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Place-based Initiatives in New Haven, Connecticut

In 1968 child psychiatrist James P. Comer, MD and several colleagues from the Yale Child Study Center developed the SDP model in two low-performing elementary schools in New Haven. In School Power: Implications of an Intervention Project, Dr. Comer chronicled the transformation of challenging relationships into a positive school culture that resulted in a steady and dramatic rise in student achievement and pro-social behavior.

Since its inception fifty years ago, the model has been implemented in over a thousand schools in more than fifty school districts across the country. The Aspen Commission on Social, Emotional and Academic Development recently named Dr. Comer an Honorary Chair in recognition of his pioneering work in this area; now emerging as the critical next step in school improvement.

While the SDP was initiated in New Haven, its use has waxed and waned; and elements have been implemented with varying degrees of fidelity in most schools. The current focus of the Comer School Development Program, working with and through the New Haven Public Schools, is to co-construct a place-based initiative organized and managed in a way that supports adult and student development, academic learning, and preparation for life; addressing needs from before birth, through school, preparing all for adulthood.

Our work includes:

  • The Collaborative for Developmentally Centered Education which brings together the New Haven Public Schools, Southern Connecticut State University, and the Comer School Development Program to infuse child and adolescent development knowledge into educator preparation and ongoing professional development of pre- and in-service educators. A key component of the Collaborative is the annual Academy for Developmentally Centered Education where educators in the Collaborative Schools learn, plan, and interact with SCSU pre-service teachers and social work candidates.
  • Professional development and consultation to NHPS school teams including School Planning and Management Teams (SPMTs) and Student and Staff Support Teams (SSSTs).
  • The Parents, Partners, and Peers Program is a peer-led, conversational approach to increasing parents’ practical application of child development knowledge within a cultural context. The program uses a community-based approach that involves parents at three levels: as Parent Mentors, Parent Leaders, and Parent Peer participants.
  • Networking and collaborating with the New Haven Early Childhood Council, New Haven Child, and other early learning organizations.
  • Consultation to Mayor Toni Harp and departments in the City of New Haven to integrate human development knowledge into the City Transformation Plan.
  • The development of a network of city thought and practice leaders to inform policy making at the local, state, and federal levels.
  • Informing national education policy through three major Commissions over the last decade.