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Thanks for visiting my homepage.  I retired as a professor at Stanford in 2017.  My current official title is Lee L. Jacks Professor emeritus at the Stanford Graduate School of Education.  I no longer teach courses or supervise students.  So, this is a legacy page that will not be updated.  I will just provide a short broad-brush narrative of my career here.  Also, here are links to my last homepage before retirement, and a curriculum vitae.

My Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology from Harvard University (1979) had little to do with the field of education where my career ended up.  My mentors were Roger Brown and Jill and Peter de Villiers.  I was fascinated by the theoretical problems of the acquisition of syntax and morphology, as represented in the first and second language development in children.  Following that work, I started investigating the theory of the possible advantages of bilingualism, such as in cognitive flexibility and metalinguistic awareness, using as my sample Spanish-English bilingual children in school systems (the so-called “folk bilingual” population).  

I started my teaching career at Yale in the Department of Psychology.  I enjoyed teaching child development, introductory psychology, statistics, and psycholinguistics.  Yale undergraduates had an incredible work ethic and learning culture.  My research with Spanish-English bilingual children in the New Haven Public Schools created strong friendships with the teachers and administrators there, which shaped my interest in education.  

At Yale, I had several senior faculty colleagues who – although in an academic psychology department – were interested in education.  These included Edmund Gordon, Edward Zigler, and Robert Sternberg.  I did not appreciate then, but eventually realized, that it was a rare privilege to have been in a position in academic psychology with so many senior faculty interested in education.  During that time, I wrote my career-defining book, Mirror of Language: The Debate on Bilingualism, while spending a sabbatical at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences.

After Yale, I was recruited to the University of California, Santa Cruz as a professor in education (1987).  I had wonderful colleagues there – Eugene Garcia who was also my next door neighbor, and Barry McLaughlin.  Ellen Moir was the director of teacher education, and we became good friends.  I learned from them all.  At the same time, the University of California Linguistic Minority Project (later LMRI), which had helped to recruit me to the UC system, introduced me to wonderful colleagues all over California, as well as to the California education policy scene, which was very hostile toward language minority students (Proposition 63 had just passed, and Proposition 187 was on its way).  During this period, my research focused on the problem of language shift and language loss in bilingual communities.

I moved to Stanford in 1989, recruited by Dean Marshall (Mike) Smith who was trying to diversify the faculty at the school of education.  He pulled me into policy, as did the other Mike – Mike Kirst.  Kirst and I started having regular lunches, and I considered these conversations to be my postdoctoral training in education policy.  When standards-based reform became the new paradigm, the Carnegie Corporation of New York wanted someone to work on the inclusion of English Learners into the new legislative framework (eventually, Goals 2000 and the Improving America’s Schools Act of 1994).  

The Carnegie Corporation provided me with several highly flexible and generous grants that created the Stanford Working Group (on EL Policy).  One lasting success of the effort is a provision that was included in the 1994 re-authorization, and has persisted to this day in ESSA, about the assessment of English Learners be provided “assessments in the language and form most likely to yield accurate data on what ELs know and can do in academic content areas” (Sec. 1111).  The grant didn’t really allow us to lobby Congress, but we (me, Diane August and Delia Pompa, with Bill Taylor’s help) stuck that landing, a moment of geeky triumph in the world of policy.

Photo credit: Linda A. Cicero / Stanford News Service

I spent a considerable amount of energy during this period doing board and committee service work, having caught the policy bug from the “Mikes”.  I served on various National Academy committees as well as foundation and non-profit boards.  I also somehow ended up chairing the policy board for U.S. Department of Education’s OERI (Office of Educational Research and Improvement) during the Clinton administration and saw it thru its death rattle during its transition to the Institute for Education Sciences.  This period was characterized by its childish enamor equating randomized trial experiment with scientific rigor (I thought bilingual policy had some dumb ideas, then realized that science and research policy was sincerely immature).

The fact that so many Californians in 1997 voted for Proposition 227 (the Unz initiative) disturbed me, especially how powerless we were in having even something like a “theory” that it would take kids no more than 6 months to learn English to be acceptable to the courts.  I wrote some papers on this through the UC LMRI, and vented some of my anger by participating in litigation such as the Williams v. State case.  

Another detour for me was into the land of affirmative action in higher education – Mitchell Chang and I co-led an effort anticipating the Michigan challenge and the need to bolster the case for the educational benefits of diversity.  We co-edited a book, and also worked with anthony antonio, Jeff Milem and others to conduct an experimental study which got published, that had an impact on the U.S. Supreme Court decision (well, we earned a footnote in the Gruter decision).  

I also was drawn into the potential of online courses for the first time, collaborating with Lydia Stack at SFUSD and Mark Atkinson at Teachscape.  Elsa Billings and Sue Baker (graduate students with significant teacher training chops) helped build content for an online module for the California certificate for teaching English Learners (what has now been called CLAD/CTEL) and ended up certifying almost 5,000 California teachers.  That was fun and productive.  We made money for Stanford Continuing Studies with our competitive fee model and, at the same time, brought down the fees charged by competitors.

