James P. Comer Essay

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James P. Comer, MD, is the creator of the Comer School Development Program (SDP), a comprehensive school reform model used in more than 500 schools throughout the United States. Currently, Dr. Comer serves as the Maurice Falk Professor of Child Psychiatry at the Yale University School of Medicine’s Child Study Center.

Comer was born in 1934 in the town of East Chicago, Indiana. Although his parents had limited education, they pushed him and his siblings to achieve in school and to pursue college educations. Comer went on to complete his undergraduate education at Indiana University and his medical training at Howard University in Washington, D.C. Following this, he received a master’s degree in public health from the University of Michigan and pursued residency training in psychiatry at the Yale University School of Medicine and its Child Development Center.

In 1968, Comer received an invitation from Dr. Albert Solnit of the Yale Child Development Center to direct a school intervention project funded by a grant from the Ford Foundation. That school intervention project yielded a model of reform known as the Comer School Development Program (SDP) or simply “the Comer Process.” This process is based on principles of child, adolescent, and adult development, and it encourages parents, teachers, administrators, and students to work in a collaborative and cooperative atmosphere based on students’ needs. The SDP has taken root all over the United States and has become one of the most important reform models in the history of American education.

Comer’s primary work with the SDP has been a reflection of his research on the social conditions facing the poor and minority communities and the link that these conditions have with public policies and institutions. In doing so, Comer has recognized the critical influence of education on adult life and the role that family and community context has on children’s future success in school.


  1. Comer, J. (1995). School power: Implications of an intervention project. New York: Free Press.
  2. Comer, J. (2005). Leaving no child behind: Preparing today’s youth for tomorrow’s world. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

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