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Grant To Implement Comer Model in Detroit Schools

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A multimillion-dollar grant from a Detroit foundation will enable 18 of the city's 166 public elementary schools to adopt the reform model developed by the noted child psychiatrist James P. Comer.

The Skillman Foundation announced last month that it will award some $17.5 million over the next 10 years to help the 18 schools implement the Yale professor's School Development Program.

Most of the money--nearly $15 million--will go to the Detroit public schools. In addition, Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, a partner in the endeavor, will receive a 10-year, $2.1 million grant and the Yale Child Study Center in New Haven, Conn., will be awarded a three-year, $452,000 grant. Both will provide training and technical help to the effort.

The grant will support full-time coordinators for the initiative at the district level, the university, and at each school, as well as part-time parent facilitators, according to Sharon Johnson-Lewis, the district's assistant superintendent for research, development, and coordination.

The gift is the largest grant made to a single project by the Skillman Foundation in its 34-year history.

Long-Term Commitment

The grant's 10-year time frame also represents a departure for the foundation, which previously had limited its funding commitments to a maximum of five years.

"It's a recognition that to implement a program like this takes a long period of time for a public school district,'' said Leonard W. Smith, the foundation's president.

Skillman's staff and board felt confident embarking in this new direction, Mr. Smith added, because the Comer model "has been in urban schools since 1968, has been evaluated, and is a proven success that teachers and administrators and school board members could easily buy into.''

Dr. Comer founded the School Development Program in two New Haven elementary schools where achievement and attendance levels were poor and relationships between students, teachers, and parents were weak.

His approach, now used in more than 300 elementary schools in 18 states and the District of Columbia, centers on the need for parents and educators to work together to improve education.

"I would like for us to begin to look at the children in a more holistic view, to do a better job of examining both the academic and social-emotional side of the child,'' Ms. Johnson-Lewis said.

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