MMA Monday Montessori Moments

December 11, 2017

A Message from our Assistant Director, Kacee Weaver

Accountability at Maria Montessori Academy

Utah adopted the Common Core State Standards at the same time MMA opened in August of 2010. In the last 8 years, the Utah State Board of Education (USBE) has continued to revise the standards in science and math, along with other areas like art, physical education, and more. Each time the standards are changed, the administration and teachers review and adapt their teaching to include the state mandated standards.

Since 2013, all 3rd through 9th grade students in the state have been required to take the Student Assessment of Growth and Excellence (SAGE) test at the end of the year. As a baseline score for each area and grade level was established, the algorithm for grading the proficiency of each student has fluctuated. Sample questions are included for higher-grade-levels than the one being measured and the expectations for writing are changed yearly.

Additionally, in 2013 the state began to require all public schools to be given a letter grade based solely on their SAGE scores. Because scores on SAGE exams have continued to increase, so has the criteria required to meet certain letter grades. In 2017 more elementary schools, statewide, received a grade of C or D than the year before. School grades for the 2016-17 school year and can be found here:

Next school year, students in Utah will no longer take SAGE tests. For the 2018-19 school year, the state of Utah has signed a 5 year contract with a new company for 30 million dollars to create a different testing system and 9th graders will take a different test altogether from the 3rd-8th graders. At this point there is no information about when or how this test will be administered. We have been told that questions developed for SAGE will be used.

Traditional schools handle these many changes by purchasing pre-written curriculum every two to three years that teaches specifically to the changes in standards and tests. As a Montessori school, we follow a 110-year-old philosophy that has been proven to help students improve holistically (academically, emotionally, and socially). Each year we attempt to anticipate the changes that will be made to the state’s accountability system so that we can prepare students to do well on the exams and obtain the type of letter grade that we feel our students demonstrate and deserve.

Unfortunately the testing system is not always compatible with our curriculum or beliefs about students and their learning. For example, Montessori students work from whole-to-part or large-to-small. Students in kindergarten are introduced to the place value system with the Golden Bead material; they count, add, subtract and sometimes even multiply, numbers into the thousands often before they master counting to 100. In this way, Montessori students internalize number systems at a young age, which makes abstraction easier as they get older. If these steps are skipped in order to assure that a student can demonstrate counting to 100 then the entire Montessori philosophy can be lost.

As a public Montessori school we accept that we are evaluated by how well students do on the same standards that other schools use, and while we believe the standards that the state puts forth are valuable and well-written, we are less convinced that the end of level tests accurately portray the learning and growth that our students achieve at MMA.

Some changes we have made to our curriculum are small, like teaching parts of a triangle in 4th grade instead of 3rd grade, because that’s what the standards ask for and students are tested on. We’ve made changes to the science curriculum in order to better meet the standards and sacrificed some of the zoology and botany content in our Montessori albums to do so. In addition, we include lessons of respect for all things and places in our daily routine, which take time that isn’t typically used in traditional schools.

We do not spend time weekly, as our neighboring schools do, teaching students how to answer test questions or manipulate the testing platform. Instead, our students are engaged in authentic learning experiences and practicing things that are not always measured by the state tests. We do this so that we can better follow the needs of individual children and their interests. We value the process of learning over the product of learning and accept that each child has a natural desire to learn that can be squashed by too much skill and drill. We also support a family’s right to choose to opt their child out of the standardized testing requirement.

"The skills often cited as most important [by employers] are self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skills. In addition, the most frequent cause of job failure is lack of self-control and an inability to get along with others" (Vitto, 2003, P. 10). Families of students who have graduated 9th grade with us confirm that their children have as much or more foundational knowledge as their peers who attended traditional elementary and junior high programs. In addition, our students are better prepared to collaborate with others and be independent in their learning.

If you have questions about how your child is performing in relation to the state standards or a typically developing child their age, please reach out to your child’s teacher. If you have questions about curriculum or state assessments please reach out to me (

Thank you for supporting our Montessori philosophy and seeking to understand how the choice you have made for your family is a long term one that can’t always be measured by traditional means.

See below for additional resources and information.

