Meditation for Academic Achievement

Can meditation improve test scores, attendance, student behavior, and emotional resilience?

Sit in a high school Algebra I class on any given day of the week, and you are likely to witness students doing everything BUT math. Scrolling Instagram, snapchatting, with earbuds plugged in listening to music, our students are inundated with stimulation of the senses – and the teacher is completely drown out.

What if we could help teachers regain control of the classroom? And what if our young people could access their own strength of concentration?

In San Francisco, recent study results across middle and high schools in the Bay Area demonstrated that two 15-minute periods of meditation during the school day:

  • Reduced student stress
  • Increased emotional resilience and intelligence
  • Decreased suspensions and need for disciplinary actions
  • Improved attendance
  • AND significantly boosted academic performance!

Why not introduce meditation to classrooms everywhere?

Closing the so-called achievement gap between poor inner-city children and their more affluent suburban counterparts is among the biggest challenges for education reformers. The success of some schools’ efforts suggests that meditation might significantly improve children’s school performance – and help close that gap.

In 2007, James Dierke, then the principal of the Visitacion Valley Middle School in a troubled neighborhood in San Francisco, was determined to improve both the quality of education and student behavior in his school. He partnered with the Center for Wellness and Achievement in Education to develop a Quiet Time Program for his school. The program, which had initial funding from the David Lynch Foundation, involved introducing two 15-minute periods of quiet into the school day. During those times, students could either practice Transcendental Meditation, which is taught as part of the program, or engage in other quiet activities like silent reading.

A major factor preventing underserved children from learning is the stress they encounter on a daily basis – from factors like poverty, deprivation, lack of steady parental input, physical danger and constant fear. Research shows that chronic stress can impair healthy brain development and the ability to learn, and that Transcendental Meditation, a stress-reducing technique that involves thinking of a mantra, can reduce stress and its manifestations – for example, anxiety, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. Mr. Dierke wondered whether meditation might reduce students’ stress levels and help them learn.

Over the next three years, Visitacion Valley’s suspensions dropped by 79 percent, attendance rose to 98 percent, and students’ grade point averages rose each year. Of even greater interest, the increase in G.P.A. for the lowest performing demographic was double that for the overall student group. (Rosenthal)

Continue to the editorial post by Norman E. Rosenthal, MD in the New York Times here.

Students in meditation

Students meditate at Phillip and Sala Burton Academic High School in San Francisco