Dr. Comer is the Maurice Falk Professor of Child Psychiatry at the Yale University School of Medicine's Child Study Center, and has been a Yale medical faculty member since 1968. During these years, he has concentrated his career on promoting a focus on child development as a way of improving schools. His efforts in support of healthy development of young people are known internationally.
Dr. Comer, perhaps, is best known for the founding of the Comer School Development Program in 1968, which promotes the collaboration of parents, educators, and community to improve social, emotional, and academic outcomes for children that, in turn, helps them achieve greater school success. His concept of teamwork has improved the educational environment in more than 500 schools throughout America.
A prolific writer, Dr. Comer has authored nine books, including Beyond Black and White, 1972; Black Child Care, (with Dr. Alvin F. Poussaint), 1975; paperback revision, Raising Black Children, 1992; School Power: Implications of an Intervention Project, 1980; the autobiographical Family, 1988; Rallying the Whole Village, (edited with Dr. Michael Ben-Avie, Dr. Norris M. Haynes, and Dr. Edward T. Joyner), 1996; Waiting for a Miracle: Why Schools Can't Solve Our Problems, And How We Can, 1997; Child by Child, (edited with Dr. Michael Ben-Avie, Dr. Norris M. Haynes, and Dr. Edward T. Joyner) 1999; The Field Guide to Comer Schools in Action, (edited with Dr. Edward T. Joyner and Dr. Michael Ben-Avie), 2004; and Leave No Child Behind: Preparing Today's Youth for Tomorrow's World, 2004. Between 1978 and 1994, Dr. Comer wrote more than 150 articles for Parents Magazine and more than 300 syndicated articles on children's health and development and race relations.
In addition to his writing, teaching and research activities, Dr. Comer has served as a consultant to the Children's Television Workshop, which produces Sesame Street and The Electric Company. He was a consultant to the Public Committee on Mental Health chaired by Rosalyn Carter as well as a member of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, and Carnegie Forum on Education and the Economy (1987-1991). Since 1994, Dr. Comer has served as a member of the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future. He is a member of the Institute of Medicine and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). He has provided testimony before state and congressional legislative bodies.
In 2014 President Barack Obama appointed Dr. Comer to the President's Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for African Americans. He chaired the Roundtable on Child and Adolescent Development Research and Teacher Education, organized by the National Association for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). He also co-chaired the national expert panel of the NCATE Initiative on Increasing the Application of Developmental Sciences Knowledge in Educator Preparation. The NCATE report, "The Road Less Traveled: How the Developmental Sciences Can Prepare Educators to Improve Student Achievement: Policy Recommendations," is based on the work of the three-year period of the second expert panel. He also served on the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development's Commission on the Whole Child and contributed to the 2007 report, "The Learning Compact Redefined: A Call to Action: A Report of the Commission on the Whole Child."
Dr. Comer was one of the national experts tapped by the Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center to serve on the Health Advisory Group of the School Discipline Consensus Project, a 18-month effort that is coordinating with the Supportive School Discipline Initiative launched by Attorney General Eric Holder and Education Secretary Arne Duncan.
Since 1971, Dr. Comer has served as Director or Trustee of the following Boards: the Nellie Mae Education Foundation (2003-present); Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT (1978-1984); Albertus Magnus College, New Haven, CT (1989-2000); Teachers College, Columbia University, New York, NY (1999-present); the Hazen Foundation, New Haven, CT (1974-1978); the Field Foundation, New York, NY (1981-1988); the Carnegie Corporation of New York, New York, NY (1990-1994); Connecticut Savings Bank (1971-1991); the Connecticut Energy Corporation, Bridgeport, CT (1976-2000); and the National Academy Foundation, New York, NY (1993-1998).
For his work and his scholarship, Dr. Comer has been awarded 48 honorary degrees and has been recognized by many organizations. In 2007 he received the University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for Education. In 2004, he received the John P. McGovern Behavioral Science Award from the Smithsonian. In 2006 he received the John Hope Franklin Award, given to those who have demonstrated the highest commitment to access and excellence in American education. In 1996, he won both the prestigious Heinz Award in the Human Condition for his profound influence on disadvantaged children, and the Healthtrac Foundation Prize (renamed the James F. And Sarah T. Fries Foundation).
