Dr. James P. Comer

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Director of the Child Study Center’s Comer School Development Project; Associate Dean and Professor of Psychiatry, Yale University Medical School
Nominated By: Alan R. Shoho

One of the country’s leading child psychiatrists, Dr. James P. Comer, received his BA from Indiana University, MD from Howard University, and MPH and post-doctoral study from the U of Michigan. Comer is best known for his pioneering efforts to improve the scholastic performance of children from low-income and minority backgrounds. Unlike most education-reform programs, which focus on academic concerns, such as improving teachers’ credentials and building students’ basic skills, the “Comer Method” emphasizes the development of children’s social skills and self-esteem. It was first introduced at two elementary schools in New Haven, Connecticut, in 1968 as part of a “school-intervention” project organized by the Child Study Center at Yale University. “Our analysis of interactions among parents, staff and students revealed a basic problem underlying the schools’ dismal academic and disciplinary record: the socio-cultural misalignment between home and school,” Comer explained in Scientific American. “We developed a way to understand how such misalignments disrupt beneficial relations and how to overcome them in order to promote educational development.”

Three structures comprise the basic framework on which the Comer Process is built: (1) The School Planning and Management Team develops a Comprehensive School Plan, sets academic, social, and community relations goals, and coordinates all school activities; (2) The Student and Staff Support Team promotes desirable social conditions and relationships; and(3) The Parent Team involves parents and families in the school by developing activities through which they can support the school’s social and academic programs.

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