Seeking Racial and Ethnic Parity in Preschool Outcomes
An Exploratory Study of Public Montessori Schools vs. Business-as-Usual Schools
Keywords:Montessori, preschool, racial equity, child outcomes
Montessori pedagogy is a century-old, whole-school system increasingly used in the public sector. In the United States, public Montessori schools are typically Title I schools that mostly serve children of color. The present secondary, exploratory data analysis examined outcomes of 134 children who entered a lottery for admission to public Montessori schools in the northeastern United States at age 3; half were admitted and enrolled and the rest enrolled at other preschool programs. About half of the children were identified as White, and half were identified as African American, Hispanic, or multiracial. Children were tested in the fall when they enrolled and again in the subsequent three springs (i.e., through the kindergarten year) on a range of measures addressing academic outcomes, executive function, and social cognition. Although the Black, Hispanic, and multiracial group tended to score lower in the beginning of preschool in both conditions, by the end of preschool, the scores of Black, Hispanic, and multiracial students enrolled in Montessori schools were not different from the White children; by contrast, such students in the business-as-usual schools continued to perform less well than White children in academic achievement and social cognition. The study has important limitations that lead us to view these findings as exploratory, but taken together with other findings, the results suggest that Montessori education may create an environment that is more conducive to racial and ethnic parity than other school environments.
Ansari, A., & Winsler, A. (2014). Montessori public school pre-K programs and the school readiness of low-income Black and Latino children. Journal of Educational Psychology, 106(4), 1066–1079. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0036799
Ansari, A., & Winsler, A. (2020). The long-term benefits of Montessori pre-K for Latinx children from low-income families. Applied Developmental Science, 252-266. https://doi.org/10.1080/10888691.2020.1781632
Baker, E. R., Huang, R., Battista, C., & Liu, Q. (2021). Theory of mind development in impoverished US children and six cross-cultural comparisons. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 76, 101314. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appdev.2021.101314
Bassok, D., Latham, S., & Rorem, A. (2016). Is kindergarten the new first grade? AERA Open, I(4), 1–31. https://doi.org/10.1177/2332858415616358
Beaudoin, C., Leblanc, É., Gagner, C., & Beauchamp, M. H. (2020). Systematic review and inventory of theory of mind measures for young children. Frontiers in Psychology, 10, Article 2905. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02905
Blair, C., Granger, D. A., Willoughby, M., Mills‐Koonce, R., Cox, M., Greenberg, M. T., Kivlighan, K. T., Fortunato, C. K., & Investigators, F. (2011). Salivary cortisol mediates effects of poverty and parenting on executive functions in early childhood. Child Development, 82(6), 1970–1984. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8624.2011.01643.x
Blair, C., & Razza, R. P. (2007). Relating effortful control, executive function, and false belief understanding to emerging math and literacy ability in kindergarten. Child Development, 78(2), 647–663. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8624.2007.01019.x
Brown, K. E., & Lewis, C. W. (2017). A comparison of reading and math achievement for African American third grade students in Montessori and other magnet schools. The Journal of Negro Education, 86(4), 439–448. https://doi.org/10.7709/jnegroeducation.86.4.0439
Burchinal, M. R., Peisner-Feinberg, E., Pianta, R., & Howes, C. (2002). Development of academic skills from preschool through second grade: Family and classroom predictors of developmental trajectories. Journal of School Psychology, 40(5), 415–436. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0022-4405(02)00107-3
Cossentino, J. (2009). Culture, craft, & coherence: The unexpected vitality of Montessori teacher training. Journal of Teacher Education, 60(5), 520–527. https://doi.org/10.1177/0022487109344593
Cossentino, J. M. (2006). Big work: Goodness, vocation, and engagement in the Montessori method. Curriculum Inquiry, 36(1), 63–92. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-873X.2006.00346.x
Culclasure, B., Fleming, D. J., & Riga, G. (2018). An evaluation of Montessori education in South Carolina’s public schools. The Riley Institute at Furman University. https://www.furman.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/195/rileypdfFiles/ MontessoriOverallResultsFINAL.pdf
Culclasure, B. T., Daoust, C. J., Cote, S. M., & Zoll, S. (2019). Designing a logic model to inform Montessori research. Journal of Montessori Research, 5(1), 35–74. https://doi.org/10.17161/jomr.v5i1.9788
Curenton, S. M. (2003). Low-income preschoolers’ false-belief performance. The Journal of Genetic Psychology, 164(4), 411–424. https://doi.org/10.1080/00221320309597887
Daoust, C. J. (2004). An examination of implementation practices in Montessori early childhood education (Publication No. 3146824) [Doctoral dissertation, University of California–Berkeley]. ProQuest Dissertations and Theses Global.