Other honors include the Charles A. Dana Award for Pioneering Achievement in Education, 1991; the James Bryant Conant Award, presented by the Education Commission of the States, 1991; the Harold W. McGraw, Jr. Prize in Education given by McGraw-Hill, Inc., 1990; a Special Presidential Commendation from the American Psychiatric Association, 1990; the Rockefeller Public Service Award, 1980; and the John and Mary Markel Foundation Scholar Award in Academic Medicine, 1969-1974.
In 1993, Bill Cosby served as the Master of Ceremonies for the 25th Anniversary Celebration of the School Development Program. In 1998, Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke at the Program's 30th Anniversary Symposium.
A native of East Chicago, IN, Dr. Comer received an A.B. degree in 1956 from Indiana University, an M.D. degree in 1960 from Howard University College of Medicine, and an M.P.H. in 1964 from the University of Michigan School of Public Health. Between 1964 and 1967, he trained in psychiatry at the Yale University School of Medicine and its Child Study Center. He also completed one year of residency training at the Hillcrest Children's Center in Washington, D.C.
Major Honors and Awards
Over his 45 year career, Dr. Comer has received numerous awards and honors for his pioneering work including:
- Mary Utne O'Brien Award for Excellence in Expanding the Evidence-based Practice of Social and Emotional Learning, Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), 2015
- Champion for Children Award, Center for Children's Advocacy, Hartford, CT, 2015
- Yale Child Study Center Lifetime Award, 2012
- John H. Romani Award, University of Michigan School of Public Health, 2009
- University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award in Education, 2007
Awarded for his outstanding ideas in education presented in his book, Leave No Child Behind: Preparing Today’s Youth for Tomorrow’s World.
- John Hope Franklin Award, Diverse: Issues in Higher Education, 2006
- John P. McGovern Behavioral Science Award, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., 2004
- “100 Faces of a Century,” Education Week, December 15, 1999
- Teachers College Medal for Distinguished Service, Columbia University, 1997
- Heinz Award in the Human Condition, Heinz Family Philanthropies, 1996
For his profound influence on the lives of thousands of disadvantaged children through his visionary approach to public education.
- James F. and Sarah T. Fries Foundation Prize for Improving Health, 1996
- Presidential Citation, American Educational Research Association, 1995
- Charles A. Dana Award for Pioneering Achievement in Education, 1991
- Council of Chief State School Officers Distinguished Service Award, 1991
Given annually to a person or persons outside its membership who have shown leadership and/or contributed to the advancement of education
- James Bryant Conant Award, Education Commission of the States, 1991
One of the most prestigious honors in the education community that recognizes an individual for outstanding contributions to American Education.
- Harold W. McGraw, Jr. Prize in Education, 1990
Awarded annually to outstanding individuals who have dedicated themselves to improving education in this country and whose accomplishments are making a difference today.
- Erikson Institute Award for Service to Children, 1990
- Milton J. E. Senn Award, American Academy of Pediatrics,1990
For his distinguished work in the field of school health on a national basis
- Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Human Rights in the United States Book Award, Maggie’s American Dream, 1988
- Eight Must Read Books of 1989 (Maggie’s American Dream), The American School Board Journal, December, 1989
- Indiana University College of Arts and Sciences/Graduate School Distinguished Alumni Award, 1989
- “25 Americans on the Cutting Edge,”Newsweek, October 2, 1989
- Rockefeller Public Service Award, 1980
For his contributions toward solving important problems facing the nation.
- Henry J. Kaiser Senior Fellow Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, 1976-77; Frederick Redlich Senior Fellow, 1994-95
- Maurice Falk Professor of Child Psychiatry, 1976-
- John and Mary Markle Foundation Scholar in Academic Medicine, 1969-1974
Dr. Comer has also received 48 honorary degrees.
