Book chronicles evolution and success of world renowned school development program

10/05/04

An education without a focus on test scores that promotes development of the whole child -- psychologically, socially and environmentally -- will prepare children for successful adult lives, James P. Comer, M.D., contends in his eighth book "Leave No Child Behind: Preparing Today's Youth for Tomorrow's World."

A reception and book signing will take place from 5 to 7 p.m. on October 11 during the School Development Program's 35th Anniversary two-day celebration at the Omni New Haven Hotel at Yale, 155 Temple St.

"A focus on higher test scores alone cannot produce the outcomes we want and need for our children or our nation," Comer, the Maurice Falk Professor of Child Psychiatry at the Yale Child Study Center and associate dean at the Yale School of Medicine, writes in the new book. "But good child and youth rearing and development can do so, and can simultaneously produce good test scores."

These principles are the basis of Comer's School Development Program (SDP), founded in 1968 in two underachieving public schools in New Haven. Thirty-five years later, the SDP has evolved into what many call the "Godfather" of school reform. SDP is based on the premise that all youngsters -- regardless of race, geography or cultural and economic background -- can learn at high levels. The programs and services that fall under the SDP umbrella help schools ensure that students achieve their highest academic potential.

Throughout his book, Comer cites incidents, projects, programs and research that demonstrate support for good development can prevent the high social, emotional and financial costs of problem behaviors, even among students from very difficult circumstances.

"We must do a better job of rearing all our children well in our formative institutions, in preparing them to meet adult responsibilities in this complex age," Comer writes. "Neither the farm nor the factory is available to save them as in past eras. Down the road we will pay the ultimate price -- loss of our open and democratic society -- unless we pay now to better prepare families, schools and other resources."

In the book, Comer said America is a better democracy and superpower in large part because of polices and practices that enabled many people to benefit from access to economic and educational conditions that made personal, family and community well being possible. "Great civilizations begin to decline when they stop doing what got them there," he said.

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