Daoust, C. J., & Murray, A. (2018, March 21–25). A comparison of elementary classroom practices based on Montessori certification. Paper presented at the annual conference of the American Montessori Society, Denver, CO, United States.
Debs, M. C. (2016). Racial and economic diversity in U.S. public Montessori schools. Journal of Montessori Research, 2(2), 15–34. https://doi.org/10.17161/jomr.v2i2.5848
Debs, M. C. (2019). Diverse parents, desirable schools: Public Montessori in an era of school choice. Harvard Education.
Debs, M., de Brouwer, J., Murray, A. K., Lawrence, L., Tyne, M., & von der Wehl, C. (2022). Global diffusion of Montessori schools: A report from the 2022 global Montessori census. Journal of Montessori Research, 8(2), 1–15. https://doi.org/10.17161/jomr.v8i2.18675
Dee, T., & Gershenson, S. (2017). Unconscious bias in the classroom: Evidence and opportunities. Google’s Computer Science Education Research. https://goo.gl/O6Btqi
Foster, T. J., Burchinal, M., & Yazejian, N. (2020). The relation between classroom age composition and children’s language and behavioral outcomes: Examining peer effects. Child Development, 91(6), 2103–2122. https://doi.org/10.1111/cdev.13410
Friedman-Krauss, A., Barnett, W. S., & Nores, M. (2016). How much can high-quality universal pre-K reduce achievement gaps? Center for American Progress. https://www.americanprogress.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2016/04/NIEER-AchievementGaps-report.pdf
Good, T. L., Sterzinger, N., & Lavigne, A. (2018). Expectation effects: Pygmalion and the initial 20 years of research. Educational Research and Evaluation, 24(3-5), 99–123. https://doi.org/10.1080/13803611.2018.1548817
Haberman, M. (2010). The pedagogy of poverty versus good teaching. Phi Delta Kappan, 92(2), 81–87. https://doi.org/10.1177/003172171009200223
Hackman, D. A., & Farah, M. J. (2009). Socioeconomic status and the developing brain. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 13(2), 65–73. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tics.2008.11.003
Hammond, Z. (2020). Looking at SoLD through an equity lens: Will the science of learning and development be used to advance critical pedagogy or will it be used to maintain inequity by design? Applied Developmental Science, 24(2), 151–158. https://doi.org/10.1080/10888691.2019.1609733
Henry, D. A., Betancur Cortés, L., & Votruba-Drzal, E. (2020). Black–White achievement gaps differ by family socioeconomic status from early childhood through early adolescence. Journal of Educational Psychology, 112(8), 1471–1489. https://doi.org/10.1037/edu0000439
Holmes, H., Black, C., & Miller, S. (1996). A cross-test comparison of false belief understanding in a Head Start population. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 63, 263–285. https://doi.org/10.1006/jecp.1996.0050
Jeynes, W. H. (2015). A meta-analysis on the factors that best reduce the achievement gap. Education and Urban Society, 47(5), 523–554. https://doi.org/10.1177/0013124514529155
Korkman, M., Kirk, U., & Kemp, S. (2007). NEPSY-II: Clinical and interpretive manual. The Psychological Corporation.
Kraft, M. A. (2020). Interpreting effect sizes of education interventions. Educational Researcher, 49(4), 241– 253. https://doi.org/10.3102/0013189X20912798
Kuhfeld, M., Condron, D. J., & Downey, D. B. (2021). When does inequality grow? A seasonal analysis of racial/ethnic disparities in learning from kindergarten through eighth grade. Educational Researcher, 50(4), 225–238. https://doi.org/10.3102/0013189X20977854
Lai, K., & Green, S. B. (2016). The problem with having two watches: Assessment of fit when RMSEA and CFI disagree. Multivariate Behavioral Research, 51(2- 3), 220–239, https://doi.org/10.1080/00273171.20 15.1134306
Lecce, S., Caputi, M., Pagnin, A., & Banerjee, R. (2017). Theory of mind and school achievement: The mediating role of social competence. Cognitive Development, 44, 85–97. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cogdev.2017.08.010
Lillard, A. S. (2012). Preschool children’s development in classic Montessori, supplemented Montessori, and conventional programs. Journal of School Psychology, 50(3), 379–401. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsp.2012.01.001
Lillard, A. S. (2017). Montessori: The science behind the genius (3rd ed.). Oxford.
