Monthly Archives: February 2014

How to Get a Job at Google—Just Go to Montessori School

Not a Montessori mention, but I couldn’t pass it up.

Thomas Friedman (you may have heard of him) has a piece in the Sunday New York Times checks in with  Google’s VP of “people operations,” Laszlo Bock, about something he said in an interview last June:

G.P.A.’s are worthless as a criteria for hiring, and test scores are worthless. … We found that they don’t predict anything.

Friedman’s piece is mostly quotes from Bock, so I don’t feel to bad about reprinting some of them here.  But go read the whole piece to get the complete picture.  First off,

For every job, though, the No. 1 thing we look for is general cognitive ability, and it’s not I.Q. It’s learning ability. It’s the ability to process on the fly. It’s the ability to pull together disparate bits of information.

The second thing:

is leadership — in particular emergent leadership as opposed to traditional leadership.

What we care about is, when faced with a problem and you’re a member of a team, do you, at the appropriate time, step in and lead. And just as critically, do you step back and stop leading, do you let someone else?

Also:

It’s feeling the sense of responsibility, the sense of ownership, to step in,  to try to solve any problem — and the humility to step back and embrace the better ideas of others. Your end goal, is what can we do together to problem-solve. I’ve contributed my piece, and then I step back.

On the role of failure:

Successful bright people rarely experience failure, and so they don’t learn how to learn from that failure.

Finally, Friedman summarizes:

The world only cares about — and pays off on — what you can do with what you know (and it doesn’t care how you learned it). And in an age when innovation is increasingly a group endeavor, it also cares about a lot of soft skills — leadership, humility, collaboration, adaptability and loving to learn and re-learn. This will be true no matter where you go to work.

Hmm.  leadership, adaptability, collaboration, no grades or test scores, sense off responsibility and ownership, friendliness with error?  If only there were an educational model out there that embodied these very characteristics as core values.

Larry and Sergey, your Montessori Children’s House guides from 1977 are on line 2….

$250 Million For Early Childhood

I hope that got your attention.

Public comments are open on $250 million in federal funding for early childhood education, but only until 5:00 pm this Wednesday, February 26th.  Let them know about a fantastic, developmentally appropriate, internationally recognized and proven early childhood education approach you might have heard of.  We talk a lot about making our voice heard—this is what it looks like.

You’ve probably heard of this because it’s been all over the Montessori networks this week: an email from the AMI/AMS Montessori Public Policy Committee (yes, there is such a thing!), picked up by the Montessori Administrator’s Association and the AMI Elementary Alumni Association, and of course all over Facebook.  But I first heard about in an email from Keith Whitescarver at the National Center for Montessori in the Public Sector back on February 13th.  An email, I received, by the way, because I created an account with the 2013-14 USA Montessori Census, which you should definitely do here.

Keith mentions it again on his new blog at NCMPS, which everyone should read, follow, and share.

Kindergarten Testing and Education Reform

Washington Post education blogger Valerie Strauss (who has written about Montessori, as noted on TMO) has picked up an oregonlive.com op-ed about kindergarten testing in Oregon. Oregon five year-olds were able to name 19 letters out of 100 in a one-minute test.  Strauss is appropriately appalled about intensive timed testing of young children, and she goes on to detail the increasing focus on academic content and testing in early childhood education.  (Comments are still open on her blog.)

But from the Montessori perspective, it’s also appalling, or at least disappointing, that preschoolers are arriving in kindergarten without the ability to recognize letter sounds.  Because we know literacy in young children is developmentally normal and can emerge spontaneously in the appropriate environment without traditional adult-directed instruction and intrusive assessment.  It happens every day in Montessori Children’s House classrooms all over the world.

Strauss goes on to describe an ideal education model:

Research shows that children learn best when they have hands-on learning experiences, engage in structured play, experience facts within meaningful contexts, invent their own problems to explore and solve, and share their own solutions. The current emphasis on standards and testing has led many schools to over-focus on assessment at the expense of meeting children’s developmental needs and teaching meaningful content. Play and activity-based learning have been disappearing from many early childhood classrooms, and – along with them – children’s natural motivation and love of learning.

Emphasis added.

Finally, Strauss wraps up with a list of early childhood education practices to address the absence of this model.  Here’s her list, annotated with observations from our world:

Program practices:

1. Promote programs that are based on current research on how young children learn best.

Montessori: Not “based on”, but in line with.

2. Promote meaningful, hands-on learning experiences in classrooms for young children.

3. Work to ensure that teachers provide well-thought out educational experiences that demonstrate knowledge and respect for each child.

Montessori: check, and check.

4. Work to ensure that children have literacy experiences that include storytelling, quality children’s literature, and acting out stories rather than activities that isolate and drill discrete skills.

True Stories.  Literature. Reading Analysis.  Check.

5. Help teachers skillfully build curriculum from what children can do and understand instead of direct teaching skills that are disconnected from children’s understanding.

Essentially describes the first principles of Montessori pedagogy.

8. Work to ensure that teachers who have specialized training in early childhood education are placed in classrooms for young children.

Emphasis added.

Assessment practices:

1. Encourage policies that protect children from undue pressure and stress and from judgments that will have a negative impact on their lives in the present and in the future.

Respect children and their natural development.  Check.

2. Promote the use of assessments that are based on observations of children, their development and learning.

Emphasis added.

3. Work to ensure that classroom assessments are used for the purpose of improving instruction.

4. Support efforts to eliminate testing of young children that is not intended to improve classroom practice.

5. Eliminate labeling and ranking of children based on standardized tests.

Not a lot of classroom assessment, testing, and ranking in (mixed-age) Montessori environments.

What family members can do at home

1. Provide young children with space and time to play at home and in the neighborhood.

2. Read good quality children’s books and limit screen time.

3. Resist reinforcing the school’s agenda – drilling for skills – and replace it with opportunities for meaningful learning

Key features of parent education at many Montessori schools.

Strauss is appropriately worked up about the way reform is pushing content and testing that’s not appropriate.  But we in Montessori have a time-tested approach that brings together almost all of these elements and introduces the academic content without force-feeding or intrusive testing.  There is a national push on for “high-quality” early childhood education, and we have something really valuable to add to the conversation.

More in the next day or two on how we can do that.