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Breaking the “predictive power of demographics”: SF principal talks about how TM helps his students

James Dierke, Principal of Visitacion Valley Middle School in San Francisco, like so many thousands of principals and teachers who are working in inner-city schools throughout the US, knows how frustrating it can be trying to provide an education in America’s low income, high stress localities. His school, along with other urban middle schools in low income neighborhoods, is in the midst of a battle—a battle against the predictive power of demographics.

For the majority of urban students, drugs, gangs and violence are part of everyday life. Many have little or no parental oversight. Many have experienced the trauma of knowing someone who has been involved in a shooting or has personally witnessed gun violence. As a result of these high-stress conditions, thousands of schools have predictable problems: low attendance, high violence, and low performance. This is such a pattern in urban schools that researchers consider it a predictable outcome.

In fact, based on certain urban zip codes, education researchers can predict students’ attendance rate, behavior, test scores, and overall academic achievement. Historically, those predictions have been accurate.

In recent years however, Principal Dierke and a growing number of other educators have found a way to break the predictive power of demographics. In their schools, the Quiet Time/Transcendental Meditation program is playing a key role in that breakthrough.

You can listen to Mr. Dierke speak at a conference in Los Angeles in December 2011 about his school district’s research on the effect the Quiet Time/TM program has had on his students and teachers since it became part of their school five years ago.

Principal James Dierke:

“Our attendance is trending up significantly… We used to have one of the highest suspension rates, now we have one of the lowest among all middle schools. Our GPA has trended up significantly since the start of Quiet Time.”

“All of this indicates that we are winning the battle against the predictor power of demographics. Our kids are coming to school. They are more motivated, more confident, more focused, more successful and more joyful. And our teacher turnover and absenteeism is almost zero.”

Principal James Dierke

Newly published research on the effect of the Quiet Time/Transcendental Meditation program conducted with at-risk minority school students, has also shown a 36 percent reduction in overall psychological distress.

In 2008 Mr. Dierke was named MetLife/NASSP National Middle Level Principal of the Year.