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 forty-seven years ago, the model has been implemented in over a thousand schools in more than fifty school districts across the country. During that time, emphasis on the SDP has waxed and waned in New Haven, with elements being implemented with varying degrees of fidelity in most schools. In addition, the SDP's Essentials of Literacy reading program, piloted at Davis Street 21st Arts and Academics Inter-district Magnet School in 1996, was successfully implemented for a number of years at 23 New Haven elementary schools.
During the 2006-07 academic year, New Haven school officials, particularly former Superintendent of Schools Dr. Reginald Mayo, expressed a strong interest in faithful implementation of the model in selected schools.
The need for establishing effectively functioning governance and management teams and student and staff support teams, coupled with some teachers' expressed interest to more effectively manage their classrooms with a focus on child development principles and practices, served as the impetus for this renewal effort. Additionally, focus group interviews at selected schools surfaced the need for increased parent involvement and better integration and cohesion of programs and services within and across the schools.
As a result, the SDP started to provide in-depth services to 10 schools with each experiencing measurable improvements in various aspects of school functioning, including academic achievement over the next five years.
Current Comer SDP work in New Haven
School Planning and Management Team (SPMT) support
The Comer SDP provides professional development, monitoring, and coaching for 26 School Planning and Management Teams (SPMTs). These schools received a waiver from the Connecticut State Department of Education to use the SPMT model rather than the School Governance Council model.
- Two Structures of School Governance: School Planning and Management Teams and School Governance Councils PowerPoint by Shelia Brantley and Dr. Fay E. Brown
- "School Governance Councils and SPMTs Focus of Community Forum," SDP Newslinearticle by Cynthia R. Savo
The Student Support Facilitators Initiative
In collaboration with the NHPS Talent Office and the New Haven Federation of Teachers (NHFT), the Comer SDP designs and delivers a Summer Institute and monthly professional development sessions to prepare more than 90 Student Support Facilitators (SSFs) to effectively execute their role in 47 schools. The Student Support Facilitator initiative is comprised of teachers, guidance counselors, social workers, and other school personnel who work collaboratively with educators and parents to identify and address the emotional, behavioral, academic, and social well-being of students.
The Collaborative for Developmentally Centered Education
With grant support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Comer SDP provides professional development to teachers and staff of two elementary schools participating in the Collaborative for Developmentally Centered Education that includes the New Haven Public Schools and Southern Connecticut State University (SCSU).