Overview of SDP Effects

Empirical evidence shows that the child, born with a wide variety of capacities and potential, is embedded in a social network of beliefs, attitudes, activities, and life styles. When this social network imparts the type of knowledge and skills that prepare the child to succeed in school and mainstream society, the transition from home to school is relatively smooth and success in school is facilitated. When adequate pre-school preparation does not take place, the school can help the child acquire the conditions, knowledge, and skills needed for success.

The SDP’s theory of change is based on the concept above: When teachers, administrators, parents, and/or mature adults interact with students in a supportive school environment and/or culture, and provide adequate instruction in a way that mediates physical, social-interactive, psycho-emotional, moral-ethical, linguistic, and cognitive-intellectual development, acceptable academic achievement will take place. This is the case in large part because development and academic learning are inextricably linked.

The nine SDP elements or structures and processes grew out of the 1968-73 Yale Child Study Center-New Haven School System pilot intervention project. These elements facilitate the creation of an environment that promotes adult-student interactions necessary for good student development and academic learning in school, even when such an environment was not adequately provided prior to school.

The manner in which the Process facilitated the critical interactions which made change possible at the building level is described in the book, The Kids Got Smarter: Case Studies of Successful Comer Schools (Noblit, Malloy, and Malloy, 2001).

Despite many successes with individual schools and clusters of schools across the country, the SDP experienced challenges to full implementation and sustainability. The SDP staff designed a systemic or system-wide change protocol to address these challenges. The SDP Systemic Process engages leadership and implementation personnel at every level in a way that promotes program coordination, cohesiveness, and coherence throughout the district, and within each school in the district.

The SDP engaged five school districts in its Systemic Reform Process during the five-year period 1998 to 2003. All districts showed improvement in academic achievement during the period of implementation, with some schools making significant progress towards closing the achievement gap. By 2004, one school had completely closed the achievement gap in both reading and math at grade 5.


  • Comer, J., & Emmons, C. (2006). The Research Program of the Yale Child Study Center School Development Program. The Journal of Negro Education 75(3) 353-372.
  • Noblit, G.W, Malloy, C.E., and Malloy, W. (2001). The kids got smarter: Case studies of successful Comer schools. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press, Inc.