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Montessori in Research

The following are summaries of various research studies and school performance results that indicate the positive impact of Montessori education.

Lillard, A. & Else-Quest, N. (2006) – Evaluating Montessori Education (Science 313)

A study comparing outcomes of children at a US 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 was conducted by Angeline Lillard, a University of Virginia Professor of Psychology, and Nicole Else-Quest, a former graduate student in psychology at the University of Wisconsin, appeared in the Sept. 29, 2006 issue of the journal, Science.

The following is a summary as reported in The Time (London) September 29, 2006. Extracted from an article by Alexandra Frean:

  • The findings are based on a study of 112 children from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Fifty-nine students attended a Montessori school, while a control group of 53 children attended conventional schools in the same area.
  • By the age of 5, the children at the Montessori school were better at basic word recognition and mathematics, and were more likely to play co-operatively with other children. By the age of 12, they were more creative and better able to resolve social problems.
  • Among the five year olds, the Montessori students not only performed significantly better in Math and English, but were also better able to see the world through other’s eyes and performed better with “executive function”, which is the ability to adapt to changing and complex problems.
  • By the age of 12, the difference in academic scores between the two groups was less pronounced. The Montessori children, however, wrote more creative essays, selected more positive responses to social dilemmas and reported a more positive sense of community at their school.

Science vol 313, 29 September 2006

Chisnall, N. & Maher, M. (2007) – Montessori Mathematics in Early Childhood Education

This research project examined mathematical concept development in children prior to school entry and indicated that Montessori may have a positive impact on children’s’ numeracy knowledge. The following is a list of their findings:

  • Montessori students showed significantly higher achievement regarding backward number word sequence (a precursor to subtraction), early addition and subtraction, and place value concept.
  • Indications are that the Montessori system may be offering more opportunities for children to develop higher order skills and concepts in early childhood.
  • Also indication that Montessori can favorably impact students in low socio economic status areas

Curriculum Matters 3, 6-28

Harris, E.M. (2004) – Evaluation of the reorganization of Northboro Elementary School in Palm Beach County, Florida: a ten-year perspective.

The following is a brief summary of an eleven year case study of one school and the turn around that Montessori brought:

  • This study examined an at-risk elementary school from 1991-2002. The community decided on the Montessori Magnet Program and utilized the Reading Recovery Program and a parent involvement program.
  • Math scores went up 28% to a 52% pass rate.
  • Parent involvement tripled.
  • The school community became more diverse.
  • 91% of all six year olds were reading at or above grade level.

Dissertation, Union Institute and University

Dohrmann, K (2003) – Outcomes for Students in a Montessori Program, A Longitudinal Study of the Experience in the Milwaukee Public Schools

  • This study supports the hypothesis that Montessori education has a positive long-term impact. Additionally, it provides an affirmative answer to questions about whether Montessori students will be successful in traditional schools.
  • A significant finding in this study is the association between a Montessori education and superior performance in the Math and Science scales of the ACT and WKCE tests. In essence, attending a Montessori program from the approximate ages of three to eleven predicts significantly higher mathematics and science standardized test scores in high school.

Source document:

Vance, T.L. (2003) – An Exploration of the Relationship between Preschool Experience and the Acquisition of Phonological Awareness in Kindergarten

  • Comparison of four ECE experiences
  • Students attending the Montessori program outscored all others on all tests administered on development of literacy skills and phonological awareness.

Dissertation, George Mason University

Rathunde, K. (2003) – A Comparison of Montessori and Traditional Middle Schools: Motivation, Quality of Experience, and Social Context

  • With the help of co-investigator Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Dr. Rathunde compared the experiences and perceptions of middle school students in Montessori and traditional schools using the Experience Sampling Method (ESM)
  • Montessori students reported a significantly better quality of experience in the academic work than traditional students did.
  • In addition, Montessori students perceived their schools as a more positive community for learning, with more opportunities for active, rather than passive, learning.

The NAMTA Journal 28:3 (Summer, 2003), pages 12-52

Reed, M. (2000) – A Comparison of the Place Value Understanding of Montessori and Non-Montessori Elementary School Students

  • A mathematics study in which Montessori students consistently outperformed non-Montessori students on “tasks of a more conceptual nature, while performing the same or slightly better on counting and symbolic tasks”.

East Dallas Community School

  • Offering accredited Montessori classroom programs for children ages 12 months through 3rd grade in one of the most under-served communities in Dallas
  • 67% from families living at or below poverty level; 49% are learning English as a second language
  • In 2002, 78% of the school’s third-graders applied to Dallas Independent School District’s gifted and talented program. All were accepted.
  • 100% of this public charter school students have passed the high stakes state reading competency tests.
  • According to a ten year study of standardized test scores (1993-2003), EDCS students’ average scores were in the top 36% nationwide in reading and math.
  • In a neighborhood where the high school graduation rate is less that 50%, 94% of the third grade alumni have graduated from high school; 88% of those have gone on to college
  • In 2005, this public charter school was ranked among the top 6% of charter school districts, and among the top 15% of all public school districts in the state of Texas.
  • In 2006 and 2007, EDCS received a Gold Performance Acknowledgment from the state for the students’ accomplishments in reading.


Alfred G. Zanetti School Springfield, Massachusetts

  • Until 1999, the school had low test scores, high absenteeism and a student turnover rate of almost 50% a year
  • Converted to Montessori, turnover rate dropped to 5%
  • Assessments all the way down to the youngest classrooms exhibited a record of success.

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