A r c h i v e d  I n f o r m a t i o n

[Education Consumer Guide]

Number 6

September 1993

The Comer School Development Program

WHAT IS IT? James Comer's School Development Program, also known as the Comer Process, is intended to improve the educational experience of poor minority youth. Improvement is attained by building supportive bonds among children, parents, and school staff to promote a positive school climate.

HOW DID IT GET STARTED? More than 25 years ago, child psychiatrist James Comer and his colleagues at Yale Child Study Center experimented with a 2-year school intervention program in two inner-city elementary schools in New Haven, Connecticut. Based on his observations, Mr. Comer concluded that children's experiences at home and in school deeply affect their psychosocial development, which in turn shapes their academic achievement. Conversely, poor academic performance is in large part a function of the failure to bridge the social and cultural gaps between home and school.

WHAT ARE ITS GOALS? The School Development Program is designed to create a school environment where children feel comfortable, valued, and secure. In this environment, children will form positive emotional bonds with school staff and parents and a positive attitude toward the school program, which promotes the children's overall development and, in turn, facilitates academic learning.

WHAT ARE ITS PRINCIPLES? Three principles underlie the Comer Process:

HOW DOES IT WORK? The School Development Program relies on staff collaboration and parent involvement to promote expectations of high student achievement. Each Comer school implements the program differently depending on the personalities of its staff and the specific needs of the school and its students.

Each Comer school is governed by the following three teams:

HOW SUCCESSFUL IS IT? Many of the schools that have adopted the Comer Process have been evaluated and judged to be successful based on improved social skills and raised educational achievement and attendance levels. Given this track record and the current interest in school reform, the Comer Process has gained renewed attention. The School Development Program has been implemented at more than 250 schools (elementary through high school) in 19 states; plans call for expanding it to entire school districts. Among documented successful programs now in operation are Lincoln Bassett Community School in New Haven, Connecticut; Barnaby Manor Elementary School in Oxon Hill, Maryland; and Valencia Park Center in San Diego, California.

HOW DOES IT COMPARE TO SIMILAR PROGRAMS? Related approaches to school restructuring include Henry Levin's Accelerated Schools and Robert Slavin's Success for All. All three approaches use staff collaboration, parent involvement, and expectations of high student achievement to improve schools. Where Levin's program focuses on providing an enriched and accelerated curriculum for disadvantaged students, and Slavin's program stresses cognitive practices that increase learning, the Comer Process emphasizes improved school climate.

Where can I get more information?

School Development Program
Yale Child Study Center
230 South Frontage Road
P.O. Box 3333
New Haven, CT 06510

ERIC Clearinghouse on Urban Education
Institute for Urban and Minority Education
Main Hall, Room 303
525 West 120th Street
Box 40
Teachers College
Columbia University
New York, NY 10027-9987
(212) 678-3433


Ascher, Carol.
Changing Schools for Urban Students: The School Development Program, Accelerated Schools, and Success for All. No. 18 of TRENDS AND ISSUES (ERIC Number ED 355313). New York, NY: ERIC Clearinghouse on Urban Education, 1993.

Comer, James P.
"Educating Poor Minority Children." Scientific American 259 (5) (November 1988): 42-48.

Smey-Richman, Barbara, and William W. Barkley.
School Climate Resource Document; Resources, Strategies, and Programs for Low- Achieving Students (ERIC Number ED 331126). Philadelphia, PA: Research for Better Schools, Inc., 1990.

Shipley, Diana G.
"`What Is a Community?' A principal's view of James Comer's School Development Program." Equity and Choice 8(3) (Spring 1992): 19-23.

by Pat Coulter

This is the sixth Education Research CONSUMER GUIDE (OR 93-3012)--a new series published for teachers, parents, and others interested in current education themes.

OR 93-3012
ED/OERI 92-38
Editor: Jacquelyn Zimmermann

This Consumer Guide is produced by the Office of Research, Office of Educational Research and Improvement (OERI) of the U.S. Department of Education.
Richard W. Riley, Secretary of Education
Sharon P. Robinson, Assistant Secretary, OERI
Joseph C. Conaty, Acting Director, OR


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