SELECTED QUOTES: Dr. Sean A. Walmsley Ed.D Report

 

 

 READ THE FULL REPORT

 

On Student Development and the Montessori Philosophy

 “It isn’t hard to see contrasts between Montessori and mainstream goals for education. And clear differences exist in instructional methods and organization practices. The bulk of mainstream education at the elementary level is focused on academic subjects, taught in individual grade classrooms. On the other hand, Montessori sees academic achievement as an outcome of Montessori methods, rather than its primary purpose.  Mainstream education pays hugely less attention to self-worth, learning independently and collaboratively, as well as to individual responsibility, than Montessori does. It isn’t that mainstream educators don’t encourage these attributes – they do – it’s that they don’t make them core goals, and establish an environment and daily experiences that continually reinforce them.”  (Page 10)

“Instead of assuming that development takes place according to the calendar, children are taught in multi-age classrooms where they progress within their own internal development schedule, largely through independent work guided by both the spiraling curriculum but also by expert teachers.” (Page 20)

“…the four days I spent in GW, along with the interviews, group meetings, and surveys left me with little doubt that GW is substantially meeting the needs of its students…”  (Page 11)

“…it is impossible to spend time in GW and not be aware of how courteous students are, how well-behaved they are, how respectfully they interact with each other and adults, how engaged they are in independent work, and how well they work cooperatively with other students.”  (Page 11)

“Of course….kids are kids after all, and I witnessed several of these lapses, which gave me opportunities to see how GW staff handled behavioral situations that followed Montessori practice, emphasizing peaceful resolutions but also insisting on students taking personal responsibility for their actions.” (Page 11)

 

 

On Teacher Training

“Almost all teachers who had recived the full training said that it was intense, but well worth the time and effort, and many reported that it was ‘life-changing’.”  (Page 20)

 

 

Elementary to Middle School Transitions

“Perhaps the most persuasive evidence comes from Bailey Middle School educators, both in interviews and surveys. Many who responded were especially pleased with GW students’ behavior, their ability to mediate interpersonal disagreements peacefully, their independent learning, and their adaptability to a middle school environment.” (Page 11)

“I am persuaded that despite there being no ‘hard data’ to demonstrate how successfully GW is meeting its students’ needs in core Montessori goals, there is sufficient evidence from interviews, with teachers, administrators, parents of GW students, the surveys and my own observations that GW does indeed meet them in substantial ways….it’s interesting that Bailey Middle School is already noticing Montessori traits in its students coming from GW.”  (Page 12)

“…one Bailey Educator gave GW the best…compliment – ‘Having gone through the Montessori program, it takes them (the students) a few months to transition to a traditional education/classroom format. By 7th grade, you don’t know who’s who anymore.’  This is all the more remarkable since the 5th graders going into Bailey haven’t been fully exposed to a Montessori Curriculum (a/o 2012).”  (Page 12)

 

 

On Community

“There are other praiseworthy accomplishments. One is the way in which GW has transformed itself into a caring community, both within the school and out into the surrounding neighborhood….children appear to be happy and eager to come to school (in marked contrast to many of the inner city schools I have visited in other parts of NY State). Another is the reduction of the number of students referred to IST (from 50 in 2008-9 to 23 in 2011-12).”  (Page 12)

“…But I did hear from parents who literally moved into GW’s attendance zone in order to have their children in a Montessori School.”  (Page 22)

“….I have been struck by how little is known about Montessori methods and practices, even amongst members of the central administration.” (Page 24)

 

 

On Special Education

“I was particularly impressed by the climate and instructional methods in most of the Special Education Classrooms I visited. In fact, sometimes I wasn’t aware I was indeed in a Special Education classroom. This speaks volumes about both the philosophy and practice (and district supervision) of GW’s approach toward the education of children with special needs.”  (Page 12)

 

 

