GW parents fret as Montessori program faces cuts

While the district celebrates the approval of its $143 million school budget and other proposals at the polls this week, supporters of the district’s Montessori center at George Washington Elementary are hoping changes in the program — and pink slips for some of the staff at the school — don’t point to a quick end for the relatively new program.

George Washington is in its second full year of operation as a Montessori school, as the program was phased in over three years. It opened with 3-to-5-year-olds in the “children’s house” in the 2008-09 school year, adding 6-to-9-year-olds the following year and completing its transformation in the 2010-11 school year with 10-to-12-year-olds.

The program first came under scrutiny when state standardized tests administered during the 2010-11 school year to students in ages that would put them in grades 3-5 in a standard curriculum saw the average score — 657.83 — of George Washington’s students come in lower than the average score across the rest of the district (672.33).

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But supporters of the program, including school board President James Shaughnessy, have pointed out that the value of the Montessori program may not be truly clear until students who’ve gone through the program from a younger age are eligible for the state assessments. Donna Flayhan, a parent of a George Washington student, agreed.

Flayhan, a SUNY New Paltz professor, moved her family within the George Washington attendance zone fromWoodstockprimarily because of the Montessori program at the school. Flayhan’s youngest daughter, who turns 10 in August, is a current student at George Washington. Her eldest daughter is in the seventh grade at Miller Middle School, but she attended a private Montessori school in Maryland, where they lived before moving to Woodstock.

“My older daughter went to $14,000-a-year private Montessori schools inBaltimore, and this is the same curriculum,” Flayhan said. “These are the same materials.”

Flayhan said that she knew of other families who moved into the area because of the Montessori program at George Washington, partly because of the educational offerings, but also because of the diversity in the surrounding community.

“It’s really a great thing for the neighborhood and the school through the community it’s building,” Flayhan said. “It is really weaving a nice fabric into the neighborhood.”

Flayhan said that the standardized tests are making some critics of the Montessori program judge it based on criteria that isn’t a relevant measure of its success. Furthermore, she added, the standardized test scores will rise when kids who’ve been in Montessori from earlier in their education reach the third-grade level, which for some kids at George Washington will happen in the next couple of years.

Slideshow image: George Washington Elementary students pose for a photographer. (Photo by Dan Barton)

There are 3 comments

  1. gberke

    The City of Kingston ought to weigh in. And the people who live around GW school and the parents whose children clearly get great benefits from that schools…
    Schools just don’t give grades, they define and transform a neighborhood, and GW school is doing that. But if there is silence, if the people who live their, and the alderpersons of those wards and the Mayor of the city and all the people who wonder what they are getting for their taxes…
    We really need a sheaf of testimonials from citizens… if you are out there, you had best speak up…

  2. J Airhart

    I have two children at GW and I could not be happier with the quality of the curriculum, the dedication and depth of the teachers and administrators, and the sense of community that has grown and grown since the onset of the program. 

    Our children are taught the fundamentals as well as grace and courtesy, and a respect for all living things all around this world. They are given the opportunity to grow -independent of standardized tests. They make decisions day to day in the clasroom that will impact their ability to be free thinking individuals in our society. 

    GW fosters children who will one day be leaders in our community and I  am thankful every single day for the rich experience that this program and Principle “Val” have brought to our diverse community. 

    In summary, I LOVE Montesori at GW!

  3. edward mottsey

    as a parent of two former students of G.W. i can say the montessori program does not work, at least for some children, we struggled for 2 years with my children trying to keep up with this program, it seems to me to be a program that needs to be really looked at , parents, do your homework. we have since moved from the kingston school district to another district and my kids are thriving and blossoming here. i don’t wanna sound negative but in this day of so many issues in schools, bullying and such, we as parents don’t and shouldn’t be pushed into a program that doesn’t work for all by a school district that doesn’t get it. parents, what will your children do when they move up from grade school to a middle school that doesn’t work the montessori program and don’t know how to cope in this learning situation and have to basicly have to be retaught how to learn. think about it. thank you for keeping an open mind please.

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