Effect of the Transcendental Meditation Program on Graduation, College Acceptance and Dropout Rates for Students Attending an Urban Public High School
Colbert, Robert D., Education
High school graduation rates nationally have declined in recent years, despite public and private efforts. The most recent data from Diplomas Count 2010 shows that only 69 percent of the students in 2007 graduated from our nation's schools. At its peak in 1969, the national graduation rate was 77 percent. Further a racial and ethnic gap exists, with only 46 percent of African American, 44 percent of Latino, and 49 percent of Native American students earning a diploma (Heckman & LaFontaine, 2007).
While a host of factors contribute to student graduation; perhaps the most important is student academic achievement and achievement related factors. Students who meet the social demands of school and earn good grades are more likely to graduate than are students who do not meet such demands (Wentzel, 1993, 1994). Differences in student academic achievement have been attributed to factors such as parental socioeconomic status, psychological and emotional distress, motivation, and academic self-efficacy.
Students of color are particularly vulnerable to higher levels of psychological distress, (Thompson & Massat, 2005; Grannis, 1992). Although school stakeholders perceive psychological and emotional factors as important part of the school counseling focus, a challenge for counselors is to demonstrate how student stress can be adequately addressed. School counselors need to choose from a variety of evidenced-based strategies for assisting students to cope with the pressures of school and adolescent development so that college will be a viable post secondary option (ASCA, 2010; NOSCA, 2010). Specifically, school counselors must find ways to join with others in helping students with ensuring graduation and college readiness preparation. Research on the Transcendental Meditation program, a widely-used stress reduction program, shows that it has been effective in decreasing psychological distress and improving academic achievement (Nidich, Rainforth et al., 2009; Nidich, et al., 2011). In a recent four-month study, researchers found significant differences in measures of psychological distress between urban high school students who participated in the twice daily practice of Transcendental Meditation compared to controls (Elder, C., Nidich, S., Colbert, R., Hagelin, J. et al., 2011).
The purpose of the current study was to determine whether practice of the Transcendental Meditation program might result in higher school graduation rates compared to students who do not receive training in this stress reduction program. An analysis, using school records, was conducted with students enrolled during their senior year at a medium sized urban high school to determine the percentage of meditating and non-meditating students who graduated during the same academic school year (June/July, 2009).
A total of 235 12th grade students were enrolled at the high school at the start of the fall semester (September, 2008). Of these 142 volunteered to practice the Transcendental Meditation program and 93 students chose not practice the meditation program as part of the schools' Quiet Time program. The school serves predominantly low-income students of Color. The school district was undertaking major school restructuring. The high school in this study was in a "phasing" out plan. This meant that for four consecutive years (beginning in 2008) one grade would be dropped until the high school no longer existed.
Data was collected from school records on all 12th grade students who were enrolled in the fall semester, September, 2008. Each student was categorized by the school as: 1) graduating (June or July, 2009 graduation date); 2) not graduating but still were enrolled in the high school; 3) transferring to another school; 4) enlisting in the army; 5) being a dropout; or 6) entering prison. For the purpose of determining the percentage of students by group who graduated in the Spring/Summer of 2009, the number of graduates was divided by the total number of students, excluding transfer students and those who enlisted in the army. …