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

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 ·
1
What's Next
Trending Today
Why People Cling to Old Beliefs
1 min · 10,294 views today · Cognitive psychologist and neuroscientist at McGill University, Daniel Levitin, explains why people can be so stubborn when it comes to false beliefs. This behavior is...
Stunning Summary of US Imperialism and Native Resistance... on MSNBC!
4 min · 9,191 views today · On The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell on MSNBC, Lawrence explains why a protest by Native Americans in North Dakota reminds us of the history American always tries to forget.
Veterans at Standing Rock Ask Forgiveness for War Crimes Against Tribal Nations
Jen Hayden · 8,546 views today · Jon Eagle Sr., Tribal Historic Preservation Officer at Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has reported something wholly unexpected happened at the Standing Rock Reservation today. The...
The Myth of Positivity: Why Your Pain Holds a Mighty Purpose
umair haque · 8,155 views today · Of all the great myths of contemporary life, one of the most toxic is positivity. It says: there are negative and positive emotions, and only the positive ones are worth...
Standing Rock Wisdom: How Sacred, Nonviolent Activism Has the Power to Succeed
Charles Eisenstein · 7,777 views today · I am told by Native American friends active at Standing Rock that the elders are counseling the Water Protectors to undertake each action prayerfully and to stay off the...
Solar is Already Producing More Energy Than Oil, Says Major Scientific Review
Nafeez Ahmed · 4,932 views today · And is twice as powerful than previously thought
13 Crises That We All Must Face
George Monbiot · 4,912 views today · We face (at least) 13 major crises, some of which are immediate. It’s time for some hard thinking about how we confront them.
Sky Roosevelt-Morris: The Secret of Indigenous Resiliency
2 min · 2,946 views today · Activist Sky Roosevelt-Morris is of the Shawnee and White Mountain Apache Nations. She is a member of the Leadership Council of the American Indian Movement of Colorado. In...
The Other Way of Knowing
Lilian Na’ia Alessa · 2,209 views today · Western science and Indigenous worldviews are often seen as incompatible, with the Indigenous view usually being far less valued by society at large. But an inside look at...
Australian Government Promotes Crap with Adani Carmichael Coal Mine
2 min · 1,946 views today · The Australian Government just released this advert about the proposed Carmichael Coal Mine and it's surprisingly honest and informative. 6 WAYS YOU CAN HELP STOP CCRAP: 1...
15 Films Inspiring and Illuminating the 'New Story' Revolution
Tim Hjersted · 1,666 views today · Charles Eisenstein is one of the first people I heard talk about the "new story," synthesizing a diverse movement that has been emerging for the last several decades. When I go...
Andy Goes In - Working Undercover in a Factory Farm
10 min · 1,653 views today · He's a $10/hr farmhand, and his name isn't Andy. Andy Goes In is a compelling 10-minute documentary short about a Mercy For Animals undercover investigator. The vast majority...
DREAM: A Spoken Word Meditation For When Life Is Kicking Your Ass
4 min · 1,630 views today · If life is kicking your ass and the general un-coolness of everybody on planet erf is making you want to off yourself, TALK to someone: 800-273-8255 (national suicide...
How Mindfulness Empowers Us
2 min · 1,615 views today · Many traditions speak of the opposing forces within us, vying for our attention. Native American stories speak of two wolves, the angry wolf and the loving wolf, who both live...
Incredible Stories From 5 Inspirational Farms
12 min · 1,604 views today · In this series of 5 short films we visit five farms where incredible things sprout. From growing massive, 100-pound vegetables to giving injured animals another chance, these...
Mary Lyons Describes 'The We'
29 min · 1,561 views today · Beautiful. Listen to this. 
The Trouble With Equality: Feminism and the Forgotten Places of Power
Adebayo Akomolafe · 1,517 views today · "...Patriarchy is not the rule of men over women, it's the rule of the binary - the insistence that there really are sides, and that each is a pre-existing category unto...
Dear Activists, Maybe It's Time to Admit That We've Got It All Wrong
Mickey Z. · 1,433 views today · “The first step in the revolution is eye contact.” - Alicen Grey
All the News Is Fake!
3 min · 1,409 views today · Jonathan Pie finds nothing new in the idea of fake news.
How a White Supremacist Became a Civil Rights Activist
Araz Hachadourian · 1,085 views today · The story of a KKK leader’s transformation shows us that we need not live forever with the kind of violence we saw in Charleston this month.
Load More
Like us on Facebook?
Meditation Transforms Roughest San Francisco Schools