MMA Montessori Moments

January 22nd, 2019

~ Special Data Edition ~

The recent public release of school data shared in the January 14th MMM was not a surprise for MMA administrators and teaching staff. During end of May professional learning time last year, all school staff analyzed raw SAGE data and proposed 2018-19 school goals. Curriculum writers reviewed SAGE data again later in June and deeply analyzed DIBELS data in order to revise curriculum to meet student academic needs. Also in June, the support team, with the help of the advisory committee, drafted 18-19 school year goals which included two early literacy goals required by USBE. These goals were approved by MMA’s Board of Directors in June.

These goals and our mid-year progress toward achieving these goals are outlined below.

GOAL - By May 2019, MMA will improve academic achievement as measured by USBE standardized assessments.

Through observation and analysis of data, school administration have come to the conclusion that there is some disconnect between the Utah State Board of Education’s (USBE) traditional approach to standardized assessments and the Montessori approach to education. A fundamental piece of Montessori education is having a three year age range in one classroom.

We know that having a three year age span in a classroom is important to build leadership skills, for students to help each other (academically and socially), and for teachers to honor each child’s current level of academic achievement. We know that in our classrooms we may have 2nd graders reading on a 1st grade level and also rocking 3rd grade math. In our Montessori classrooms, we are encouraging children who are on or above grade level to tackle more challenging work while simultaneously accelerating students who may be below grade level. This level of complexity in teaching content in our Montessori classrooms does not equate easily for USBE’s standardized assessments, which are linear and based on content from a single grade level.

We know that our students know and can do more than is currently being shown on USBE's standardized assessments. Last spring the administration and advisory teams collaborated and decided that for this school year MMA would bring back the portfolio process. Creating portfolios is an alternate way to physically display a student's progress toward mastering standards and shows a more complete picture of what the child knows and can do - more complete than only examining standardized test scores. We know that a child's standardized test score is one piece of data and this data alone cannot fully describe the child's progress.

We devoted two meetings to re-establish the purpose of portfolios and for teachers to work in level teams to revise our portfolio process to better align with state standards. The teacher feedback solicited after these meetings is featured below.

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MMA can and will do better on USBE standardized assessments and are currently working to align the Montessori materials to when/how this content is assessed by USBE. We know that our Montessori materials often times exceed the content standards assessed by USBE. An example of this alignment work is when teachers were provided math vocabulary cards in September for them to use alongside Montessori works. This approach has been confirmed by education research to improve student achievement as measured by standardized assessments and is featured below.
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This past spring, MMA paid for several teachers to attend the AMS National Montessori Conference in Denver. These teacher returned excited and asked to re-work our curriculum based on ideas learned at this conference. This past June, all teachers that volunteered were paid to revise curriculum. This work resulted in having school-wide thematic units for students in grades K-9 - such as last week’s STEM celebrations. The purpose of implementing school wide theme-based units was two fold - teaching content in the context of a real-life theme promotes deeper learning and having K-9 students working on a common theme unites the school and our families who have children at multiple levels. The curriculum revision process was detailed and shared in the June 28, 2018 MMM newsletter and again reviewed during Back to School Night.

GOAL - By May 24th, early childhood teachers with the help of support staff will maintain phonemic awareness as measured by DIBELS from MOY (middle of year) to EOY (end of year) by implementing an early reading intervention program.

MMA researched and purchased a research-based early reading intervention program. This program implementation began in early childhood classrooms in September. Our seasoned teaching staff have enhanced the intervention program with Montessori materials like sandpaper letters. Our mid-year data indicate that every kindergartener increased in their composite DIBELS scores from beginning of year test to the middle of year test.

GOAL - By May 24th, lower elementary teachers with the help of support staff will reduce the percentage of 3rd grade students scoring well-below or below benchmark on the DIBELS composite by 5% by providing targeted, evidence-based intervention, like Early Steps and Next Steps from the University of Utah Reading Clinic, that align to students diagnostic needs as measured by the PAST and the Core Phonics Survey to fill the specific skills gaps and to improve the percentage of students moving out of well-below and below benchmark. These students will also receive 45 minutes a week using Imagine Learning as supplemental instruction to support their literacy needs.

