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|In addition to the obvious concerns that arise for many parents because the elementary Montessori approach sounds so different from what we experienced as children, there is the other issue with which we began. Sometimes, elementary programs get started because a group of enthusiastic parents and teachers have not realistically understood what it takes to make the classical elementary Montessori model work.
Montessori elementary programs require a substantial investment in Montessori apparatus and supporting educational materials. A fully equipped classroom can easily cost more than $40,000 in the first year of operation.
Secondly, the program is complex and intellectually challenging, and an elementary Montessori classroom should be led by an extraordinary teacher; a multi-talented Renaissance man or woman. Obviously, world-class teachers do not come cheap, and top-notch experienced elementary Montessori teachers are in short supply.
Finally, a stable elementary class seems to depend on a group of children who have grown up in Montessori, but often over the years, as children leave Montessori for other programs, Montessori schools will admit new students transferring in from more traditional schools. Sometimes these children work in very nicely, but they may also bring with them attitudes and behavior completely different from those we attempt to foster in Montessori programs. Children who find it difficult to work independently, who have lost their spark of curiosity, often see adults as potential adversaries and hard work as something to be avoid. The introduction of "cool" behavior, teasing, social competition, cliques, and "put-downs" can wreck havoc among a group of children who have grown up "Montessori."
The bottom line is that it takes real commitment to quality and a significant financial investment to create a topnotch elementary Montessori program.
|Homework, tests of students' knowledge of classroom subject matter, and report cards are three issues that often stir up a lot of controversy in Montessori elementary school programs. Without getting into a long discussion on the merits of these issues, other than to point out that there are ways in which these activities can take place without promoting competition among students, I think we can agree that they at least serve as three additional ways to ensure accountability.
Standardized testing, another hot issue among some Montessori schools, is an additional opportunity to provide benchmarks of accountability not only for the individual but for the entire school community.
As parents, we would love to believe that our children learn because they love to learn. This is certainly the ideal, but not always the reality. Regardless of the motivation behind the learning, by the time children reach the elementary years, they need to know that they will be held accountable for information that they must learn, and schools need to be held accountable to parents to assure them that their children are learning what they need to learn.
If you have a child that is enrolled in an elementary Montessori program that does not test, assign homework, or grade, this does not mean that the school is wrong. It may be following a model that this particular school community endorses. However, it is then up to you as a parent to assess your level of comfort with this situation and decide if you are satisfied that your child's academic growth meets your expectations.
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