About the DERS


Research is telling us what outcomes really matter for children:

executive functions
linguistic and cultural fluency
social-emotional development

And how to support those outcomes in classrooms:
Order in the environment. Engagement with purpose. Social graces. Joy.

The DERS is a classroom observation tool that measures
environmental and behavioral qualities proven to support those outcomes—
for any developmental educational model, not just Montessori.



DERS Wheel

How it Works: A trained observer rates 60 attributes — 20 each for the child, the adult, and the environment — over a one hour observation. Observers can tap to rate, switch back and forth between areas, and revise ratings or add notes.




Reporting: At the end of the observation, the DERS creates a report showing scores across five domains of measurement and an editable narrative summary.

Reports can be saved, printed, and emailed, and results can be tracked over time.



The Science

Five domains

The DERS focuses on five outcomes:

  • initiation and concentration
  • inhibitory control
  • working memory
  • linguistic and cultural fluency
  • social-emotional flexibility 

The first three domains are aspects of executive function.  The last two are important developmental skills which are themselves influenced by executive function.

Executive Function

Research has shown that executive functions (the neurocognitive functions which enable us to pay attention, control behavior, and think flexibly), as well as deep literacy and social-emotional learning, are key developments which can be nurtured in classrooms, and are highly predictive of academic and life success.  A full bibliography is included in the DERS Technical Manual, available to users.

Multiple domains: Many of the DERS attributes map to more than one domain. For example,  uninterrupted learning time, free choice, voluntary physical movement, and calm, predictable, and respectful adult behavior support outcomes across all areas.


The Validation Process

Content validity: The 60 observable attributes are each tied to the five outcome domains by published research. (A full bibliography is included in the DERS Technical Manual.) In addition, the attributes have been vetted for Montessori appropriateness by the Association Montessori Internationale Global Research Committee.

Inter-rater reliability: The training and certification process includes a norming procedure and a reliability test.  Preliminary data indicate a high degree of reliability.

Predictive validity: In the pilot year of DERS, schools participated in the DERS/MEFS Network, using the Minnesota Executive Function Scale (MEFS) to assess executive function and correlate results with DERS scores.  Anticipated strong correlation will support the use of the DERS as an external assessment. Stay tuned for August 2018 report on findings about DERS/MEFS correlations.


The DERS has content validity and strong inter-rater reliability.  Predictive validation is underway.