- SUPPORT SB-257 without added assessment amendments and
- OPPOSE SB-1323 because it does not provide adequate flexibility to allow the type of pilot alternative assessment system public Montessori schools need to implement their programs with fidelity
The following are key components of the White Paper you will receive from the Colorado Montessori Association entitled:
The current assessment model in Colorado (PARCC/CMAS) is poorly aligned to Montessori educational theory and practice. Further implementation of this system will undermine efforts to maintain and expand access to authentic Montessori programs in public settings. For this reason, the Montessori community advocates for reform of the system.
Public Montessori Education
Montessori programs first arrived in the United States in the early 1900’s with presentations from Maria Montessori herself. Montessori schools grew in number in America, but largely as private schools and largely in the early childhood/early elementary environments.
As our economy has shifted from an industrial model to that of a knowledge economy, greater attention has been paid to Montessori education and in particular how to expand Montessori programs in public settings. Over the past 20 years, the United States in general and Colorado in particular has seen immense growth of public Montessori schools.
Expansion of Montessori programs occurred largely with an implied assumption that state standardized assessments would be a part of the public program. Schools complied with the expectations of the state accountability system, schools administered CSAP, and later TCAP, and now PARCC; however, this work was done with knowledge that the assessment model was a poor fit with the Montessori program. It placed pressure on schools to shift away from Montessori practices to something different (which looks more and more like typical learning practices of non-Montessori schools). Greater awareness began to develop that the accountability system was corrupting Montessori practice. Recent assessment programs promoted through PARCC are forcing a shift that will cause even greater decline in authentic Montessori practices. This shift is not because the Montessori model is weak, but rather because the PARCC assessment is intentionally designed to shift practices towards specific teaching methods.
The state assessment system is designed to address a public need for knowing that our schools are providing a quality education to all students. Montessori Education embraces assessment – especially frequent formative assessment. The difference is that Montessori educators desire assessment that is aligned to, encourage use of, and help inform Montessori practice. As a result, the state should provide an option for schools that desire an assessment system outside of PARCC/CMAS.
It is reasonable that in order to have an alternative assessment option, Public Montessori schools must have systems in place to demonstrate that students are making clear academic gains. Such a system would consist of three components: 1) Use of a nationally-recognized academic skills assessment, 2) Demonstrated evidence that the school’s program offers a way for students to master the state’s academic standards, and 3) Regular evaluation of a school for meeting nationally-recognized standards of Montessori school quality. Further detail is provided below:
- Use of a nationally-recognized academic assessment instrument
There are three criteria that should be used to determine a proper assessment for public Montessori schools:
1) The assessment should be able to mirror federal expectations in that it can provide proxy scores for a student’s “grade level proficiency” and year over year academic growth.
2) The assessment should pull from a large national sample so that summative results can be compared relative to other schools and demographic populations.
3) The assessment should measure learning outcomes and guide future instruction in the context of Montessori pedagogy.
The CMA does not have a recommended assessment to be used. Currently, two assessments in use by Montessori schools that align to our criteria are the NWEA MAP assessment and the SRI/SMI (Scholastic Reading/Math Inventory). The CMA does not endorse PARCC or CMAS as assessment instruments. The PARCC/CMAS assessments are based on pedagogical expectations that are not aligned with the Montessori method.
The paradigm guiding education in America today is that it is a state’s job to identify core-learning standards for all students. These standards should communicate a minimum set of knowledge and skills that all students should graduate with. The Colorado Montessori Association embraces this paradigm for public programs with the exception that we do not feel such mastery should be strictly connected to grade level. Montessori classrooms are designed around the theory that learning occurs in leaps of understanding after deep engagement with lessons and materials versus acquiring knowledge in a straight linear progression. As such, students remain in a classroom through a three-year cycle where they are introduced to, work on, and eventually become proficient in the core learning standards of all three grades. Montessori students may not show proficiency on grade level tests within the three-year cycle because they are being tested on content that they have yet to be introduced to. However, Montessori students consistently demonstrate grade level proficiency and/or advanced at the end of each three-year cycle (K, 3rd, 6th, 9th, ACT).
The Montessori curriculum is aligned to the CCSS and CAS. There are a variety of approaches for measuring student proficiency on standards within the Montessori method. Record keeping of lessons that are aligned to these standards is a best practice today for public Montessori schools. This record keeping also captures anecdotal observations for how students have demonstrated progress towards mastery of the lessons and standards.
CMA does not have a recommended record keeping system to be used. Current record keeping systems in use by Montessori schools that have a standards alignment include MRX, Montessori Compass, Montessori Made Easy, and Montessori Workspace. Other in-house products have been developed by some schools, particularly for secondary environments.
III. Montessori School Performance
Schools should be encouraged when conducting their root cause analysis of their data and completing their Unified Improvement Plans to consider frameworks of quality Montessori implementation.
CMA does not recommend a specific quality rubric for all Montessori schools however several current quality frameworks in use by Montessori schools include: The Montessori Essential Elements Rubric, AMI Accreditation, or AMS Accreditation.
Call to Action
CMA plans to advocate for policy reform of the state testing system. It plans to issue its full White Paper on Assessment in Public Montessori Schools this week. CMA member schools look forward to opening a genuine collaboration in the area of assessment in alternative programs. We think Montessori offers an important alternative path for students and our hope is to maintain and continue to strengthen public Montessori schools in Colorado.
The Colorado Montessori Association is a voice for Montessori advocacy in the Colorado. Many CMA member schools are public Montessori schools operated either by districts as magnet schools or as charter schools authorized by LEAs.
Thank you for your serious consideration of the above as you enter the busy week ahead. We need good public Montessori schools in Colorado and with your help, we will continue to have them.
The Colorado Montessori Association is committed to serving all Montessori schools in Colorado, thereby serving our children and families. We appreciate you taking the time to advocate for Montessori as a key component of public education and we look forward to continued opportunities to work with you and serve you.