Educators Ill Equipped to Close Achievement Gap Without Developmental Sciences

Despite growing evidence that developmental issues impact student learning, developmental sciences—which include the science of child and adolescent development and neuroscience—are given short shrift in educator preparation and school reform, according to a new report co-authored by Yale School Development Program (SDP) Director James P. Comer, M.D. The report was issued by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), the professional accrediting organization for schools, colleges and departments of education.

NCATE will unveil the report at a press conference October 5 at 9 a.m. at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. titled “The Road Less Traveled: How the Developmental Sciences Can Prepare Educators to Improve Student Achievement: Policy Recommendations,” the report was prepared by multi-disciplinary experts, including Comer, the Maurice Falk Professor of Child Psychiatry at the Yale Child Study Center and associate dean of the Yale School of Medicine, who co-chaired the expert panel. The report draws on and details more than a decade of research linking teachers’ ability to address social, emotional and cognitive development with increased student achievement results.

“Teachers cannot educate the ‘whole child’ if they are only half-prepared. And they cannot improve learning if they don’t know how to help address the social, emotional, and cognitive needs of children and adolescents,” noted Comer. “A well-functioning school, or a good school culture and climate, can seamlessly reinforce and build on development that took place before school. A dysfunctional or ineffective school environment can interfere with the development of all students, but particularly with those who did not have a good pre-school experience.”

Comer said that many teachers and administrators, through no fault of their own, have not been prepared to create a school climate or culture that will intentionally focus on development in the service of academic and overall learning and development.

The report highlights the Asheville City Schools in North Carolina, where district-wide adoption of the Comer School Development Program is credited with closing the achievement gap between black and white students. First introduced in two low-achieving schools in New Haven in 1968, the School Development Program is a research-based, comprehensive K-12 education reform program grounded in the principles of child, adolescent and adult development. The SDP provides the organizational, management and communications framework for mobilizing teachers, administrators, parents and other concerned adults to support students’ personal, social and academic development and achievement. The SDP has been implemented in hundreds of schools in more than 20 states, the District of Columbia, Trinidad and Tobago, South Africa, England and Ireland over the years.

To dial into the press conference, please call 877-719-9789, Conference ID: 4899728

For more information about the School Development Program, go to and

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