Mountain Village Montessori works to align distinctive curriculum with state standards
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — As Mountain Village Montessori marks its fourth year as a public charter school, the staff is finding new ways to balance a strong commitment to its founding philosophy with an alignment of curriculum to state standards.
With the school still relatively new, Head of School Michael Girodo is most focused on improvement from year to year when it comes to state assessments. And he is very excited about the school’s progress evidenced in the Colorado Department of Education’s preliminary 2019 state assessment results.
In English language arts, Mountain Village Montessori landed in the top 4% of the state in terms of growth.
Girodo said he isn’t looking to compare Montessori to the rest of the district. Mountain Village Montessori is not part of any of the Routt County school districts; it is authorized by the Colorado Charter School Institute and is the only Montessori-based learning program in the county.
As a tuition-free public school, Girodo and his teachers have been working hard to “bridge the state standards and testing with authentic Montessori education,” he said. And while he isn’t worried about comparing scores, being somewhere in between Steamboat’s two elementary schools gives them enough information to know they are on the right path.
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While the school’s learning model is different — Girodo still wants to effectively use data to identify areas of need and work to meet the same standards and expectations as the other public schools.
The standardized tests are one of the school’s measures for learning, he said, and an important one.
Last year, Montessori decided to focus on language arts.
“And we knocked it out of the park,” Girodo said.
This year, the school is working to apply the same rigor to math.
“We are proud of the numbers, but there is still a lot of room for growth,” he said.
Girodo attributes the growth to committed teachers and the right tools. The school has recently started using a new assessment model.
“Our teachers have been very committed to implementing new instructional strategies and blending them with the Montessori curriculum,” Girodo said in a news release. “These results are a good sign that we are moving in the right direction and have the right tools in place.”
The Montessori way of teaching utilizes concrete, experiential methods to impart different concepts.
“It’s defined by a lot of self-directed learning,” Girodo said.
In the classrooms that include three different age levels, students spend three uninterrupted hours every morning on lessons, sometimes focusing on just one project.
Afternoons are more broken up by language, art and P.E.
The older kids take on leadership and mentoring roles, and there is an emphasis on cooperative, collaborative learning among students and between the students and teachers.
“There are a lot of students doing a lot of different things in a classroom at any given time — freedom of choice within limits,” Girodo said.
Currently, the school serves 120 students from kindergarten through fifth grade.
They also run a preschool, for which there is a cost of tuition.
For people not familiar with Montessori, Girodo wants them to know it is a public school and does not cost parents to attend.
He also points back to the school’s history and founding — not as an elite school, but in 1906 as one for the working class poor. Girodo wants the school to be seen as accessible to all.
The plan is to one day add a middle school, he said, with sixth, seventh and eighth grades. But until then, they decided to make it a clean transition to Steamboat Springs Middle School by only serving students through fifth grade.
The school also has a strong focus on character and social emotional development. Girodo said students learn how to negotiate conflict and find peaceful resolutions starting in preschool.
Older kids learn about and practice social and restorative justice. And throughout, the goal is “to create a culture of kindness and respect.”
For anyone interested in learning more about Mountain Village Montessori School, tours will be offered from 9 to 10 a.m. Oct. 29, Nov. 5 and Nov. 14. To sign up, send your name and desired date to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit mvmcs.org
To reach Kari Dequine Harden, call 970-871-4205, email kharden@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @kariharden.
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Students in the Steamboat Springs School District generally did as good or better in English language arts last school year but struggled to keep pace in math, according to results of state standardized testing.