Lillard, A. S. (2019). Shunned and admired: Montessori, self-determination, and a case for radical school reform. Educational Psychology Review, 31(4), 939– 965. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10648-019-09483-3
Lillard, A. S., & Eisen, S. (2017). Why Montessori is a facilitative environment for Theory of Mind: Three speculations. In V. Slaughter & M. de Rosnay (Eds.), Theory of mind development in context (pp. 57–70). Routledge.
Lillard, A. S., & Heise, M. J. (2016). Removing supplementary materials from Montessori classrooms changed child outcomes. Journal of Montessori Research, 2(1), 17–27. https://doi.org/10.17161/jomr.v2i1.5678
Lillard, A. S., Heise, M. J., Richey, E. M., Tong, X., Hart, A., & Bray, P. M. (2017). Montessori preschool elevates and equalizes child outcomes: A longitudinal study [Original Research]. Frontiers in Psychology, 8, Article 1783. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.01783
Lillard, A. S., & McHugh, V. (2019a). Authentic Montessori: The dottoressa’s view at the end of her life, part I: The environment. Journal of Montessori Research, 5(1), 1–18. https://doi.org/10.17161/jomr.v5i1.7716
Lillard, A. S., & McHugh, V. (2019b). Authentic Montessori: The dottoressa’s view at the end of her life, part II: The teacher and the child. Journal of Montessori Research, 5(1), 19–34. https://doi.org/10.17161/jomr.v5i1.9753
Lillard, A. S., Taggart, J., Yonas, D., & Seale, M. N. (in press). An alternative to “no excuses”: Considering Montessori as culturally responsive pedagogy. Journal of Negro Education. https://www.montessoripublic.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/Lillard.21.Taggart.Yonas_.Seale_.JNE_.pdf
Lipsey, M. W., Nesbitt, K. T., Farran, D. C., Dong, N., Fuhs, M. W., & Wilson, S. J. (2017). Learning-related cognitive self-regulation measures for prekindergarten children: A comparative evaluation of the educational relevance of selected measures. Journal of Educational Psychology, 109(8), 1084– 1102. https://doi.org/10.1037/edu0000203
Little, M. (2017). Racial and socioeconomic gaps in executive function skills in early elementary school: Nationally representative evidence from the ECLS-K: 2011. Educational Researcher, 46(2), 103– 109. https://doi.org/10.3102/0013189X17698700
Magnuson, K. A., & Duncan, G. J. (2006). The role of family socioeconomic resources in the black–white test score gap among young children. Developmental Review, 26(4), 365–399. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.dr.2006.06.004
Mann, H. (1848/1961). Twelfth annual report to the Massachusetts Board of Education (1848), together with the twelfth annual report of the secretary of the board. In I. Starr, L. P. Todd, & C. Mercle (Eds.), Living American documents (Vol. 1, pp. 154–157). Harcourt Brace. https://archives.lib.state.ma.us/handle/2452/204731
McAlister, A. R., & Peterson, C. C. (2013). Siblings, theory of mind, and executive functioning in children aged 3–6 years: New longitudinal evidence. Child Development, 84(4), 1442–1458. https://www.jstor.org/stable/23469388
McGrew, K. S., & Woodcock, R. W. (2001). Woodcock- Johnson III technical manual. Riverside Publishing.
Miller, P. J. (1996). Instantiating culture through discourse practices: Some personal reflections on socialization and how to study it. In R. Jessor, A. Colby, & R. A. Shweder (Eds.), Ethnography and human development: Context and meaning in social inquiry (pp. 183–204). The University of Chicago Press.
Miller, P. J., & Hoogstra, L. (1992). Language as tool in the socialization and apprehension of cultural meanings. In T. Schwartz, G. M. White, & C. A. Lutz (Eds.), New directions in psychological anthropology (pp. 83–101). Cambridge University Press.
Miyake, A., Friedman, N. P., Emerson, M. J., Witzki, A. H., & Howerter, A. (2000). The unity and diversity of executive functions and their contributions to complex ‘frontal lobe’ tasks: A latent variable analysis. Cognitive Psychology, 41(1), 49-100. https://doi.org/10.1006/cogp.1999.0734
Montessori, M. (1967). The discovery of the child (M. J. Costello, Trans.). Ballantine.
