School uses yoga-like exercises to help with STAAR test scores

PFLUGERVILLE, Texas (KXAN) -- Pflugerville Elementary School is using a program to help students do well on standardized tests, but it has nothing to do with the actual content on the test.

Third grade teacher Callie Evans began using the Mindful Classrooms program about a month and a half ago. "The students have been way more aware of themselves and how their attitude affects themselves and others," Evans said.

Students spread out across the classroom, performing yoga-like stretching and breathing exercises. Ms. Evans says her students enjoy it and love it. "They consider it a time where they actually get to just not think and it's really focused on them instead of what they can give to me, what they can internally think about."

"If you do it, then you're focused on whatever you're trying to do like if you can't solve a question then you will be focused," third grader Jaci Sanchez said.

Third grade students can be nervous; it's the year they first experience STAAR tests. But during practice tests, Ms. Evans says her students score higher than ever.

She believes the exercises are helping students manage their behavior out of the classroom as well. "It has brought out some conversations [starting with], 'Miss Evans, I was able to do this when I was feeling angry and I wanted to get mad and I wanted to yell but I just breathed and I worked through it,'" Evans said.

"It helps you think better and helps you stay calm whenever you're mad and stuff, like when you do it when you're mad it will calm you down," third grader Jayden Buck said.

James Butler, a Pre-K teacher at Austin ISD's Gullett Elementary, developed the program and started using it seven years ago.

"I learned about it when I was having a hard time personally," Butler said. "Mindfulness helped me, so I thought I'd try it in class and it's been amazing. I am a better teacher because of it, and the students are much more self-aware and kind to themselves and others because of it."

Butler says 50 schools use Mindful Classrooms: 48 in Austin ISD, Pflugerville Elementary as well as a school in Wilmington, Delaware. And he says more schools will be implementing it soon.

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