Thursday, January 04, 2018

Studies Shed Light on Merits of Montessori Education

These findings are similar to what we see in programs to boost IQ.  Kids benefit initially but the differences fade out by the late teens.  One interpretastion is that teachers in any sort of "special" program tend to be more motivated -- and that is the only thing having any effect

Montessori schools have many loyal devotees and they're certainly rising in popularity among American parents. But are they any better than traditional schools, or other progressive teaching philosophies?

You'd think we'd know the answer to that question by now. Montessori schools have been around for more than a hundred years, dating back to Maria Montessori's first school for poor children in Rome in 1907. In recent years, there's been a surge in new Montessori schools in the United States, fueled, in part, by new state laws that are expanding the numbers of publicly funded, but privately run charter schools.

Today there are some 500 publicly funded Montessori schools across the United States, up from fewer than 300 in 2000, according to the National Center for Montessori in the Public Sector. The number of private Montessori schools, estimated to be around 4,000, is rising too. (Full disclosure: my daughter attends a Montessori school and I went to a Montessori kindergarten.)

Yet there's been very little rigorous research to prove that children learn more in Montessori schools than they otherwise would have. The main problem is that you can't randomly assign some students to Montessori schools and study how they do compared with students at traditional schools. Parents get to make these choices, and it's quite possible that the parents who choose Montessori schools are more academically inclined than those who don't.

Thanks to the expansion of publicly funded Montessori schools, with lotteries and waitlists to get in, researchers are now able to study the matter more rigorously. That's because lotteries are, in effect, a random assignment machine. Some kids win a seat in a Montessori school. Others don't. And you can compare the achievement of the lottery losers with the lottery winners.

Recently, two peer-reviewed studies were published using this methodology. The results are mixed: promising for preschool, not so promising for older students in high school.

In the October 2017 preschool study, published in Frontiers in Psychology, six researchers looked at two Montessori schools in Hartford, Connecticut. Both were established by the state as public "magnet" schools, designed to be very high-quality Montessori programs that would attract wealthy families from the suburbs to low-income neighborhoods in Hartford. Some of the students who attended the public Montessori schools had family incomes as high as $200,000 a year. The students who "lost" the lottery all ended up at some other sort of preschool. Half of them attended a private school; others went to a federally funded Head Start program.

The researchers tested approximately 140 students at the start of the preschool and found that both the Montessori and non-Montessori kids began at age three with similar achievement scores. The 70 students who went to the Montessori schools advanced more rapidly on math and literacy tests over the next three years. At the end of kindergarten, when this study ended, the Montessori kids had significantly higher achievement. (Softer skills, such as group problem-solving, executive function and creativity were not better for Montessori kids. The two groups did about the same on those measures, or the differences were not statistically significant.)

To be sure, high-income kids outperformed low-income kids regardless of the school. But the researchers found that lower-income kids in Montessori schools had much higher math and literacy scores than the lower-income kids in other schools. Similarly, higher-income kids in Montessori outperformed higher-income kids in other schools, but not by as much.

One question is whether it's the Montessori method that's driving the results, or whether these Hartford children benefited from especially good teachers who would have gotten these results regardless of the teaching method. One theory is that gifted educators are particularly drawn to Montessori philosophy and study for the extra certifications.

Even if it is the Montessori method, it's unknown whether the whole complex system is required, including all the expensive wooden materials and step-by-step teaching techniques, or whether certain elements are driving the results. The two schools in this study strictly adhered to the original Montessori philosophy. Many other Montessori schools have adapted with the times, introducing technology, for example, and supplementing their instruction with non-Montessori curriculum and ideas.

Angeline Lillard, one of this study's six authors and a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia, hopes to build a body of evidence for Montessori by repeating these results in other cities. The Hartford study follows her 2006 Milwaukee study, published in Science magazine, which also found better results for children who won a lottery to attend a public Montessori school.

Meanwhile, a September 2017 study published in Economics of Education Review found that a Montessori education didn't make a difference for teenagers. It tracked hundreds of students, some of whom had won a lottery to attend a Montessori high school in the Netherlands, others of whom had lost the lottery and attended a traditional secondary school. (State-run Montessori schools for all ages are widespread and popular in the Netherlands, where Maria Montessori spent the final years of her life and died in 1952. By contrast, there are few Montessori high schools in the United States.)

