Angela Murray
KU Center for Montessori Research

KU Center for Montessori Research selected to lead study on effectiveness of method across cultural groups

Mon, 03/19/2018

LAWRENCE – The Brady Education Foundation has selected the University of Kansas Center for Montessori Research to manage the multisite database and conduct the aggregated analysis for a new study that will investigate how Montessori early childhood education affects the academic and social-emotional development of children.

Specifically, the study will focus on determining whether Montessori education is equally effective across cultural groups and whether it reduces the effects of lower family income on children’s outcomes.

Joining the KU Center for Montessori Research for the study will be data collection teams at Child Trends and the Riley Institute at Furman University in South Carolina.

“This project is ideal for the KU Center for Montessori Research because it leverages our psychometric and data analytic capabilities and expertise in Montessori education along with our emphasis on collaborative research,” said Angela Murray, KU Center for Montessori Research director.

The study is one of the largest randomized controlled trials of its kind, capitalizing on school lotteries to identify the initial study sample of children at the age of 3 and follow them over three years through kindergarten. Small studies have shown promising results suggesting that Montessori students achieve greater academic growth and show stronger social-emotional outcomes than their peers, but this project expands the analysis to multiple schools with a much larger sample size. The study team will select participants from sites across the U.S. and will release results late in 2022. 

“A great amount of research documents the effects of the opportunity/achievement gap, both for low-income kids and kids of color,” said Liz Pungello Bruno, president of Brady Education Foundation. “While high-fidelity Montessori education has been shown to promote positive outcomes for children, we need more research using rigorous designs with larger sample sizes to do the critical subgroup analyses.”

A recent study of public Montessori in Hartford, Connecticut, conducted by Angeline Lillard of the University of Virginia and her colleagues, showed positive outcomes with a rigorous but small design. Furman University’s recently released study on public Montessori programs in South Carolina was large but was not a randomized controlled trial design.

Although Montessori education is available for infants through adolescents, the study focuses on the effect it has at the early childhood level. That's because research suggests developmentally appropriate programs for this age group that address the needs of the whole child hold promise for improving outcomes. Montessori education is unique in that it balances child-directed academic content with an equal emphasis on moral, emotional and behavioral development. Teachers carefully design environments that allow children relative freedom to explore a variety of hands-on lessons at their own pace based on personal interests within long blocks of uninterrupted time — typically up to three hours. Each early childhood classroom includes children ranging in age from 3 to 6 years old.

The study offers the first large-scale, rigorous assessment of the potential for a holistic educational approach like Montessori that balances academics and concerns for optimal human development to affect diverse populations of preschoolers in important ways.

About AAI & Center for Montessori Research

Established in 2012, the Achievement & Assessment Institute is the umbrella organization for several specialized research centers committed to building partnerships, products and programs in educational practice, assessment, access and evaluation. These initiatives benefit children, adults, communities and publicly funded agencies at the local, state and national levels. As one of AAI’s centers, the mission of the Center for Montessori Research is to engage in collaborative research, evaluation and dissemination activities for building a robust body of knowledge so that Montessori education and philosophy will benefit all children.

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