September 28, 2006—A study comparing outcomes of children at a public inner-city Montessori school with children who attended traditional schools indicates that Montessori education leads to children with better social and academic skills.
The study appears in the September 29, 2006 issue of the journal Science (see article full text; available free through Montessori-Science.org).
Montessori education is characterized by multi-age classrooms, a special set of educational materials, student-chosen work in long time blocks, a collaborative environment with student mentors, absence of grades and tests, and individual and small group instruction in academic and social skills. More than 5,000 schools in the United States, including 300 public schools, use the Montessori method.
The Montessori school studied is located in Milwaukee and serves urban minority children. Students at the school were selected for enrollment through a random lottery process. Those students who “won” the lottery and enrolled at the Montessori school made up the study group. A control group was made up of children who had “lost” the lottery and were therefore enrolled in other schools using traditional methods. In both cases the parents had entered their children in the school lottery with the hope of gaining enrollment in the Montessori school.
“This strategy addressed the concern that parents who seek to enroll their children in a Montessori school are different from parents who do not,” wrote study authors Angeline Lillard, a University of Virginia professor of psychology, and Nicole Else-Quest, a former graduate student in psychology at the University of Wisconsin. This was an important factor because parents generally are the dominant influence on child outcomes.
Children were evaluated at the end of the two most widely implemented levels of Montessori education: primary (3- to 6-year-olds) and elementary (6- to 12-year-olds). They came from families of very similar income levels (averaging from $20,000 to $50,000 per year for both groups).
The Website also has links to articles about Montessori education and has a page devoted to Dr. Angeline S. Lillard‘s book Montessori: The Science behind the Genius — you can even download a pdf of the first chapter! Dr. Lillard is a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia.