Are Montessori Students More Successful?

The Montessori method of education has been around for over a century, but its effectiveness is still being debated. Studies have found that students who have been educated in the Montessori program can perform better than those who have been educated in traditional schools, while other studies have found that the results are the same or even worse. By the end of kindergarten, when this study ended, Montessori children performed significantly higher in certain areas. However, softer skills such as group problem solving, executive function, and creativity were not better for Montessori children.

A 2003 study found that Montessori students who had transferred to traditional schools were academically successful. This suggests that the Montessori method may be beneficial for some students, but not all. My research and experience has convinced me that what is incorrectly called the Montessori Method is not only superior to all alternatives, but categorically, not in the way Mozart can be said to be superior to Salieri, but in the way that vaccines can be said to be superior to homeopathy. Although the Montessori form of teaching originally came from classrooms in the low-income areas of Rome, today most Montessori schools in the United States are associated with high enrollment fees.

In various dimensions, children from a Montessori public school in the city center performed better compared to a sample of Montessori applicants who, due to a random lottery, attended other schools. Some researchers have observed that the fidelity of the implementation of the Montessori method is associated with different outcomes in children. In one of the studies discussed above, social and cognitive benefits emerged for children who had previously attended Montessori preschool centers and then moved to mainstream schools, but these benefits did not arise until adolescence. A follow-up study found cognitive benefits in Montessori students alone back in adolescence.

By 1910, Montessori schools had opened in other European countries and in 1911, the first Montessori opened its doors in the United States as a private school in the thriving community of Scarborough, New York. The authors did not evaluate the Montessori and non-Montessori groups on any extent of academic outcomes, but given the links between academic success and motivation at all stages of education (they provide a useful review of this literature), it would be worthwhile to investigate this link in Montessori schools.Many low-income parents have never heard of the Montessori model and it is opposite to the highly structured educational model (strict rules and lots of exam preparation) that low-income parents have been told is the path to their child's success. Even if randomization is achievable, studies should be conducted on a scale large enough to allow not only generalizations to be made beyond the private schools studied, but also to allow research into which children best fit the Montessori method.This time, school leaders are intentionally locating themselves in one of the District's historically underserved neighborhoods in an effort to revive their mission of bringing the Montessori method to all families. However, the study does provide a template of how future experimental manipulations of fidelity to the Montessori method could be carried out.