Standardized testing has been a significant topic in the broader discussion of education reform and of great interest to parents, educators, students in public, charter, and other schools that receive public funding, as well as certain private schools. Because Mountain Shadows is a private, non-profit entity and does not receive government funding, we are not required to administer standardized tests to our students. However MSMS has chosen for many years to administer tests annually beginning in the 3rd year of Elementary.
We administer these tests for several reasons. First, test taking is an important life skill and we ensure that the students learn and practice this skill during their time with us. As you know, we do not “teach to the test” however we do carefully review the results and consider this one of many inputs we use as Montessorians for ongoing assessment.
Some parents have asked, “How do your students score on these tests?” Generally speaking, our students test quite well, at or 1 or more years above grade level. In recent years there have been children testing 3-6 years above grade level. The next question is usually “Why don’t you use this information in the school’s promotional materials?” The primary reason is test score averages do not holistically and adequately assess our children’s full progress. Also, the scores can be misleading when published in aggregate. For example, there are always children with learning challenges that interfere with their ability to score high marks. This does not mean they aren’t capable; rather there can be many different reasons, which are addressed by supporting each child’s learning style on an individual basis.
Montessori schools generally are not known for selecting students that will help stack test scores. Mountain Shadows has long taken the stance that we exist in service to the child and we meet each individual child where they are at any given time.
Our focus is on the development of the whole child and their academic, social, and emotional development – not on ensuring test scores are high for publicity or funding needs. Montessori is a scientific pedagogy backed by over a century of research in human development, brain development, and education. When the method is implemented correctly, the whole child is nurtured and guided in their learning and maturation process. With our approach, each child works to his or her full potential. This could be slightly below, at, or many years above grade level depending on the individual child. I believe what’s most important for parents to consider is that your child will never be held back waiting for the rest of the class to catch up, nor will your child ever be pushed ahead to new material before he is ready. This individualized approach to teaching and learning, along with all of the other benefits to an authentic Montessori classroom is not offered in any other approach to education. At each program level, through each lesson, we are guiding the children in building a strong foundation for all future learning, which they will carry forward for their entire life.
Do we sound passionate? You bet. We are passionate about the Montessori method, your children who have all the potential to realize their dreams and create a better future, our teachers who have made significant life choices to dedicate their careers to the cause of children and the betterment of humanity, and you – parents who made the courageous choice to enroll your children at Mountain Shadows because you wanted something different and better for your children.
While Montessori education is the most common alternative to conventional education, it still represents just 1.5% of education offerings in the United States. And of the 1.5%, there are many flavors of Montessori that may or may not be adhering to the scientific principals and research behind the method. This means it can be confusing or difficult for parents to choose or recognize quality Montessori education. You’ve done your research and you chose Mountain Shadows for this and many other reasons. It’s a bold choice for parents to make in today’s world and we honor each and every one of you.
Do you want to learn more about the origin of standardized testing? Enjoy this article: Standardized Tests: Help or Hinderance. In this article Phyllis Pottish-Lewis weaves a thread that begins with tests originally developed to assess unrealized potential in children to where we are today with a focus on a relatively narrow definition of achievement and as a funding assessment tool.