A Quiet Transformation

Posted on: October 30th, 2012 by Guest
1 Comment

This post is a summary of “A Quiet Transformation” by James S. Dierke, the former principal of Visitacion Valley Middle School. You can read the full article in the “Leadership Newsletter” here.

Developed by Washington, D.C. principal, George Rutherford, at the Fletcher Johnson School in the early ‘90s, Quiet Time (QT) helps reduce stress and fuel the desire to learn by integrating meditation into the daily routine of the school. After hearing a talk on the subject of Transcendental Meditation (TM) in October 1992 and finding success with it in his own life, Rutherford decided to integrate TM in his school hoping for similar success. You can read Fletcher Johnson School’s story here.

San Francisco’s Visitacion Valley Middle School invited 1440 Foundation Grantee, Center for Wellness and Achievement in Education, to help develop and implement the program at their school. The program launched at the school in January 2007 after receiving funding from the David Lynch Foundation.

By shortening the lunch period and using homeroom and passing periods, the school created two 15-minute stretches for QT, each at the beginning and end of each day. All students and teachers are offered training in TM, chosen for its particular effectiveness at reducing stress and supporting healthy brain development.

At first, the program was only implemented with sixth and seventh graders using eighth graders as the control group. The results were astounding. As eighth grade referrals and suspensions increased, both sixth and seventh grade saw a decrease, with overall suspensions reduced by 79 percent. Multi-day suspensions, which are given out for more serious offenses, like fighting, decreased by 43 percent among students enrolled in the QT program. The school saw a 43-percent decrease for multi-day suspensions among students enrolled in the QT program.

It wasn’t just disciplinary rates that saw improvement; QT students improved in math and language arts with the biggest improvements coming from the below-basic and far-below-basic groups. Teachers also improved from the QT program; absenteeism among teachers was down 30 percent compared to the prior year. In fact, teachers listed QT as the most impactful program in the school, citing improvements in climate, health and student engagement. Students agreed — 85 percent reported the program helped reduce stress and violence and improve focus and health.

QT showed administrators that unless the underlying stress and trauma that students deal with is addressed, it doesn’t matter how much effort is put into teaching. In a study conducted by Columbia University that confirmed this, researchers found that high levels of stress, like that experienced by students in low socio-economic status areas, impairs healthy brain function, making it even more difficult to learn. Columbia’s researchers concluded poverty leads to higher stress, which in turn leads to poorer working memory, violence, behavioral issues and impaired focus —impairing a child’s ability to learn and make good decisions.

With the implementation of the QT program, the atmosphere at Visitacion Valley Middle School has become much more positive. In the lastCalifornia Healthy Kids Survey, the students from Visitacion Valley Middle School reported the highest happiness levels in San Francisco (even though their neighborhood experienced 41 murders from 2005 to 2007).

By taking just 30 minutes out of their 1440, school administrators changed the lives of each of the students who walked through the doors of Visitacion Valley Middle School.

What could meditation do for you?

One Response

  1. Mark Guay says:

    So happy to hear another talk of the power of stillness in the day. Speaking from experience as a high school teacher, I found the public school system to be loud…incredibly loud – busy bodies shuffling to and fro screaming to get noticed. I have found Silent Sustained Reading to be very helpful in instituting stillness with a class of 30 bustling students. It’s only for the first 10 minutes of the class period, but students would tell me that they liked it because it was the only time they could relax in the school day. Thank you for such an insightful post. It’s holistic thinking like this that helps bridge the education transformation.