapshot of what the child is capable of doing on that day. What if the child is ill? Or tired? Or upset? What if they do not want to take the test? These factors may reflect poorly on test scores, upsetting parents and children alike.

I strongly suggest that Montessori educators examine the school policy, philosophy, and your own philosophy before you decide on administering standardized tests to your students. As far as which test to give, I know of no test which is holistic enough, where it is not a grade-level test. Simply stated, there is no standardized test which aligns itself with the three-year cyclical curriculum of the Montessori method. What fourth graders in the public school are learning is not necessarily what Montessori fourth graders are learning at the same time. If you are truly following the child, a test will not measure that.

Other NAMC blogs that may be of interest:
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 Friday, October 14, 2011.

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