Carroll Creek Montessori

The Carroll Creek Montessori Public Charter School building on Corporate Court near Frederick.

After being placed into a one-year probationary period due to low academic performance in early 2020, Carroll Creek Montessori (CCM) Public Charter School has improved its scores and, in some cases, even outperformed other Frederick County non-charter public schools.

The school's leadership recently gave its annual update to the Frederick County Board of Education and highlighted how their students have improved in academic performance.

In the 2018-2019 school year, approximately 80 percent of CCM students in third through fifth grade did not meet proficient levels of understanding in mathematics. Approximately 70 percent of sixth through eighth graders at CCM had similar low math scores. 

The English and Language Arts side was better, with fewer than 50 percent of CCM students not performing at or above a proficient level. In middle school, there was less cause for concern as the percentage was about 25 percent. 

But scores have drastically improved since then. According to the presentation given to board members, based on data from the previous school year, there are now fewer than 30 percent of students in third, fourth and fifth grade at CCM who are not meeting benchmarks. Middle school scores have improved even more with less than a quarter of students in each grade failing to meet proficient benchmarks.

Middle school students even outperformed some FCPS schools with similar population sizes and the county average as a whole.

There are gaps in the data due to lack of testing last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but overall, Carroll Creek seems to be headed in the right direction.

Board member David Bass asked CCM school leaders who were present at the Feb. 10 meeting what could have contributed to the improvement.

Marilyn Horan, principal of CCM, said the drop in scores in 2018 could be attributed to the fact that the school hired three new teachers at the elementary level who were midway through completing their Montessori certification. Montessori education was completely new to them at that point, she said, and there was a learning curve.

“I would have expected the scores to not be as good as we would have liked, but guess what, the next year they weren’t brand new anymore and look what happened to the scores — they went up significantly," she said. "So I attribute it to everyone has to grow. And it’s not that we hired teachers that didn’t know what they were doing, they absolutely did and they dug in and they learned so much, that statistically, you would never think that you would ever get that kind of growth."

When asked if the school will continue to hire more experienced teachers in the future, Horan said staffing is stable for now, but many in the Montessori community are hoping the Maryland state government will pass a bill that will allow Montessori certifications to double as teaching licenses, therefore making the pathway for Montessori teachers shorter.

Bass also asked about the demographics of the school, noting that there were not many enrolled students who classified as Free and Reduced Meals (FARM) or English Language Learners.

Horan said since families provide their own transportation, some families who fall under FARM may not have the means to send their students to CCM and therefore may not apply for the lottery. She added that there are some ELL families who are enrolled at CCM but choose to not use those services. But at the end of the day, the process is truly random, she said.

“It’s a straight lottery process...we get the kids that we get," Horan said.

Additionally, during the March 2020 lottery, CCM saw its highest number of entries at 1,443.

Many of the board members who were present last year congratulated the school on improving its scores.

“Well done. We set up metrics, you made a plan, you communicated the plan and you’ve achieved results, so I just wanted to tell you, well done," said board member Liz Barrett.

Board member Jason Johnson had similar remarks and inquired about collaboration between CCM and FCPS in order to capitalize on some of the teaching methods that seem to see great success in Montessori education.

“There’s a wonder in education that kind of fades from elementary to middle, and then there’s kind of a re-ignition in our passion towards career goals in high school, but I think Montessori kind of keeps that wonder going through middle school, and I applaud you in that ... I think it's something we need to look into and bring into our middle schools," he said.

Molly Spence, president of the Board of Trustees for Monocacy Montessori Communities, Inc., which oversees both CCM and Monocacy Valley Montessori Public Charter School, told board members that the organization is actively looking for a new location and is considering merging the two schools into one. They have also begun to gather data on students to see their progress through high school. 

Follow Katryna Perera on Twitter: @katrynajill

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