In the Netherlands, Montessori high school students did no better or worse than traditional students. They finished their secondary degrees at the same rates with similar grades and final exam results. The author, Nienke Rujis, also found no differences on soft skills. Montessori students showed similar levels of motivation, and scored no better on measures of independence, "even though these are the main characteristics that a Montessori education claims to foster," Rujis wrote.

Lillard, who sent both of her daughters to a Montessori elementary school, suspects that uneven quality of instruction might explain why the Dutch Montessori schools didn't prove their superiority. "I've heard about classrooms full of Montessori materials but the teachers had no training," Lillard said.

Considering the high demand for these schools, the quality probably isn't too shabby. However, there is more variation among high schools, since the Montessori curriculum for older students is less standardized or prescribed.

Another real possibility is that Montessori might work quite well with younger children, but the extra, early boost "fades out" as students from traditional schools catch up.


New education laws passed by California Legislature in 2017

The Leftist grip on California education tightens.  Particularly sad to see the high school exit exam now finally gone.  Serious educationists put up a real fight to retain it but political correctness defeated them.  Blacks frequently failed it.  Now you can graduate high school in California having learned just about nothing -- and many do.  California High School qualifications are now meaningless, which is why many employers now run their own tests.

This past year, dozens of bills related to education passed through the California legislature and received Gov. Jerry Brown’s signatures.

The new laws effect everything from public school instruction and curriculum to community college tuition, free or reduced-price school lunch, school facilities and school districts’ finances.

Here is a look at some of the major education legislation passed in California this year.

Community Colleges

AB 19: California College Promise

First-year, full-time students at all 114 California Community Colleges will be able to attend their first year of college for free, under Assembly Bill 19.

The California College Promise will waive students’ first year tuition fees as long as they are enrolled in 12 or more semester units and qualify for financial aid under a FAFSA or California Dream Act application.

AB 637: Cross-Enrollment in Online Education

Students enrolled at a California Community College will be able to cross-enroll in an online course offered by other campuses without additional tuition or fees.

Those who choose to take classes from colleges that are part of the Online Education Initiative Consortium would then have their enrollment data transferred to the “teaching college,” or the college they are taking the online course from.

AB 1018: Student Equity Plans

Assembly Bill 1018 will change the way community colleges approach their student equity plan as part of the Student Success and Support Program.

The categories of homeless, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students are now required to be addressed in the student equity plans.

Colleges, Universities

AB 699 and AB21: Immigration and Citizenship Status

These bills will prohibit public school, community colleges, California State University and University of California campuses from collecting information or documents about the immigration status of students, faculty and staff and their families.

AB 990: Estimates of Off-Campus Housing Costs

Beginning Feb. 1, California State University will be required, and University of California campuses will be requested, to post information online about the market cost of a one-bedroom in the areas surrounding the campuses where students commonly live.

High Schools

AB 830:  High School Exit Exam

California officially abandoned its high school exit exam, following a two-year hiatus of the test beginning in 2015.

Students will no longer be required to pass the exit exam as a condition of receiving their diploma for graduation.

AB 10: Feminine Hygiene

Middle Schools and high schools with at least 40 percent of low-income students will be required to provide free feminine hygiene products in half of the school’s bathrooms.

AB 1360: Charter School Admissions, Suspensions and Expulsions

In their petitions, charter schools must now include a description of the procedures for which a student could be suspended, expelled or removed from a charter school.

Schools will also be able to add additional student preferences for those applying to attend charter schools, after holding a public hearing at their chartering authority.

AB 424: Possession of a Firearm in a School Zone

Superintendents will no longer be able to provide written permission for a person to possess a firearm in a school zone.

School Districts
SB 468 and AB 261: Student Board Members

Student board members will now have preferential voting rights on all educational boards.  They will also receive all open meeting materials, be invited to staff briefings and be provided with separate staff briefings, like all appointed board members.

AB 203: Design and Construction Regulations

School districts will have more flexibility when they are designing instructional facilities which will in turn streamline school design and the process for applying to the state for construction funds.

The law also requires the Department of Education to give technical assistance to small school districts seeking to build or fund school facilities.

SB 751: Reserve Balance

SB 751 raised the limit on school districts’ assigned or unassigned reserve balances—or money districts keep in a reserve for emergencies—to 10 percent.  It also exempts districts with fewer than 2,500 students from these reserve cap restrictions.


