Montessori Assessment Outline

Montessori Assessment Outline

This outline provides a basis for thinking about program assessment, relevant largely to public school systems, which are searching for appropriate instruments specifically designed to measure the unique characteristics and curriculum of the Montessori environment.


Student progress should be assessed by a variety of instruments, including the following:


A. Quantitative Norm Referencing


Utilizes standardized tests for a national reference. Examples include the Iowa Test of Basic Skills, the California Achievement Test, and the Stanford-Binet.


B. Criterion-Referenced Evaluation


Measures student outcomes with the Montessori curriculum at a certain age. This will establish a closer link between student outcomes and the Montessori curriculum. The evaluation would need to be designed by both Montessorians and outside assessment experts.


C. Qualitative Evaluation


Includes rating forms, checklists, and narrative descriptions, primarily in the social area. Suggested variables to consider include the following: 

  • Positive attitude toward school;
  • Inner security and sense of order;
  • Pride in the physical environment;
  • Abiding curiosity;
  • Habit of concentration;
  • Habits of initiative and persistence;
  • Ability to make decisions;
  • Sense of independence and self-confidence;
  • Self-discipline; and
  • Sense of responsibility to other members of the class, school, and community.

D. Ethnographic Inquiry


Focuses on the functioning of students and teachers in Montessori classrooms. Such inquiry would provide a means for contrasting the functioning of Montessori students with that of students enrolled in traditional classrooms. This comparison is integral to assessing the quality of education in factors such as time on task, independence, self-motivation, and responsibility.




The vast majority of Montessori schools with elementary programs, public and private, use standardized tests, which offer minimal disruption of Montessori classroom activity. For information on the uses and abuses of standardized testing in Montessori education, see the NAMTA's Whole-School Montessori Handbook.


There is as yet no national consensus on assessment strategies B, C, and D, although many schools use mastery checklists and anecdotal narratives as described under C. More research needs to be done in the area of Montessori-appropriate assessment tools.