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Transcendental Meditation Improves Standardized Academic Achievement

graph from the studyThe Transcendental Meditation® technique may be an effective approach to improve math and English academic achievement in low-performing students, according to a new study published in the journal Education. The study was conducted at a California public middle school with 189 students who were below proficiency level in English and math. Change in academic achievement was evaluated using the California Standards Tests (CST).

“The results of the study provide support to a recent trend in education focusing on student mind/body development for academic achievement,” said Dr. Ronald Zigler, study co-author and associate professor at Penn State, Abington. “We need more programs of this kind implemented into our nation’s public schools, with further evaluation efforts.”

improvement in math graph

This graph shows the increased math achievement in meditating students. Credit - Maharishi University of Management (click to enlarge)

Students who practiced the Transcendental Meditation program showed significant increases in math and English scale scores and performance level scores over a one-year period. Forty-one percent of the meditating students showed a gain of at least one performance level in math compared to 15.0% of the non-meditating controls.

Among the students with the lowest levels of academic performance, “below basic” and “far below basic,” the meditating students showed a significant improvement in overall academic achievement compared to controls, which showed a slight gain.

“This initial research, showing the benefits of the Quiet Time/Transcendental Meditation program on academic achievement, holds promise for public education” said Sanford Nidich, EdD, lead author and professor of education at Maharishi University of Management. “The findings suggest that there is an easy-to-implement, value-added educational program which can help low-performing minority students begin to close the achievement gap,” said Dr. Nidich.

improvement in English graph

This graph shows the increased English achievement in meditating students. Credit - Maharishi University of Management (click to enlarge)

The middle school level is of particular concern to educators because of low academic performance nationally. Sixty-six percent of eighth-grade students are below proficiency level in math and 68% are below proficiency level in reading, based on 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress data.

Faculty surveyed as part of the project reported the Quiet Time/Transcendental Meditation program to be a valuable addition to the school. They reported the students to be calmer, happier, and less hyperactive, with an increased ability to focus on schoolwork. In terms of the school environment, faculty reported less student fights, less abusive language, and an overall more relaxed and calm atmosphere since implementation of the program.

Study Facts

  • This study evaluated change in academic achievement in public middle school students practicing the Transcendental Meditation program compared to non-meditating controls. A total of 189 students (125 meditating and 64 non-meditating students), who were below proficiency level at baseline in English and math, were evaluated for change in academic achievement, using the California Standards Tests (CST).
  • Ninety-seven percent were racial and ethnic minority students.
  • The Transcendental Meditation program was practiced in class twice a day as part of the school’s Quiet Time program for three months prior to posttesting.
  • The Transcendental Meditation program was taught in the context of a school-wide Quiet Time program in which students voluntarily chose the Quiet Time program in which they wanted to participate.
  • The Transcendental Meditation technique is a simple, natural, effortless technique that allows the mind to settle down and experience a silent yet awake state of awareness, a state of “restful alertness.” Practice of this stress reduction program does not involve any change in beliefs, values, religion, or lifestyle.
  • Compared to eyes-closed rest, research has found that Transcendental Meditation practice is characterized by decreased activation or arousal of the autonomic nervous system, as reflected in decreased breath rate and lower sympathetic nervous system activity. The Transcendental Meditation program has been shown to increase electroencephalographic (EEG) brain integration and coherence, especially in the frontal area of the brain, responsible for higher-order processing.
  • Other published research on high school and college students has shown reduced psychological distress, improved positive coping ability, decreased blood pressure, reduced cardiovascular reactivity to stressful stimuli, reduced absenteeism, and decreased school suspensions.
  • Results of the current study indicated improvement for meditating students compared to controls on English scale scores (p = .002) and math scale scores (p < .001). A greater percentage of meditating students improved at least one performance level in math and English compared to controls (p values < .01).
  • A matched-control subgroup of 50 students in each group yielded similar results.

Facts on Academic Achievement

  • According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 68% of eight grade students nationally are below proficiency level in reading and 66% are below proficiency in math, based on 2009 data.
  • Nearly 1.3 million students did not graduate from high school in 2010.
  • For further facts please see the National Assessment of Educational Progress: http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/subjectareas.asp. Also see Alliance for Excellence in Education website http://www.all4ed.org/files/UnitedStates.pdf

Material adapted from Maharishi University of Management.

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