In this study, thirty 5-year old kids and twenty nine 12-year old kids attending a public inner-city Montessori school in Milwaukee, Wis. were included. Equal numbers of their counterparts attending non-Montessori Milwaukee schools were also included in the research.
Superior reading and math skills were found in the 5-year-old Montessori children than their counterparts in traditional schools. The Montessori kids scored higher in tests assessing social development.
In the case of the 12-year olds, similar performance was found in Montessori and non-Montessori students, however, the Montessori kids scored higher in the tests for social and behavioral development, revealed the researcher Angeline Lillard, Ph.D., professor of psychology at the University of Virginia at Charlottesville. She brought out the book, Montessori: The Science Behind the Genius last year.
The current study appears in the Sept. 29 issue of the journal Science.
Approximately 300 public schools in America follow the teaching principles developed about 100 years back by Italian physician and educator Maria Montessori.
There is no testing or grading in this system. Montessori is mainly used in preschool and early education. However, there are also Montessori middle schools and high schools.
"Concerns about the program tend to focus on the lack of testing and grading of school-aged children," Lillard says.
"Parents worry that their children won't be able to compete if they aren't exposed early to competitiveness in school," she says.
Lillard and co-researcher Nichole Else-Quest, Ph.D., carried out the study to focus on this matter.
"The thinking is that parents who want their kids to go to Montessori schools might be more motivated and more organized and orderly at home," she says. "And we know that organization and order at home leads to better child outcomes."
Debra Ackerman, Ph.D., of the privately funded National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER), says, "No single teaching method or curriculum, including Montessori, has been proven to be the best approach for teaching young children. The latest study, is not only too small to allow generalization to all public school settings, but the two-page report in Science has left out much of the methodology needed to assess the accuracy of the results."
"It is impossible to judge the merit of this study, based on what was published," she says.
"There are many widely differing approaches to early education and the large- scale studies needed to better understand which methods work best are just starting to be done. It is clear that young children learn best when they are taught in smaller classrooms with student-teacher ratios of no more than one to 10. And paying enough to recruit high-quality teachers with college degrees in early education also makes a difference," she said.