Yale School Development Program Founder James Comer Unveils "Discovery Room" Initiative

The Discovery Room, a Yale program designed to help students learn how to manage their own behavior, will be unveiled at Public School #28 in Paterson, New Jersey on January 24 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.

“Children who develop well, learn well,” said James Comer, M.D., the Maurice Falk Professor of Child Psychiatry at the Yale Child Study Center and founder of the 33-year-old School Development Program. “In implementing this room, we’re focusing on development first in order to support academic learning.”

Comer will speak at the opening along with Valerie Maholmes, the Harris Assistant Professor of Child Psychiatry at the Child Study Center. Other attendees include Dietra Wells, a teacher from one of the first Comer schools in the 1970s and Fay Brown, associate research scientist at the Child Study Center. Students, parents and school staff will also speak about the new initiative.

The Discovery Room was first developed during Comer’s “School Power” days. Maholmes revived it and developed a new program tailored to meet the needs of children with behavior problems. These students are assigned to the Discovery Room and are provided with instruction and support to help them improve their behavioral skills. They are taught how to interact socially and appropriately in the classroom with the ultimate goal of improving their academic achievement.

“The children who are behaving badly are often masking their academic difficulties with their behavior problems,” said Maholmes. “They are the ones in the most need of academic support, but they don’t get that support because teachers don’t have the time to deal with both academic and behavior problems. The Discovery Room focuses on getting the behavior under control and prepares students to better handle academic learning.”

P.S. 28 is similar to the first schools where Comer intervened during the 1960s.

Before adopting the Yale School Development Program’s literacy and teacher mentoring programs, it was one of the lowest achieving schools in the district. Maholmes said the programs have helped the school make significant achievement gains and improved parent involvement and teacher morale. “In the future, we will be implementing school-based health services fashioned after our work in the New Haven schools,” she said.

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Karen N. Peart: karen.peart@yale.edu, 203-432-1326