On Testing

“It also needs to be borne in mind that although the other elementary schools have been transitioning from a purely basal approach to English language Arts (to a guided reading approach), none have been going through a transition from one philosophy to another, and with considerable turmoil. I would expect KCS elementary schools that have similar student characteristics as GW’s to show better results, after all, they have philosophies and instructional practices that are much more closely aligned with test performance, and have been pursuing these uninterrupted from before 2005.  GW’s state test scores were considerably better in the period 2005 to 2008 than they have been up until this year. While many in the district use this as ammunition against GW’s transition to Montessori, I see it as a predictable outcome of an abrupt transition to a progressive educational philosophy that challenges traditional education, and especially ones that are dominated by test preparation.” (Page 19)

“First, though, a warning.  Not only have the state tests changed (and will continue to do so in upcoming years), the scoring has changed, so the precipitous drop in 2009-10 is entirely (or substantially) due to NYSED changing the cut-off scores in that year.”  (Page 13)

“…preliminary results for the 2011-12 Science tests are available. I wasn’t able to obtain the entire districts results, but was able to calculate GW’s and if my calculations are correct, and if the official results confirm them, they show substantial improvement (from 50% – 75%).  If these Science results are confirmed (and we still need KCS data), they provide proof of encouraging GW results in Science for 2011-12.”  (Page 15)

“What Kindergarten scores show is that while the KCS percentage has risen modestly, GW’s kindergartners have improved substantially.”  (Page 16)
***   NOTE:  In terms of early progress, most of the children at the GW Kindergarten level started their schooling in Montessori as a 3 year old Pre-K student.    The GW Elementary School’s success with their young students is proof of how this program works over time.   Dr. Walmsley recognized the ‘substantial’ improvement with the GW Kindergartners.  With the transition of the Montessori method complete and children coming into their testing years who began their schooling in Montessori at the GW School, the forthcoming data will be important to watch as a true indicator of the schools success in developing independent  thinkers able to meet the demands of State mandated tests. ***

“What I glean from this data is that GW has made good progress in reading connected to text in K and Grade 1….” (Page 18)

 

On Misconceptions

“First, there is a widespread view from outside GW that students are free to participate or not in any or all school activities, and can wander around the building without any supervision….in a Montessori school, the curriculum is much more controlled and much more consistent than in a typical elementary school. Once teachers have mastered how and what students will experience, the actual classroom activities consist largely of students engaging independently in the activities related to language, math, science and social studies in an integrated fashion, while teachers teach individuals and small groups (occasionally whole class) to introduce concepts, and assist students during independent work.  Students aren’t given choices about whether to engage in an area, they are given choices during the day or week about the order in which they can engage in them.  They also are given choices about where they sit (at a table, on a rug, etc.), and with whom they interact….Montessori classrooms have much more in common with universities than mainstream elementary or secondary schools…..to interpret these practices as children choosing to do or not do anything they want is a serious misunderstanding of Montessori instructional practices….Montessori is highly structured…yet very flexible within strict parameters from a student perspective.” (Page 23)

“The other thing I noticed were how many educators criticized GW for the apparent failings of individual students who had transferred to another elementary school. I didn’t doubt that these students weren’t deficient in reading or math, but it’s not fair to castigate a whole school for failing one or two students. As I look at the test scores of all elementary schools, it wouldn’t be hard to select some of the lowest achieving students (and they exist in all elementary schools), transfer them to GW, and then claim that the school they came from is failing to educate anyone properly. (Page 23)

“… it needs to be noted…that as many students have transferred from GW as have transferred to GW from other elementary schools. So to claim that GW is failing because so many students have been transferred has to also account for why an equal number have been transferred to GW – does that mean the other elementary schools are failing too?” (Page 23)

 

On Progress 

“There is much to admire in GW’s short history of a Montessori school. In a brief three years, it has transformed one of the largest and poorest schools into a community in which Montessori principles and practices have largely flourished.”  (Page 28)

“While one can question the wisdom of establishing a school with a philosophy that challenges many of the traditional goals and practices of its other elementary schools – remember that Montessori railed against achievement testing – the fact is that GW was consciously brought into being to offer a Montessori approach, and it has done that with considerable success, despite all the obstacles.” (Page 28)

“GW can offer students both the benefits of Montessori core goals as well as academic achievement that is expected of all New York Schools. KCS needs to appreciate the many advantages of a progressive approach that Montessori offers, and GW needs to continue to appreciate the need for preparing its students for academic achievement as defined by New York State.” (Page 28)