During the past decade, public schools in the United States have undergone reform to try to improve the quality of education. Among the main features of reform has been the emphasis on accountability through student standardized academic achievement assessment across grade levels (Torres, 2004).
The middle school level is of particular concern to educators and public policymakers because many state, national, and international tests indicate low performance and decreases in academic achievement during these school years (National Research Council, 2001). Research has found that middle school academic achievement scores make a consistent, independent contribution to whether students' graduate from or drop out of school (Battin-Pearson, Newcomb, Abbott, Hill, et al., 2000; Kaplan, Peck, & Kaplan, 1997).
Previous research in a Midwest private school indicated that practice of the Transcendental Meditation program significantly increased standardized academic achievement scores over a one-year period (Nidich, Nidich, & Rainforth, 1986; Nidich & Nidich, 1989).
The objectives of this study were to determine the feasibility of implementing a meditation program with at-risk urban public middle school students and to assess whether practice of such a program can help improve math and English academic achievement scores in students who were below proficiency (grade) level.
The school participating in this study was a public middle school, located in a large, urban school district, with primarily low socioeconomic status (SES) racial and ethnic minority students. The school was in the lower half academically of all district middle schools.
Participants in this study included 189 students (125 meditating students and 64 non-meditating control students) who were below proficiency level in either math or English at baseline on the California Standards Test (CST). All students were included who had academic achievement scores for both baseline (prior year) and posttest (current year).
A matched-control subgroup of 100 students (50 meditating and 50 non-meditating control students), matched on both math and English performance level scores, was used for further analysis. All identical matched pairs of meditating and non-meditating students below proficiency in both math and English were included in this subgroup.
All students attended the same urban public middle school and continued with the school's standard curriculum and instruction. Meditating students attended the sixth and seventh grades and practiced the Transcendental Meditation program at school for 12 minutes at the start and end of the school day for three months prior to the administration of the CST posttest. All of the students in the school's sixth and seventh grades learned the Transcendental Meditation program as part of the school's "Quiet Time" program.
Non-meditating control students attended the eighth grade, which did not participate in the school's Quiet Time/meditation program. The control group was selected to control for school climate factors such as principal leadership, faculty morale, curriculum and instruction policies and other school rules and policies that may have influenced academic achievement, as well as controlling for key student demographic factors such as racial and ethnic group composition and socioeconomic status. The control group also served to control for testing effects and possible regression to the mean.
All students in the sixth, seventh, and eighth grades who had CST academic achievement scores for both the Spring of 2006 (prior year, baseline) and Spring of 2007 (current year, posttesting) were included in the study.
The Transcendental Meditation Program
Students were taught the Transcendental Meditation technique by certified instructors in a standard seven-step course and then practiced this program twice a day morning and afternoon, as part of their daily Quiet Time program. …