- Coker College, LHD, 2012
- St. Joseph’s College, LHD, 2009
- Harvard University, LLD, 2008
- Lesley University, LHD, 2008
- Sacred Heart University, LHD, 2008
- Rosemont College, LHD, 2004
- North Carolina State University, LHD, 2002
- Eastern Michigan University, LHD, 2000
- Long Island University, C.W. Post Campus, DPed, 1999
- Southern Connecticut State College, DSc, 1998
- Connecticut College, DSc, 1997
- Albion College, DSc, 1997
- Cleveland State University, LHD, 1996
- St. Mary’s College of Maryland, DSc, 1996
- Briarwood College, LHD, 1994
- Boston College, LLD, 1994
- Columbia University, LLD, 1994
- Morehouse School of Medicine, DSc, 1993
- Lawrence University, LLD, 1993
- West Virginia University, DSc, 1993
- Howard University, DSc, 1993
- Medical College of Ohio, DSc, 1992
- University of Massachusetts Lowell, LHD, 1992
- Brown University, DSc, 1992
- Hamilton College, LHD, 1992
- Niagara University, DPed, 1992
- University of Pennsylvania, LHD, 1992
- Worcester Polytechnic Institute, DSc, 1991
- Northwestern University, DSc, 1991
- Princeton University, DH, 1991
- Wesleyan University, LHD, 1991
- John Jay College of Criminal Justice, LHD, 1991
- Amherst College, DSc, 1991
- Rhode Island College, DPed, 1991
- New School for Social Research, LHD, 1991
- State University of New York at Buffalo, LHD, 1991
- University of Connecticut, LLD, 1991
- Wheelock College, EdD, 1991
- Wabash College, DSc, 1991
- Indiana University, DSc, 1991 - Northwestern Campus
- Indiana University, DSc, 1991 - Bloomington Campus
- DePauw University, LHD, 1990
- Quinnipiac College, LHD, 1990
- Albertus Magnus College, LHD, 1989
- Bank Street College, LHD, 1987
- Calumet College, DLitt, 1978
- University of New Haven, DSc, 1977
- Yale University, M.A.H., 1975
- Comer, J. P., Giordano, L., & Brown, F. E. (2012). Integrating Six Developmental Pathways in the Classroom: The Synergy between Teacher and Students. Handbook of Prosocial Education, 445.
- Banks, J. A. (Ed.). (2012). Comer School Development Program. Encyclopedia of Diversity in Education.(Vol. 1). SAGE. 411-415.
- Farmer, V. L., & Shepherd-Wynn, E. (Eds.). (2012). James P. Comer: My Way. Voices of Historical and Contemporary Black American Pioneers. ABC-CLIO.
- Chaltain, S. (Ed.). (2011). Faces of Learning: 50 Powerful Stories of Defining Moments in Education. John Wiley & Sons.
- Comer, J.P. (2009). What I Learned in School: Reflections on Race, Child Development and School Reform. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass
- Comer, J.P. (2009). From There to Here. Those Who Dared: Five Visionaries who Changed American Education. Carl Glickman, editor. New York: Teachers College Press. 49-80.
- Comer, J.P. (2004). Leave No Child Behind: Preparing Today's Youth for Tomorrow's World. Connecticut: Yale University Press. (Excerpted in Yale Medicine (Spring 2005): 24-29 and Yale Alumni Magazine (September/October 2004): 20-23.)
- Comer, J.P., Joyner, E.T., and Ben-Avie, M. (editors), (2004). The Field Guide to Comer Schools in Action. California: Corwin Press.
- Comer, J.P. (1997). Waiting for a Miracle: Why Schools Can't Solve Our Problems and How We Can. New York: E.P. Dutton & Co.
- Comer, J.P., Haynes, N.M., Joyner, E.T. and Ben-Avie, M. (editors), (1999). Child by Child: The Comer Process for Change in Education. New York: Teachers College Press.
- Comer, J.P., Haynes, N.M., Joyner, E.T. and Ben-Avie, M. (editors). (1996). Rallying the Whole Village: The Comer Process for Reforming Education. New York: Teachers College Press.
- Comer, J.P. (1980, 1993). School Power: Implications of an Intervention Project. New York: The Free Press.
Selected Articles and Commentaries
- "What We Really Need," in What Do School Tests Measure?, New York Times Room for Debate blog, August 3, 2009.
