Investigating the Impact of Montessori Education in Public Schools
The Montessori method is a whole-child approach that focuses on developing the intellectual, moral, emotional and behavioral skills of children. While research suggests that high-fidelity Montessori education promotes positive outcomes for children, more research is needed that uses rigorous designs with larger sample sizes to investigate if Montessori education is equally effective across cultural groups and if it moderates the effects of lower family income on children’s outcomes. For example, the recent study of public Montessori in Hartford, Connecticut was rigorous but small, with only 2 school sites and not enough ethnic variability to conduct subgroup analyses concerning cultural background. The recent study of public Montessori programs in South Carolina was large enough to compare ethnic/racial subgroups but was not a randomized controlled trial.
The Brady Education Foundation (BEF) is funding an initiative that aims to investigate the impact of Primary Montessori Education (PreK-K) in the public sector, specifically focusing on if the approach is equally effective across cultural groups and whether it moderates the effects of family income on children’s academic achievement, executive functioning, and social outcomes.
Research teams at Child Trends and The Riley Institute at Furman University are collecting the data for the multi-site study, and a team based at the University of Kansas Center for Montessori Research is responsible for coordinating the initiative. The study capitalizes on school lotteries that will randomize the sample of children at the age of 3 and then follows them over 3 years through Kindergarten. Participants will be drawn from sites across the US, and results of the study are expected to be made public by the end of 2023.
In addition, as part of this initiative, BEF is funding 2 smaller grants for measurement development (please see press release here). One of these grants has been awarded to the team at University of Kansas Center for Montessori Research to support the continued development of a classroom observation instrument that will assess the implementation of Montessori practices, thus allowing researchers to account for variability in Montessori environments in their analysis. The second has been awarded to a team at Boston University to support the continued development of the ACSES-Snapshot (Assessing Classroom Sociocultural Equity Scale), a classroom observation instrument that provides information regarding whether children of color are treated equitably and whether their cultural knowledge and social background are being leveraged and incorporated in classroom instruction, with focus on refining and validating the measure for use in Montessori classrooms.