Skip to main content

You are here

Montessori for All Children

In fall 2006, Angeline Lillard published a study in Science, one of the most prestigious journals in the world, which examined academic, social, and intellectual outcomes of children who were educated in a Montessori environment. She used a student sample from Milwaukee, where there is fantastic public Montessori involvement. Many people want to send their children to Milwaukee's Craig Montessori School. You have to enter a lottery to be accepted. Lillard was able to compare the children who won the lottery and went to the Montessori school with the children who applied but did not win the lottery, and ended up at other schools. This provided Lillard with a largely urban, lower-income, diverse study sample. It also gave her random assignment participants.

In her study, Lillard found that Montessori children demonstrated significantly stronger social cognition skills. They performed better in academics and were better able to put themselves into the shoes of somebody else in the understanding of what had gone on in a situation. 

The general summary from Lillard's work is that in a real-world, public, inner-city Montessori school with an excellent implementation of the Montessori model, there were differences favouring the Montessori kids in executive functioning, decoding and early maths, understanding of the mind, and appeals to social justice and social behaviour by the end of kindergarten. Those advantages were present early on, and remained at grade 6.

People do not doubt that the Montessori method works for children of privilege. They are delighted to hear it works in inner-city public school systems, because most children go to conventional public school systems. There is no reason that schools in our culture have to be the way they are. It is about industrialisation. It is about tradition. It is about inertia. Nobody who is a developmental psychologist, nobody who is a neuropsychologist would design a school today that would look like a conventional school does today. It is just habit.

At this point, in the history of the world, in the history of our civilisation, what happens next will depend on how the earth and it inhabitants are regarded by those who stand to inherit it. I believe that if our children and grandchildren are to see the 22nd century, those who are running things now need the 21st century to value a civilisation that holds peace and kindness, and justice and respect for the needs and welfare of others as core values. These values lay at the heart of Montessori education and I believe these values will support the value of our planet and our species.