Today’s blog is based on a question we recently received from a Montessori teacher and NAMC graduate. She expressed concern about preparing Montessori students for standardized testing they often encounter in the public school system. The question is a common one that many educators must consider.
Our school is a private Montessori school. We do not administer standardized testing — and I love that! While testing is not important to our school, I know it is important to the students that move on to attend public elementary schools and to their parents. I worry about how I can help these students (especially the older ones) prepare to take and pass standardized tests. My concern arose when a parent whose daughter was in our school until last year approached me about this topic. Her daughter is now in fifth grade in a public school that administers the STAR test. The girl is struggling and did not pass the math portion in the test. I feel helpless... my peaceful and respectful students who have so much knowledge are stuck with this system and this testing. How can I reassure the parents and the students that they will be prepared for standardized testing and that I have done my best to guide the children?
Standardized Testing: Preparing Montessori Students
Since you do not administer the STAR test, nor was this girl your student this year, you have no way of telling how she is doing in school. Transferring to a public school can be an adjustment for some. This student may be struggling with the amount of abstract work that is required, whereas before, she had all the materials with which to concretely practice. Was this student excelling in math in the Montessori environment? Did she readily grasp abstract concepts, or did she require a lot of instruction and practice with the materials? If the latter, then I would expect her to struggle in the public system as well.
It is okay to tell the parent that you are sorry to hear her child is having challenges this year. You know that the Montessori curriculum provides a firm foundation for all mathematical learning. I would advise the parent to talk to the girl’s current teacher for ideas on how to help her daughter transition to public curriculum, as well as how to provide additional support to help her succeed.
You may also consider looking at the state standards/Common Core and see how closely your curriculum aligns with the standards. You might find some gaps that you can fill-in. For instance, part of the North Carolina standards require students to know certain geometric concepts that are not covered in the core Montessori curriculum. I had to make sure that I had covered that in my own Montessori public charter classroom because we did administer a standardized test. There is nothing wrong with comparing the Montessori curriculum to state and national standards, as long as you cover the additional lessons using Montessori-type lessons and materials. In fact, this will strengthen your program and help your enrollment as you can now state that your curriculum aligns with state/federal guidelines. Parents who are thinking of enrolling their students in the elementary program will know that their child will be able to transition to public school knowing the same material as other students.
For more information about standardized testing in the Montessori environment, you may also find these NAMC blogs helpful:
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Tuesday, May 21, 2013.