DSY Conference

The Comer Program

A partnership that formed a foundation for success in collaboration with Drury University, Springfield Public Schools, and Yale University.

Drury University, Springfield Public Schools and Yale University joined to bring newfound success to some of Springfield's most challenged schools. The improvement was based on the Yale University Comer School Development Program created by Dr. James Comer. The Comer model creates a school environment dedicated to supporting children as they learn and grow:

  • Learning is an exciting adventure
  • Students, parents and teachers work together
  • Change is good because it brings improvement
  • School and university join to shape national education policies
  • Partner school teachers can earn a masters degree for a reduced rate
  • Everyone is focused on helping children succeed
  • Respect rules the roost

The History of the Comer Program in Springfield

The program began in Springfield when Drury University formed a partnership with Boyd-Berry Elementary School, just north of the university's campus. Pipkin Middle School and Central High School joined the school development program in 2000. McGregor Elementary was added in 2011.  Since that time there have been academic improvements in the schools and the incidents of discipline issues have declined at each school.

"What started as a neighborhood cooperative effort has resulted in gains beyond our wildest dreams."
Daniel Beach, EdD - Former Director of the Drury School of Education & Child Development

What's the Comer Concept?

Just as doctors encourage patients to stay well and avoid future harm, the Comer model seeks to improve the "wellness" of the classroom. Feelings of safety, security, belonging and self-esteem are the goals.

Reaching those goals takes unity. The Comer process mobilizes teachers, parents and other caretakers, counselors, administrators and the community at large. Drury faculty work closely with the schools to keep programs on track, and Drury education students bring extra power and motivation to the process. Strong community leadership provides a solid foundation for progress.

How Does it Happen?

How do you approach the complicated work of transforming a school? This is where the Comer model is most valuable. It provides a system and a structure for preparing the way, implementing change, monitoring results, and reworking the school to improve it further. Think about it in threes:

Three principles guide the process:

  1. Consensus
  2. Collaboration
  3. No blame

Three operations shape the school:

  1. The Comprehensive School Plan tackles the big issues - curriculum, instruction, student assessment, social and academic climate, interaction between school and community.
  2. The Staff Development Plan creates programs to meet needs identified in the School Plan.
  3. An Assessment and Modification process allows for orderly change and adjustment.

Three teams take responsibility:

  1. School Planning and Management Team: Develops and monitors the Comprehensive School Plan; includes parents, teachers, administrators and others.
  2. Student and Staff Support Team: Helps improve the school's social climate; includes counselors, social workers and others with child development or mental health expertise.
  3. Parent Team: Promotes parent involvement in all areas of school life.

The results of the program include:

  • Increased attendance
  • Increased parent participation
  • Lower teacher turnover
  • Students are more ready academically
  • The number of in-school and out-of-school suspensions has dropped dramatically.

Special Opportunities:

  • Drury University reduces tuition in their master of education program for teachers at Comer partner schools.
  • Drury undergraduates' participation in school classrooms broadens and deepens the educational experience.
  • Teachers in training are deeply involved in school life, since classes are taught at Comer schools.

The Future

The Comer partnership has evolved since it began in 2000.  Drury still hosts the annual Developing Successful Youth conference in the fall.  More information on that can be found here:  www.drury.edu/dsy 

The Comer theory is still the foundation of our program.  Teachers must focus on the whole child and work together with the community to form successful relationships for the future.