Holiday Break

Just a reminder that our holiday break begins Friday December 22 and ends Tuesday January 2. School will resume Wednesday January 3rd.

MMA Construction Update

Check out our Random Acts of Kindness bulletin board

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Calendar Of Events

Junior High International Festival

Tuesday, Dec. 19th, 1-2:30pm

MMA Library

Upper Elementary International Festival

Wednesday, Dec. 20th, 9-11am


Projects will be displayed in the following areas:

a. Africa – Room #18 and #19

b. Europe – N. Kiva

c. Australia/Dependent Territories -Room #9

d. North America – Room #22

e. S. America - Room #21

f. Asia - S. Kiva

Box Top Store

Wednesday, Dec. 20th, 11am-1pm

MMA Conference Room

Lower Elementary International Festival

Thursday, Dec. 21st, 1-2:30pm

Lower Elementary Classrooms

Holiday Break (No School)

Friday, Dec. 22nd, 12am to Wednesday, Jan. 3rd 2018 at 12am

This is an online event.

Have a wonderful holiday break!. School resumes Wednesday January 3 at 8:30 am

Parent Survey

We would love your feedback. Please take our annual Parent Survey.
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Teacher Spotlight! Kathleen Lowe (Jr. High)

How did you find out about Montessori Education?

When I home schooled my boys, we discovered the Montessori math works. I didn’t know that Montessori was more than that until I came to MMA.

How long have you been at MMA?

Since year 2

What is your favorite thing about MMA?

Children and adults respect each other, and work as a community.

What is your favorite food?

Stir-fried squash, cooked teppanyaki style. Or fettuccine Alfredo.

What is your favorite color?


What is your favorite movie?

Lord of the Rings trilogy

What is something people would be surprised to know about you?

I went to high school in Gushikawa, Japan, a city built on Kinbu Bay. I adore the ocean—snorkeling, diving, swimming, sailing, or just sitting on the shore watching the waves. I have learned to appreciate the beautiful Utah mountains too, but I really miss the ocean!

Keep track of your volunteer hours with Track It Forward

Maria Montessori Academy Parents Association (MAPA) is very excited to announce that effective December 1, 2017 we will be using Track it Forward to schedule and record volunteer hours.

We feel that using track it forward will help us provide the most positive experience possible when signing up for and recording volunteer hours. This program will allow families to track their hours on their own electronic devices, send out reminders for sign ups, and help us become a more centralized Montessori family.

Families are asked to donate 40 volunteer hours a year per family to the school. As a member of MAPA (all parents are automatic members) the MAPA presidency is trying to provide as many opportunities to complete this act of service yearly and Track it Forward will allow families to sign up to volunteer.

In sending your children to a Montessori school you are taking the initiative towards bettering your children and families. MMA’s mission statement is “Education for a better world” and by volunteering you are providing opportunities to help make this a better world.

The reason I volunteer is to provide my children with opportunities they may not get at other schools. “Only a life lived for others is worth living.” — Albert Einstein. By volunteering you are giving of yourself to your children and the children of others. Volunteering does not have to be a big sacrifice of time away from the family or money spent, many teacher at the school offer opportunities to volunteer at home and MAPA has opportunities to volunteer where you can bring your children.

Ways you may be volunteering and not even know.

· Attending a MAPA meeting

· Room mom calls and asks you to cut something out or bring something to the class

· Coming into the school and reading with children

· Bringing in food for an activity

MAPA in cooperation with the MMA is trying to say “thank you” to those that have sacrificed time and volunteered this year by giving those families with 10 service hours completed an “act of service.” The details are still in the works but we want everyone to know that we appreciate and value all of those that have volunteered.

How Track it forward works:

You can sign up in one of two different ways. On the website or email with your family’s last name and the names of your children and we will send you an invite. Once in you can track your family’s hours and sign up for volunteer hours.

Again we appreciate all that our wonderful MMA families do!!!

Volunteers do not necessarily have the time; they just have the heart.” — Elizabeth Andrew

Pizza Form Reminder

Remember pizza money is due Wed by 9:00 am. If money is received after 9:00 am, it will be applied to the following week.
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