Montessori, M. (2012). The 1946 London lectures (B. Scoppola & K. M. Baker, Eds.). Montessori-Pierson Publishing.
Montessori, M. (2020). Maria Montessori writes to her grandchildren: Letters from India, 1939–1946 (C. Montessori, Trans.). Montessori-Pierson.
Moretti, E. (2021). The best weapon for peace: Maria Montessori, education, and children’s rights. University of Wisconsin Press.
Murray, A. K., & Daoust, C. (2023). Fidelity issues in Montessori research. In A. K. Murray, E. T. Ahlquist, M. K. McKenna, & M. Debs (Eds.), The Bloomsbury Handbook of Montessori Education (pp. 199–208). Bloomsbury Academic.
National Center for Montessori in the Public Sector. (2023). Montessori census. https://www.montessoricensus.org/about-the-montessori-census/
Nesbitt, K. T., Baker-Ward, L., & Willoughby, M. T. (2013). Executive function mediates socio-economic and racial differences in early academic achievement. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 28(4), 774–783. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecresq.2013.07.005
Paschall, K. W., Gershoff, E. T., & Kuhfeld, M. (2018). A two decade examination of historical race/ethnicity disparities in academic achievement by poverty status. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 47(6), 1164– 1177. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-017-0800-7
Pianta, R. C., & Ansari, A. (2018). Does attendance in private schools predict student outcomes at age 15? Evidence from a longitudinal study. Educational Researcher, 47(7), 419–434. https://doi.org/10.3102/0013189X18785632
Pianta, R. C., Whittaker, J. E., Vitiello, V., Ruzek, E., Ansari, A., Hofkens, T., & DeCoster, J. (2020). Children’s school readiness skills across the pre-K year: Associations with teacher–student interactions, teacher practices, and exposure to academic content. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 66, 101084. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appdev.2019.101084
Ponitz, C. C., McClelland, M. M., Matthews, J. S., & Morrison, F. J. (2009). A structured observation of behavioral self-regulation and its contribution to kindergarten outcomes. Developmental Psychology, 45(3), 605–619. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0015365
Pottish-Lewis, P. (2021). Whose Montessori do you practice? A faithfully applied taxonomy of cosmic education. Montessori360.
Preschlack, P. L. (2023). The Montessori potential. Chicago Press.
Quinn, D. M., & Cooc, N. (2015). Science achievement gaps by gender and race/ethnicity in elementary and middle school: Trends and predictors. Educational Researcher, 44(6), 336–346. https://doi.org/10.3102/0013189X15598539
Reardon, S. F. (2011). The widening academic achievement gap between the rich and the poor: New evidence and possible explanations. In G. Duncan & R. Murnane (Eds.), Whither opportunity: Rising inequality, schools, and children’s life chances (pp. 91–116). Russell Sage Foundation.
Reardon, S. F. (2016). School segregation and racial academic achievement gaps. RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences, 2(5), 34–57. https://doi.org/10.7758/rsf.2016.2.5.03
Reardon, S. F., Kalogrides, D., & Shores, K. (2019). The geography of racial/ethnic test score gaps. American Journal of Sociology, 124(4), 1164– 1221. https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/abs/10.1086/700678
Robson, D. A., Allen, M. S., & Howard, S. J. (2020). Self-regulation in childhood as a predictor of future outcomes: A meta-analytic review. Psychological Bulletin, 146(4), 324–354. https://doi.org/10.1037/bul0000227
Shi, D., & Tong, X. (2017). The impact of prior information on Bayesian latent basis growth model estimation. SAGE Open, 7(3). https://doi.org/10.1177/2158244017727039
Singham, M. (2003). The achievement gap: Myths and reality. Phi Delta Kappan, 84(8), 586–591. https://www.jstor.org/stable/20440430
Snyder, A., Tong, X., & Lillard, A. S. (2022). Standardized test performance in public Montessori schools. Journal of School Choice, 16(1), 105–135. https://doi.org/10.1080/15582159.2021.1958058
Todd, P. E., & Wolpin, K. I. (2007). The production of cognitive achievement in children: Home, school, and racial test score gaps. Journal of Human Capital, 1(1), 91–136. https://doi.org/10.1086/526401
Trabalzini, P. (2011). Maria Montessori through the seasons of the “method.” The NAMTA Journal, 36(2).
