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IES Grant

Title: A Longitudinal Efficacy Study of the Montessori Preschool Model on Academic and Social-Emotional Outcomes
Center: NCER Year: 2018
Principal Investigator: Faria, Ann-Marie Awardee: American Institutes for Research (AIR)
Program: Early Learning Programs and Policies      [Program Details]
Award Period: 5 years (08/01/2018 - 07/31/2023) Award Amount: $3,294,232
Type: Efficacy and Replication Award Number: R305A180181

Co-Principal Investigator: Lillard, Angeline

Purpose: The purpose of this study is to investigate the impact of Montessori preschool education on children's kindergarten readiness skills. Although the Montessori model has expanded into public schools and Head Start programs in recent years, no large-scale evaluation of the efficacy of the Montessori preschool model for developing children's academic, social, and emotional skills has been conducted. In this project, researchers will compare children who enter Montessori at age 3 and attend for two years prior to kindergarten with their peers who participate in other early care and education experiences during those two years.

Project Activities: Researchers will evaluate the impacts of participating in a Montessori program on students' academic and social-behavioral skills. They will randomly assign children to the Montessori program or a waitlist control group within lotteries at each preschool program site. The researchers will collect data and conduct analyses to compare outcomes for students who were offered enrollment in a Montessori program with the outcomes for students who participated in the lotteries but were not offered Montessori enrollment (and attended other types of preschool programs instead). They will also conduct a cost effectiveness study of the public Montessori preschool model.

Products: Researchers will produce evidence of the efficacy of Montessori preschool education to improve children's kindergarten readiness skills, prepare short research briefs, infographics, blog posts and webinars to share findings with practitioners, and produce peer-reviewed publications.

Structured Abstract

Setting: The study will take place in Montessori and non-Montessori public preschool programs, in six racially and socioeconomically diverse, urban, and suburban districts in Dallas, Texas; Houston, Texas; Washington, DC; Baltimore, Maryland; Hartford, Connecticut; and New Haven, Connecticut.

Sample: The study sample will include 18 Montessori public preschool sites and 666 children from racially and ethnically diverse backgrounds.

Intervention: This study will evaluate the Montessori model for preschool, which is based on the theory that young students learn more by action than by thought. Primary classrooms are multiage, including 3- to 6-year old children. Montessori teachers provide a prepared classroom environment filled with appropriate materials, but students have considerable freedom to select the activities they engage in each day.

Research Design and Methods: Researchers will use a blocked individual random assignment design, where children are randomly assigned within lotteries to either attend Montessori at age 3 or assigned to a waitlist control group within each site. Each public Montessori preschool in the study (18 in all) will have its own lottery. The researchers will follow the same cohort of children for three years (fall 2019 to spring of 2022). The researchers will administer direct child assessments, collect teacher report data, conduct classroom observations, and collect administrative data from school districts when children enter kindergarten. They will also examine the relationship between fidelity of implementation of the Montessori model and impact, conduct a cost effectiveness study, and disseminate study findings.

Control Condition: Students from the Montessori waitlist who are not admitted to the program will serve as the control group. These students will attend non-Montessori preschool programs or participate in other home care arrangements. The research team will track students in the control condition and document their enrollment in non-Montessori preschool programs.

Key Measures: Primary measures include standardized direct child assessments of children's academic and social-behavioral skills, classroom observations, and measures of fidelity of implementation fidelity. Direct assessments will include subtests of the Woodcock-Johnson tests of achievement, the Rubin Social Problem Solving task, a theory of mind scale, the Social Skills Improvement System Rating Scales, the marshmallow task (which assesses self-regulation), and the Preschool Learning Behaviors Scale. Classroom observation measures include the Classroom Assessment Scoring System and the Developmental Environmental Rating Scale.

Data Analytic Strategy: Researchers will conduct multilevel analyses to estimate the impact of being offered admission to a Montessori school through a lottery. They will assess the impact of Montessori at the end of each of the three years of the study and conduct growth curve analyses to estimate the impact of Montessori across three years. The research team will also conduct complier average treatment effect analyses to estimate treatment effects on those who attended Montessori.