MMA support staff analyzed beginning of year DIBELS data and created intervention reading groups for students who need extra reading support. These groups started working with Ms. Jamie in October and Ms. Wendy in January and engage students in lesson plans from DIBELS that target specific skills gaps. Lower elementary teachers participated in Imagine Learning professional development in August and again in December. When implemented 45 minutes per week, Imagine Learning has proven to improve early literacy skills.
Even though this goal is specific to 3rd grade, there is a school-wide focus on language literacy. Dyad reading, highly recommended by USBE, is an evidence-based strategy proven to improve reading skills and is being implemented in all lower and upper elementary classrooms beginning in January - after all staff engaged in professional learning lead by a representative from USBE. The staff feedback after this meeting is highlighted below.
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GOAL - By May 2019, students will consistently demonstrate behaviors that promote learning, grace, and courtesy as assessed by a variety of measurement tools such as positive referrals, discipline and attendance records, observation, and surveys. The desired outcome is a 20% reduction in discipline referrals, an increase in student attendance and school connectedness.

The discipline data from 2017-18 is not comparable to the data compiled thus far in 2018-19 because the reporting procedures changed for the 2018-19 school year that required teacher documentation of behavior infractions and intervention efforts in Aspire. This change in reporting and consistency in record-keeping will allow us to establish a true baseline data this year to compare to next school year.

This summer, MMA administration revised the Student Conduct and Discipline Plan to align better to Montessori philosophy, focus more on restorative practices that teach appropriate behaviors, and rely less on negative consequences that isolate children, such as suspension. Teacher and parent feedback regarding this plan was solicited in August and September. The final plan was revised to include this feedback and introduced to the entire school community at Back to School Night. The new plan couples intervention with consequences so children have a chance to recognize and help the hurt they may have caused their community with their inappropriate behavior. The plan was developed to be proactive and ahead of state requirements that mandate restorative justice practices be included in school behavior plans. Featured below is the teacher feedback provided after two staff meetings - one that introduced the Behavior Plan in September and one that reviewed our implementation of that plan in January.
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To support more restorative practices being implemented by teachers and administrators at MMA, a teacher committee has been formed on the topic. This committee has chosen to read a text about restorative practices and are currently engaged in a book study of this text in preparation of their professional learning presentation to the entire staff this spring.

Members of the leadership and support team have attended workshops from USBE about restorative practices.

GOAL - By May 2019, MMA will have a positive staff culture as assessed by the climate survey data collected formatively and summatively.

Stakeholder Survey questions tracked to measure the goal of improving staff culture include:

  • I feel safe and secure at work.
  • Adults respect each other.
  • School administration fosters a collaborative work environment.
  • I work in a positive and professional work environment.

Results from the survey given at the end of last school year in May 2018 are beside the results below from this fall. The full survey results for both staff and parents were released in the January 14th MMM.

This year, MMA convened a committee of staff members with the goal of improving staff culture. This committee meets monthly to outline and implement their ideas. This committee was given full reign to plan the January professional learning full day and chose to have the entire staff participate in team building in an escape room.
Modeling a strategy for students to communicate their social-emotional status with teachers each day, we have placed a mood meter in the teacher workroom. Teachers voluntarily place a pin on the board that corresponds to their feelings at the moment. This data is informally collected and tracked daily.


Thank you, students, for coming to school and doing your best each day.

Thank you, parents, for committing to a Montessori education for your child and for supporting MMA to execute the Montessori philosophy outlined in our charter - in ways such as:

  • driving students to multiple field experiences,
  • supporting home projects that promote investigation and research,
  • embracing Peace and Cosmic Education,
  • modeling grace & courtesy at home,
  • bringing in healthy snacks to support wellness,
  • attending parent-teacher conferences multiple times per year,
  • and much more.

Thank you MMA Board of Directors, Leadership / Support Team, and Advisory Committee, and teachers for your input and guidance in creating MMA’s goals. Thank you Leadership / Support Team for you expertise, resources, implementation of teacher professional learning, and cheerleading.

Thank you, teachers, for your hard work and effort this year in implementing new curriculum, developing Montessori materials to address state standards, possessing a growth mindset, and for loving our students. Thank you, teachers, for being double certified in most cases, possessing (or working toward) both a USBE teaching license and Montessori credentials.

Thank you, teachers, for upholding our collective commitments, which define how MMA is different from all other schools in our area and include:

  • Student Centered Classrooms
  • Inclusion for All Students
  • Three-Year Cycle and Multi-Age Classrooms
  • Mentoring Programs
  • Mastery Learning
  • Hands-On, Concrete Materials
  • Investigation and Research
  • Responsible Use Of Technology
  • Cosmic and Spiral Education
  • High Expectations
  • Peace Education and Grace and Courtesy
  • Outdoor and Field Experiences
  • Prepared Environment
  • Service Learning
  • Family Involvement and Parent Education
  • Spiritual Transformation

If you have any questions or feedback regarding this middle of year progress check on MMA’s school goals, please contact René via phone, email, or by scheduling an in-person meeting. Thank you for choosing Maria Montessori Academy and for trusting us to educate your whole child - which involves so much more than their test scores.

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