Montessori Matters

March 8, 2019

Thoughts to Ponder: Standardized Testing -- Good or Bad?

The subject of standardized testing always creates a certain amount of angst among state education boards, principals, teachers, families, students, and probably even the maintenance folk who must clean up the gnawed-on pencils after testing is over. Is this kind of testing just a vestigial rite-of-passage into an antiquated "adult world view" of nothing but credentialed occupations, jumbo white grade A eggs, and homogenized milk? Or does it have some merit beyond those narrow parameters?

The good: Standardized testing helps educational systems focus on and stress that there is, indeed, a certain amount of data retention and rote mental ability that most students will benefit from in order to lead a rich life (even in non-monetary terms) in this country and world during the early part of the 21st century. The concepts and benefits of a citizenry sharing - at least to a certain degree - a common ground, common core, and common knowledge fit here. Just as the scientific world has clearly benefited from adopting unified standards of measure (even if we still struggle between the metric and empirical systems), standardized testing at least allows us to keep tabs on where we all are in the core areas of reading, writing, arithmetic, history, and science. It provides a common reference point and can be a valuable tool for keeping pace with one another.

For students, more practically, the benefits include learning how to follow directions, appreciating the importance of time limits, and that sometimes, of course, facts and skills can be fun!

For educators, testing can help keep the class on track. No matter how interesting that new science discovery really is, we can only devote so much time to it during an average school week - there are other pieces of subject material that must be covered too. (Can’t ever forget that new discovery, though - especially in a Montessori School. We keep that fire lit by extending that fascination into home research and shared family enjoyment.)

Good testing can also be one helpful guide when looking into both individual and program-wide needs. Some tests can help uncover discrepancies between a student's basic ability and their classroom achievement, thereby illuminating, and allowing educators to address, individual learning challenges. For good programs, the school-wide data generated from testing is a great tool by which to refine their approaches, order different textbooks, or add new elements, etc.

Does MSA understand this good? Absolutely. This is why we utilize two different kinds of standardized testing - online and pencil-in-the-bubbles - every year from 2nd grade up through 9th grade. ACT’s and SAT’s take over after that. Standardized testing at MSA serves all the purposes above while simultaneously also being "just another aspect of Montessori’s 'Practical Life'".

The bad? Well that could include all of what you've heard down through the eons, ever since national testing first began decades ago.

  • Children are not eggs.

  • Children should not be “homogenized.”

  • Children's mental development timelines vary.

  • Children hear the results and might struggle with thinking, e.g., "they are only a 70th percentile child.”

  • Children's "extra-academic" skills/intelligences are not tested - things in the interpersonal, musical, naturalistic realms, for example - and therefore may not get the proper recognition and valuation they deserve.

  • Children’s even less quantifiable qualities - the kind we all know their bright futures depend heavily upon like collaboration, global awareness, and understanding, creativity, curiosity, focus, determination, and passion (to name a few) - could also get under-recognized, under-stressed, and under-valued for not being represented in standardized testing.

Does MSA recognize the bad? Absolutely. We never simply "teach to the test," needlessly stressing out students and family along the way, even while knowing the value of proficiency in the testing areas.

At MSA, we know how to appreciate and use the practical benefits of standardized testing. At the same time, with our long history of embracing a broad array of program elements and styles, and with the tremendous value we place on the whole child - we, and they, will never be limited by its scope.

So, here’s to a good weekend! And to a fun few days of MAP (Measure of Academic Progress) testing coming up over the next two weeks.

Dates to Remember

March 11-21 - MAP testing

March 17 - MSA Open House, 1-4PM

March 19 - End of Quarter 3

March 22 - Teacher professional development day, no classes -- extended day available

March 25-29 - Spring parent conferences

March 30 - Spring Benefit at 6:30PM at the T. Ed Garrison Event Center

Dr. Seuss Day

In celebration of Dr. Seuss' birthday and all the characters, worlds, and stories his stories have created, Primary students dressed up as their favorite Seuss characters and paraded throughout the school for each grade level to enjoy. One of the most joyful highlights of the parade was the bright smiles and the sweet hugs the younger students got upon seeing their siblings in their classrooms.
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Growing Corn on a Cob

Dr. Mahajan's Lower Elementary students wondered whether or not corn on the cob was alive, so they set up an experiment to test their hypotheses. They left an ear of corn in a pot of water and allowed it time to grow -- after a couple weeks, sprouts appeared along the ear! Their next experiment (one of several) will determine whether the sprouts are growing out of the cob or the kernels, and there is currently a time-lapse camera rig monitoring the growth set up on a Raspberry Pi micro computer by Middle School student Daniel Keenan.
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Radioactivity and Half-Lives

Dr. Mahajan's Middle School science class is learning about radioactivity and half life to understand how fossils are dated. In an activity they were asked to draw a wooly mammoth and calculate its half-life using carbon dating. Each cut of the paper represented a half-life, and students kept cutting until they were no longer physically able to cut anymore then measured its "age" by the number of cuts to get to that point.

Kids Heart Challenge (AKA Jump Rope for Heart)

The past two weeks all of the PE classes have participated in the Kids Heart Challenge to help raise awareness about Heart Health. Students were taught how to find their pulse and then checked it after completing various exercises such as walking, jumping rope, and running. During the event students had the opportunity to jump hurdles and jump rope individually or by using the long rope. Their favorite was the artery station, where they had to crawl through artery walls without touching the "plaque" that had built up along the sides. Our fundraising goal for the American Heart Association is $750, and currently students have raised $685. If you would like to donate to our page please visit this MSA Kids Heart Challenge link. See some photos from our MSA kids staying heart healthy below!
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Anderson University Library Research

Eighth grade students in Ms. McCarty's Middle School English course took a trip to the Anderson University Library to research their eighth grade project topics. They started with a tour of the library before searching for books and diving into their research. The students did an excellent job researching and representing MSA at on the college campus.
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The big kids at Anderson University celebrated Dr. Seuss' birthday this month, too!
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Scouts Court of Honor

MSASC Troop 97 held a Court of Honor Tuesday night during which the members of the Troop were recognized for badges and ranks earned recently. MSA senior Alex Jones achieved the rank of Eagle Scout this week after completing his Eagle Scout project and all of the necessary badge and service requirements!
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Fluor Engineering Challenge

Fluor Corporation is currently sponsoring an engineering challenge that involves designing a pair of simple machines designed to launch and catch a ping pong ball over a net. The Middle School is using their STEM and some of their class time to participate in the challenge and create the volleyball machines out of cups, paper, tape, lollipop sticks, and pencils. They have come up with some impressive and innovative solutions to the challenge!

Nurse's Notes

As a reminder, Montessori School of Anderson is a smoke/tobacco free environment. Please refer to the policy listed below as it appears in our MSA handbook.

Tobacco, Alcohol and Other Controlled Substances

The use or possession of tobacco products, alcohol or other controlled substances is strictly prohibited on campus, on field trips, and at all school events where students are present.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

With healthy regards,

Susanna Merriman, RN

Montessori School of Anderson

Our mission is to nurture the whole child, physically, intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually, preparing students for academic excellence, lifelong learning and responsible, caring lives.