Wang, Y., & Su, Y. (2009). False belief understanding: Children catch it from classmates of different ages. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 33(4), 331–337. https://doi. org/10.1177/0165025409104525
Weimer, A. A., & Guajardo, N. R. (2013). False belief, emotion understanding, and social skills among Head Start and non-Head Start children. Early Education and Development, 16(3), 341–366. https:// doi.org/10.1207/s15566935eed1603_3
Wellman, H. M. (2011). Developing a theory of mind. In U. Goswami (Ed.), Handbook of cognitive development (pp. 258–284). Blackwell.
Wellman, H. M. (2014). Making minds: How theory of mind develops. Oxford.
Wellman, H. M., & Liu, D. (2004). Scaling of theory-of-mind tests. Child Development, 75(2), 523–541. https://www.jstor.org/stable/3696656
Whitescarver, K., & Cossentino, J. (2007). Lessons from the periphery: The Role of dispositions in Montessori teacher training. Journal of Educational Controversy, 2(2), 1–12. https://cedar.wwu.edu/jec/ vol2/iss2/11/
Willoughby, M. T., Wirth, R., & Blair, C. B. (2011). Contributions of modern measurement theory to measuring executive function in early childhood: An empirical demonstration. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 108, 414–435. https://doi. org/10.1016/j.jecp.2010.04.007
Yoshikawa, H., Weiland, C., Brooks-Gunn, J., Burchinal, M. R., Espinosa, L. M., Gormley, W. T., Ludwig, J., Magnuson, K. A., Phillips, D., Zaslow, M. J., & O Brien, M. (2013). Investing in our future: The evidence base on preschool education. Society for Research in Child Development; Foundation for Child Development. http://www.srcd.org/sites/default/ files/documents/washington/mb_2013_10_16_ investing_in_children.pdf
How to Cite
Copyright (c) 2023 Angeline S Lillard
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal. Authors can view article download statistics for published articles within their accounts.
Journal of Montessori Research
The following is an agreement between the Author (the “Corresponding Author”) acting on behalf of all authors of the work (“Authors”) and the Journal of Montessori Research (the “Journal”) regarding your article (the “Work”) that is being submitted for consideration.
Whereas the parties desire to promote effective scholarly communication that promotes local control of intellectual assets, the parties for valuable consideration agree as follows.
A. CORRESPONDING AUTHOR’S GRANT OF RIGHTS
After being accepted for publication, the Corresponding Author grants to the Journal, during the full term of copyright and any extensions or renewals of that term, the following:
1. An irrevocable non-exclusive right to reproduce, republish, transmit, sell, distribute, and otherwise use the Work in electronic and print editions of the Journal and in derivative works throughout the world, in all languages, and in all media now known or later developed.
2. An irrevocable non-exclusive right to create and store electronic archival copies of theWork, including the right to deposit the Work in open access digital repositories.
3. An irrevocable non-exclusive right to license others to reproduce, republish, transmit,and distribute the Work under the condition that the Authors are attributed. (Currently this is carried out by publishing the content under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 4.0 license (CC BY-NC.)
4. Copyright in the Work remains with the Authors.
B. CORRESPONDING AUTHOR’S DUTIES
1. When distributing or re-publishing the Work, the Corresponding Author agrees to credit the Journal as the place of first publication.
2. The Corresponding Author agrees to inform the Journal of any changes in contact information.
C. CORRESPONDING AUTHOR’S WARRANTY
The Corresponding Author represents and warrants that the Work is the Authors’ original work and that it does not violate or infringe the law or the rights of any third party and, specifically, that the Work contains no matter that is defamatory or that infringes literary or proprietary rights, intellectual property rights, or any rights of privacy. The Corresponding Author also warrants that he or she has the full power to make this agreement, and if the Work was prepared jointly, the Corresponding Author agrees to inform the Authors of the terms of this Agreement and to obtain their written permission to sign on their behalf. The Corresponding Author agrees to hold the Journal harmless from any breach of the aforestated representations.
D. JOURNAL’S DUTIES
In consideration of the Author’s grant of rights, the Journal agrees to publish the Work, attributing the Work to the Authors.
E. ENTIRE AGREEMENT
This agreement reflects the entire understanding of the parties. This agreement may be amended only in writing by an addendum signed by the parties. Amendments are incorporated by reference to this agreement.
ACCEPTED AND AGREED BY THE CORRESPONDING AUTHOR ON BEHALF OF ALL AUTHORS CONTRIBUTING TO THIS WORK