Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Preparing Montessori Students for Standardized Testing

NAMC preparing montessori students for standardized testing girl with montessori math cube

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.

NAMC preparing montessori students for standardized testing girl with montessori math multiplication board

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:

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 Tuesday, May 21, 2013.


  1. It is definitely a dance of grace and balance. I agree, check the standards that are going to be tested and add to your base so that the children have access to the vocabulary, strategies for test taking. Samples to demonstrate how testing works. Sometimes the kids just want to know what 'regular school' is like. That really opens their eyes to the blessings of the school that they are in.

  2. Hi Katrina...thank you for commenting. I like the idea of having sample tests. In one Montessori school I taught at, we gave standardized tests in our Upper Elementary so our students had practice taking one. It was part of our UE practical life lessons.

  3. It is built-in to AMI training/practice that 3rd and 6th grade students (typically the ones in their potential last years before possible transition to non-Montessori schools) have access to the state standards in their Montessori classes and are shown how to utilize them for their own selves - developing their own activities to learn or review or re-vocabularize something on the standards.

    It should NOT be up to the teacher to create all these activities if we are seeking to provide a true Montessori experience for the children.

  4. Hi Jessica, thank you for your comment. I think it’s important that we, as teachers, understand exactly how the Montessori curriculum and any standardized curriculum aligns. The best way to understand that is to carefully review both sets of curricula so as to integrate them seamlessly. A fully prepared teacher is an important part of the Montessori prepared environment.

    1. I agree :) It is also important for the child to take on responsibility and for the adult to provide the environment and the structure, while helping/allowing the child to meet various responsibilities. This was emphasized over and over in my training and it really sunk in for me. :) Sure saves the teacher having to come up with everything her/himself as well!


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