The Montessori program at George Washington Elementary School has already faced in its short lifetime concerns about whether it would have the funding to even continue making its transition into a full-time alternative education center. Now it’s facing new scrutiny as to whether its methods are giving Kingston students what they need to perform well on state assessment tests.
Students across New York in grades 3-8 were given a second round of math and ELA assessments during the 2010-11 that reflected more lofty expectations than in years past. In Montessori, traditional grade distinctions don’t exist, so the tests were administered at George Washington to those kids who would be between grades 3-5 in any other school in Kingston. The students performed significantly worse than the averages across the district.
At the third-grade level, 38.3 percent of students at George Washington met or exceeded standards in math testing compared to a district average of 55.3 percent. In English testing, that same group at George Washington saw just 21.3 percent meet or exceed standards, well shy of the 55.3 percent average across the district.
The numbers were also lower at the 4th grade level. In math, 19 percent of students at George Washington met or exceeded standards compared to a district average of 62.2 percent. In English, 10.3 percent of students at George Washington met or exceeded standards, with an average of 48.1 percent hitting the same marks across the district.
In the fifth grade, 29.5 percent of George Washington students met or achieved standards in math testing compared to 61.5 percent across the district. In English testing, 20.5 percent of students at George Washington met or exceeded standards, with a 46.6 percent average in the district’s 11 elementary schools.
Superintendent Gerard Gretzinger said he expected to see those numbers improve in a few years, partly because the testing was performed on some students who had fairly recently made the switch from a traditional educational system to Montessori.
“Even though the whole program has been implemented in the building, your fourth- and fifth-graders who took the tests, they’ve only had one year of Montessori,” Gretzinger said. “Their whole way of approaching testing has been different. Montessori puts the focus on the whole learning of the child, the emotional and social growth of the kids, and has kids working at their own pace. But this can’t be an excuse.”