Meditation Transforms Roughest San Francisco Schools
Meditation Transforms Roughest San Francisco Schools
By David L. Kirp /

At first glance, Quiet Time - a stress reduction strategy used in several San Francisco middle and high schools, as well as in scattered schools around the Bay Area - looks like something out of the om-chanting 1960s. Twice daily, a gong sounds in the classroom and rowdy adolescents, who normally can't sit still for 10 seconds, shut their eyes and try to clear their minds. I've spent lots of time in urban schools and have never seen anything like it.

This practice - meditation rebranded - deserves serious attention from parents and policymakers. An impressive array of studies shows that integrating meditation into a school's daily routine can markedly improve the lives of students. If San Francisco schools Superintendent Richard Carranza has his way, Quiet Time could well spread citywide.

What's happening at Visitacion Valley Middle School, which in 2007 became the first public school nationwide to adopt the program, shows why the superintendent is so enthusiastic. In this neighborhood, gunfire is as common as birdsong - nine shootings have been recorded in the past month - and most students know someone who's been shot or did the shooting. Murders are so frequent that the school employs a full-time grief counselor.

In years past, these students were largely out of control, frequently fighting in the corridors, scrawling graffiti on the walls and cursing their teachers. Absenteeism rates were among the city's highest and so were suspensions. Worn-down teachers routinely called in sick.

Unsurprisingly, academics suffered. The school tried everything, from counseling and peer support to after-school tutoring and sports, but to disappointingly little effect.

Now these students are doing light-years better. In the first year of Quiet Time, the number of suspensions fell by 45 percent. Within four years, the suspension rate was among the lowest in the city. Daily attendance rates climbed to 98 percent, well above the citywide average. Grade point averages improved markedly. About 20 percent of graduates are admitted to Lowell High School - before Quiet Time, getting any students into this elite high school was a rarity. Remarkably, in the annual California Healthy Kids Survey, these middle school youngsters recorded the highest happiness levels in San Francisco.

Reports are similarly positive in the three other schools that have adopted Quiet Time. At Burton High School, for instance, students in the program report significantly less stress and depression, and greater self-esteem, than nonparticipants. With stress levels down, achievement has markedly improved, particularly among students who have been doing worst academically. Grades rose dramatically, compared with those who weren't in the program.

On the California Achievement Test, twice as many students in Quiet Time schools have become proficient in English, compared with students in similar schools where the program doesn't exist, and the gap is even bigger in math. Teachers report they're less emotionally exhausted and more resilient.

"The research is showing big effects on students' performance," says Superintendent Carranza. "Our new accountability standards, which we're developing in tandem with the other big California districts, emphasize the importance of social-emotional factors in improving kids' lives, not just academics. That's where Quiet Time can have a major impact, and I'd like to see it expand well beyond a handful of schools."

While Quiet Time is no panacea, it's a game-changer for many students who otherwise might have become dropouts. That's reason enough to make meditation a school staple, and not just in San Francisco.

David L. Kirp, a professor of public policy at UC Berkeley, is the author of "Improbable Scholars: The Rebirth of a Great American School District and a Strategy for America's Schools."

3.5 ·
What's Next
Trending Today
Noam Chomsky Has 'Never Seen Anything Like This'
Chris Hedges · 12,655 views today · Noam Chomsky is America’s greatest intellectual. His massive body of work, which includes nearly 100 books, has for decades deflated and exposed the lies of the power elite...
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min · 3,278 views today · "The world is missing what I am ready to give: My Wisdom, My Sweetness, My Love and My hunger for Peace." "Where are you? Where are you, little girl with broken wings but full...
Donald Trump Is the Mirror and Hillary Clinton Is the Mask
Chris Agnos · 2,188 views today · Disclaimer: I do not support Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton for president. I think the scope of the political debate is far too narrow for the kinds of actions that need to...
What Makes Call-Out Culture So Toxic
Asam Ahmad · 1,949 views today · Call-out culture refers to the tendency among progressives, radicals, activists, and community organizers to publicly name instances or patterns of oppressive behaviour and...
Mark Corske's Engines of Domination (2014)
60 min · 1,948 views today · Political power -- armed central authority, with states and war -- is it part of human nature? Is it necessary for human communities? Or is it a tool that ruling elites use to...
Your Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed (The Real Reason For The Forty-Hour Workweek)
David Cain · 1,893 views today · Well I’m in the working world again. I’ve found myself a well-paying gig in the engineering industry, and life finally feels like it’s returning to normal after my nine months...
HyperNormalisation (2016)
161 min · 1,500 views today · We live in a time of great uncertainty and confusion. Events keep happening that seem inexplicable and out of control. Donald Trump, Brexit, the War in Syria, the endless...
The White Man in That Photo
Riccardo Gazzaniga · 904 views today · Sometimes photographs deceive. Take this one, for example. It represents John Carlos and Tommie Smith’s rebellious gesture the day they won medals for the 200 meters at the...
10 Quotes From an Oglala Lakota Chief That Will Make You Question Everything About Our Society
Wisdom Pills · 890 views today · Luther Standing Bear was an Oglala Lakota Sioux Chief who, among a few rare others such as Charles Eastman, Black Elk and Gertrude Bonnin occupied the rift between the way of...
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into a Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley · 773 views today · This is easily the best comic strip ever made.  Pabl
Gil Scott-Heron Deconstructs Colonialism and Black History in His Own Unique Style
3 min · 723 views today · His-Story: I was wondering about our yesterdays, and starting searching through the rubble and to say the very least, somebody went to a hell of a lot of trouble to make sure...
Donald and Hobbes Is Genius
Various · 722 views today · Some clever folk have been replacing precocious 6-year-old Calvin, from the Calvin and Hobbes comic strips, with Donald Trump and the results are, well, take a look...
Schooling the World (2010)
66 min · 593 views today · If you wanted to change an ancient culture in a generation, how would you do it? You would change the way it educates its children. The U.S. Government knew this in the 19th...
Planet Earth II Could Be Best Nature Doc Ever Made
3 min · 449 views today · 10 years ago Planet Earth changed our view of the world. Now we take you closer than ever before. This is life in all its wonder. This is Planet Earth II. A decade ago, the...
The Top 100 Documentaries We Can Use to Change the World
Films For Action · 385 views today · A more beautiful, just and sustainable world is possible. Take this library and use it to inspire global change!
Anarchists - What We Stand For
unknown · 382 views today · Anarchism : The word “anarchy” comes from Greek and means “no rulers”. As a political philosophy, anarchism is based on the idea that organization does not require rulers—that...
For Those Who Don't Want to Vote for the Lesser of Two Evils
Peter White · 305 views today · Ranked-choice voting is catching on, and Maine might become the first state to help citizens vote for candidates they actually want.
Are You Lost in the World Like Me?
3 min · 290 views today · Animated film by Steve Cutts for 'Are You Lost In The World Like Me?', taken from These Systems Are Failing- the debut album from Moby & The Void Pacific Choir. 
The Revenge of the Lower Classes and the Rise of American Fascism
Chris Hedges · 284 views today · College-educated elites, on behalf of corporations, carried out the savage neoliberal assault on the working poor. Now they are being made to pay. Their duplicity—embodied in...
World's Low-Cost Economy Built on the Backs of 46 Million Modern Day Slaves
Deirdre Fulton · 264 views today · 'Business leaders who refuse to look into the realities of their own supply chains are misguided and irresponsible.'
Load More
Like us on Facebook?
Meditation Transforms Roughest San Francisco Schools