Light & Verity

Fifty years in elementary school

A groundbreaking program in education celebrates an anniversary.

Yale School of Medicine

Yale School of Medicine

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Child psychiatrist James Comer came from a low-income family, and his parents had had little education. He and his four siblings went on to earn 13 university degrees. But at the same time, he says, “my friends who were just as smart went on a downhill course.”

When he started working with children, he realized that the difference was the environment his parents had created for the young Comers’ development. He wanted to see if schools could do something like it. Thus was born the Comer School Development Program, established at Yale’s Child Study Center in 1968. The program, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in October with a symposium and dinner, has intervened in more than a thousand schools worldwide—bringing teachers, parents, and other stakeholders together to employ a holistic approach that emphasizes a child’s social, academic, and emotional development. “We can’t really improve schools for everybody,” says Comer, the Maurice Falk Professor of Child Psychiatry, “if we don’t make it possible to support the development of kids.”

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