AB 37: Content Standards in Media Arts

School districts are required to create visual and performing arts standards in the subject of media arts.

AB 738: Native American Studies

The state Instructional Quality Commission, which recommends curriculum framework to the State Board of Education, is required to develop a model curriculum in Native American Studies for students in grades 9 to 12.

It also would require districts that do not offer a standards-based Native American Studies curriculum to offer a course in the topic based on the model curriculum.

AB 643: Abusive Relationships

Sex and health education classes for students in grades 7 to 12 must now include lessons about relationship abuse and intimate partner violence, and the early warning signs of abusive relationships.

School Meals

SB 250: Child Hunger Prevention and Fair Treatment Act of 2017

The Child Hunger Prevention and Fair Treatment Act of 2017 officially ends the process of “meal shaming,” or punishing students in an effort to get parents to pay for their meals and settle their debts with school districts.

Schools that provide meals through the National School Lunch Program or the School Breakfast Program must ensure that students are not shamed, treated differently or served different meals if they have unpaid school meal fees.

The law also requires schools to notify parents or guardians of the negative balance on their meal account no later than 10 days after the negative balance appears on their accounts.

SB 138: Universal Meal Service

About 800,000 low-income students who receive Medi-Cal benefits will now be automatically enrolled in the state’s free or reduced-price lunch program.

Also known as the “Feed the Kids Act,” the law also requires high-poverty schools to operate a federally-funded universal meal program to all students.

Teacher Employment

AB 170: Teacher Credentialing

Individuals applying for a multi-subject credential or a preliminary multi-subject credential will no longer be required to have a bachelor degree in a subject other than professional education.

AB 949: Criminal Background Checks

Employees of companies school districts contract with will now be required to complete a criminal background check and fingerprinting before working on school campuses.


Israel Introduces Program to Encourage Defence Force Enlistment

The program, with an overall budget of over $23m, is designed to expand activities for preparation for the Israel Defense Forces in and out of schools

Education Minister Naftali Bennett presented a new program on Tuesday to increase motivation for army enlistment among high school students, particularly into combat units. The program, with an overall budget of 80 million shekels, is designed to expand activities for preparation for the Israel Defense Forces in and out of schools.

The target is to double the number of participants in the preparatory programs, from about 5,000 to 10,000. The initiatives include Zahala, which focuses on at-risk teens, Haderekh Hahadasha (The New Way), which integrates those with Ethiopian roots into military service, Ofek, which operates a six-month pre-army institute, and others.

The program, which will begin this year, was created by a professional team headed by the director general of the Education Ministry, in cooperation with the Defense Ministry and the army. It is designed “to strengthen the connection between the schools and the IDF and the students’ identity and their connection to the IDF.”

Bennett added that “along with excellence in achievements in math and English, the Education Ministry is working to teach Zionist values. Therefore I instructed the school system to cooperate with the IDF and the Defense Ministry in a program to increase motivation to serve in combat units. In the 70th year of the state, service in the IDF is not only an ordinary civic obligation but also a great privilege and a top national mission.”

As part of the program, combat bases will work with educational institutions in order to strengthen the students’ desire for “significant” service. The units will host the students and introduce them to the activity on the base, while the schools will host officers and soldiers who will talk to the students about “battle heritage.” Joint ceremonies will be held on Memorial Day. In addition, officers will speak to 11th- and 12th-graders before enlistment and “tell them about their personal combat service [to] be a source of inspiration.” Senior officers will also speak to the teaching staff.

In response to increasing demand from the schools, the Education Ministry will up the number of schools participating in Gadna Week, which prepares the students for military service, with 30,000 11th-graders participating instead of 20,000.

As part of the program, 180 local councils will expand their army preparatory activities. During the school day, at least eight hours will be devoted to discussions prior to enlistment, and in the afternoon there will be activities “to create leadership” for 10th- to 12th-graders. The number of preparation centers for military service in the local councils will be doubled to 73 within a year, and will reach 180 within five years.

In addition, 12th-graders in the south of the country will participate in Day in the Footsteps of Fighters, intended to encourage combat service. Until now, it took place annually in the Golan Heights. The number of teacher-soldiers preparing teenagers for enlistment will increase from 400 to 500 within a year, and to 700 in five years.


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