- Comer, J.P. (2008). An open letter to the next president. Education Week, 27 (19), 25, 32.
- Comer, J.P. and Levett, M.A. (May/June 2007). Lessons from early childhood and elementary education practice. Focus, Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. 35(3), 5-6.
- National Research Council, Institute of Medicine's Committee on Increasing High School Students’ Engagement and Motivation to Learn. (2004). Engaging schools: Fostering high school students' motivation to learn. Washington, DC: National Academies Press. (Committee member)
- Comer, J.P. Child and Adolescent Development Research and Teacher Education: Evidence-based Pedagogy, Policy, and Practice Summary of Roundtable Meetings. National Association for the Accreditation of Teacher Education, Co-Sponsored by: National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD) National Institutes of Health and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. December 1-2, 2005; March 20-21, 2006.
- Comer, J.P. (January 2006). Our mission: It takes more than tests to prepare the young for success in life. Education Week Quality Counts, 25(17), 59-61.
- Commission on the Whole Child. (2006). The learning compact redefined: A call to action. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. (Commission member)
- Comer, J.P. & Emmons, C.L. (2006).The research program of the Yale Child Study Center School Development Program. The Journal of Negro Education 75(3) 353-372.
- National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the National Association for the Accreditation of Teacher Education. (2006). Child and adolescent development research and teacher education: Evidence-based pedagogy, policy, and practice. Bethesda, MD and Washington, DC: Authors. (Roundtable Chair)
- Comer, J.P. (Fall 2005): The human development gap. Connection: The Journal of the New England Board of Higher Education. XX(2), 35-36.
- Comer, J.P. (March 2005). The rewards of parent participation. Educational Leadership, 62(6), 38-42.
- Comer, J.P. (June 2005). Child and adolescent development: The critical missing focus in school reform. Phi Delta Kappan. 86(10), 757-763.
- Comer, J.P. (November/December 2004). Educators overlook child development. Focus, Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. 32(6), 12.
- Comer, J.P. (May 2004). Brown v. Board of Education 50th anniversary. News Leader, National Association of Secondary School Principals. 51(9), 2.
- Comer, J.P. (April 2004). Brown 50 years later: Reflections on the ongoing struggles. American School Board Journal. 19(4), 57.
- Comer, J.P. (January 24, 2003). Making schools of education bridges to better learning. The Chronicle Review – The Chronicle of Higher Education XLIX(20), B20.
- Comer, J.P. (April 23, 2001). Schools that develop children. The American Prospect, 12(7), 30-35.
- National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future. (1996). What matters most: Teaching for America’s future. New York: Author. (Commission member)
- Task Force on Youth Development and Community Programs. (1992). A matter of time: Risk and opportunity in the non-school hours. New York: Carnegie Corporation of New York. (Task Force member)
- Task Force on Education and Young Adolescents. (1989). Turning Points: Preparing American youth for the 21st century. New York: Carnegie Corporation of New York. (Task Force member)
In the news
- And they pay you for that? James P. Comer, MD's "common sense odyssey" in the schools, AACAP News, January/February 2015, Vol. 46, Issue 1
- This ed giant still going strong, pulling big grants his way, L.S. Hall, Inside Philanthropy
- Q&A: At 79, Comer still emphasizes development of the whole child, Bill Hathaway, Yale News, March 4
- From New Haven to the White House, Comer’s message of academic excellence endures, Jim Shelton, New Haven Register, Feb. 24
- Comer to Obama: Look beyond test scores, Melissa Bailey, New Haven Independent, Feb. 21
- Obama taps Yale psychologist for national education panel, Melissa Bailey, The CT Mirror, Feb. 2
- Yale's Comer named to Commission on Educational Excellence for African Americans, Karen Peart, Yale News, Feb. 11
- DeLauro applauds Comer appointment to commission, Staff, Connecticut Postings, Feb. 4
- Comer tours schools, meets principals, Ardie Arvidson, The Hartsville Messenger, Jan. 24
- School ties: A Psychiatrist's longtime commitment to education, Jennifer Dubin, American Educator, Spring 2013