Still feeling tired and listless enough about bilingual education and the California K-12 policy environment, in 2003 I accepted an offer to move to Merced and be on the start-up team as Dean of Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts for the new University of California campus (and the elusive idea that I would be within an hour of Yosemite Valley, the climbing mecca of the world).  It was an interesting job developing a UC franchise in the Central Valley.  I wanted to experience the education access issues from the high school to higher education transition end, and on a personal level, it was a great way to get my family out of Palo Alto – my daughter especially formed diverse friendships unavailable in Palo Alto.  The part of my job helping to recruit students, especially from the Central Valley, was eye-opening, as I went to high schools scattered between Stockton and Bakersfield.  Today, it is a UC campus with a student body that reflects California’s diversity much better than any of its sibling campuses.

After the Merced startup experience, I almost went to UC Berkeley to join their faculty diversity initiative, but ultimately chose to move to Redwood City (and back to Stanford) because the high school options for my son were better.  Back in regular faculty mode, I chose to engage more directly with school districts in how leadership addresses English Learners, and got involved with learning communities.  I really learned a lot through participation in Jennifer O’Day’s California Collaborative for District Reform, an incredible learning community with a systemic character.  I built on that learning and merged it with my appreciation for the small rural districts in the Central Valley, encouraged by Ken Doane from the Cowell Foundation, and created a learning network of smaller districts, which is a system ecology that is so different from huge districts such as LAUSD.

My last few years got increasingly consumed by matters related to the Common Core State Standards, Next Generation Science Standards, and the related ("corresponding") English Language Proficiency Standards because of its policy impact.  I never meant for my life to be taken over by the standards movement, but now that I look back on my career, I got my start through my work in leading the Stanford Working Group back in 1992, which developed recommendations during the first phase of standards-based reform back in the Clinton Administration, where I served on his transition team. 

The Understanding Language Initiative, which got started in 2011 thanks to some serious arm-twisting on the part of Andres Henriquez (then at the Carnegie Corporation of New York and Melissa Chabran at the Gates Foundation), gathered a great group of educators, scholars, and advocates to consider the implications of the new standards for English Language Learners. Maria Santos (Deputy Superintendent at Oakland Unified School District) joined me at the helm of that effort.  With her sage counsel and amazing persistence, we engineered an initiative that developed collaboration across a wide swath of the education world. 

Through the Understanding Language Initiative, I also collaborated with the Council of Chief State Schools Officers in developing the English Language Proficiency Development Framework as well as the new set of standards that were adopted by the ELPA21 states, a consortium of states that received funds from Enhanced Assessment Grants to develop the next generation of English Language Proficiency assessments that complement the new content assessments (PARCC and SBAC). Collaborating with CCSSO, I also had the honor of serving as the advisor for the ELL SCASS, a vibrant learning community of state administrators from over 40 states that meets regularly to address state implementation issues.  During my time, Robert Linquanti, Delia Pompa, Diane August and Maria Santos were regular consultants, and the network was successful in creating a variety of practice-policy research partnerships.  The whole thing now is led by Megan Hopkins and Fen Chou, joined by a small army of enthusiastic state policy leaders.

Like many university-based academics, I spent a few years experimenting with MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) as a tool for collaboration.  I was interested in its potential as an instrument to disseminate our work around the Common Core, and to support states and districts struggling with professional development and Common Core implementation. I also used it as a way to collaborate with friends and colleagues who share the passion to illuminate the exquisite connections between content and language.  With the benefit of hindsight, MOOC sounds like a very dated term, it did not hang around long.  It’s been replaced by lots of other trends, such as AI and NLP, all very exciting new trends that I am afraid will be beyond my influence.

One final comment I want to make about my career was how (unfortunately) it was defined by the English-only and the anti-bilingual education movement.  As a person who likes to dwell on the positive, recognizing all of the distractions and mongering of fear and hate that accompanies this field has been painful.  It is a chronic condition.  Beginning with Proposition 63 in California, followed by Proposition 187 and other divisive measures in the 1980’s, the wave appeared to have crested by 1990.  Yet 1997 brought Proposition 227 in California, followed by similar initiatives in Arizona and Massachusetts.  It felt like a bad horror movie in an endless loop of sequels.  California reversed the anti-bilingual measure with Proposition 58, and I was privileged to help author the state board policy known as the California English Learner Roadmap that was adopted in 2017.  But who knows what the future will hold, with doubts about Plyler, immigrants, refugees, and instability around the world.  It is part of the territory that demands intestinal fortitude.  

While my hope for retirement is to do different stuff,  I plan on maintaining some continuity with my interests in improving educational opportunities and institutional cultures, with focus on the environment and climate, especially in the region of the Western Cordillera.  I intend to pursue this work with a low public profile.

Photo credit: Kenji Hakuta