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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.”

David Kirp

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