School reform leader James P. Comer, M.D., the Maurice Falk Professor of Child Psychiatry at the Yale Child Study Center (YCSC), has won the 2007 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award in Education. The award, which carries a $200,000 prize, cites Comer as a champion of improving schools by applying knowledge from child development research.
Comer is best known for the School Development Program (SDP), founded at the YCSC in 1968. The SDP promotes optimal emotional, behavioral and academic development in schoolchildren through school governance teams that give all parties—teachers, administrators, parents, students, janitorial and cafeteria workers, and school psychologists—a voice in how their schools are operated and a stake in the educational outcome.
The SDP model has been applied in over 1,000 schools in the United States, South Africa, England, Ireland and the Caribbean, and research has shown that it improves children’s performance in low-achieving schools.
Comer, author of the 2004 book Leave No Child Behind: Preparing Today’s Youth for Tomorrow’s World, joined the Yale faculty in 1968. He has received numerous awards, including the Smithsonian Institution’s John P. McGovern Behavioral Science Award, the Heinz Award in the Human Condition, the Harold W. McGraw Jr. Prize in Education, and the Charles A. Dana Award for Pioneering Achievement in Education. He has also received a special presidential commendation from the American Psychiatric Association and was named to Education Week magazine’s list of 100 people who helped shape American education in the 20th century.
The Grawemeyer Awards, which are also given in music composition, religion, psychology and other fields, were established in 1984 by H. Charles Grawemeyer, an alumnus of the University of Lousville who made his fortune as an industrialist and entrepreneur. The awards are distinguished by Grawemeyer’s belief that lay people as well as experts should judge candidates’ contributions, and his conviction that sweeping, influential ideas are as important as personal accomplishment.