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Evidence Matters: Could the Montessori Method Make Us Happier?

According to a January 2023 survey administered by the South Carolina Joint Citizens and Legislative Committee on Children, many school districts in the state continue to report record numbers of vacancies in positions for social workers, behavioral specialists, and classroom support aides. As one rural South Carolina district stated: “The sheer number of students with social and emotional needs, plus the isolation of a rural district from available services offered elsewhere in the county” makes the need “incalculable”. While educators and their schools continue to grapple with how best to meet the needs of their students — who are experiencing an increase in emotional and behavioral difficulties in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic — state and local leaders are voicing the need to think outside the box.

In 2018, results from the Riley Institute’s multi-year study of public Montessori programs in South Carolina showed that in two of the three years included in the study (2015 and 2016), Montessori students were less likely to have had any disciplinary incidents and had a smaller number of incidents on average when compared to the matched non-Montessori sample. Likewise, Montessori students consistently demonstrated higher attendance than the non-Montessori matched comparison group after adjusting for the attendance rate in the previous year and student demographics. Research published in 2021 by the University of Virginia found that attending Montessori programs for at least two childhood years resulted in significantly higher adult wellbeing in the areas of engagement, social trust, self-confidence, and general wellbeing.

For teachers, positive outcomes associated with Montessori appear to also hold true. As part of its study, the Riley Institute reported that nearly all Montessori teachers (98%) indicated loving or liking their job, significantly higher than the 89% of South Carolina educators on the 2015 Report Card Teacher Survey who agreed or strongly agreed that they were satisfied with their current working conditions.

As policymakers move to address the ever-changing needs of our state’s students and teachers, it appears that the Montessori method could warrant a closer look.

Read more about the Riley Institute’s research on Montessori here and stay tuned to this blog for more on compelling topics in the field of public education.

Kelly Gregory is the Riley Institute’s Director for Public Education Partnerships and Projects and previously taught for 11 years in South Carolina public schools. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a master’s degree in Special Education. She also holds a National Board certification as an Exceptional Needs Specialist. She can be reached at