Kenji Hakuta's Home Page

I teach at Stanford University in the Graduate School of Education, where I have been on the faculty since 1989, except for three years (2003-2006) when I left to start the University of California, Merced and got to know the Central Valley. That was a fun and exciting experience. UC Merced is already fulfilling its role in shoring up the state's fabled (but eroding) Master Plan for Higher Education, and especially serving a new generation of students. Back at Stanford, I hold an endowed chair as the Lee L. Jacks Professor (when I left to go to Merced, I held the Vida Jacks Chair, so my thanks to the Jacks family!). My areas of teaching and research are in the education of English Language Learners, second language acquisition, education policy and practice, and research methods.

My past few years have been increasingly consumed by matters related to the Common Core State Standards, Next Generation Science Standards, and the related ("corresponding") English Language Proficiency Standards. 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. (That seems like a while ago - and indeed it was!). I am engaged in many aspects of the new standards.

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 have engineered an initiative that develops collaboration across a wide swath of the education world. Please check out our papers and resources on the website..

The Understanding Language Initiative also collaborated with the Council of Chief State Schools Officers in developiong 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 frunds 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 have the honor of serving as the advisor for the ELL SCASS, a learning community of state administrators from over 25 states that meet regularly to address state implementation issues.

My work also takes me to local district practice, at least in my local region (California). I have learned greatly from Jennifer O'Day's California Collaborative for District Reform, which brings together superintendents from many large districts with a variety of experts in policy, pracitce, and research, creating an amazing professional learning community. Borrowing from that, a few years ago, at the request of the Cowell Foundation, I brought together a new network of smaller mostly rural districts in California that serve ELL students, and we have created a vibrant collaborative of district leaders and some experts, mostly learning from each other. The focus of this work, needless to say, has been on Common Core implementation, and on navigating the districts through the shifts in state policy that impact disctircts. In the sea occuppied by large vessels, I feel like our small district network seems like a flotilla of small vessels, but they are like most of the 15,000 school districts in the nation.

Most recently, I've started using MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) as a tool for collaboration. Being at Stanford, it's kind of difficult to avoid the influence of MOOCs, but I am not doing MOOCs for MOOCs sake, but rather 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'm also using it as a way to collaborate with friends and colleagues who share the passion to illuminate the exquisite connections between content and language. Recently, in public speeches, I've used the metaphor of the "two cylops problem", in characterizing how policy has served to separate content from language (as in two cyclops looking at the same thing) and thereby failing to see depth in the subject.

Finally, in research, I recently co-authored (with Rebecca Greene) a paper with the deliberately complex title of "Epistemological Linguistics". The paper makes the point that the current state of education creates a unique environment in which the "use-inspired" research creates conditions for good innovative work around language and content - a Pasteur's Quadrant. I truly believe this, but also believe that it's important to get this onto the radar of IES and NSF so that the field gains validation from research. It turns out that MOOCs (at least as we operationalize them) are a great medium not just for instruction, but for purposes of generating research. In our MOOCs, the typical assignment is for the participanting teacher to take a sample of student oral or written language, kind of how a "citizen scientist" takes and shares a sample of data, such as climate conditions or biodiversity. The MOOCs are like citizen science for teachers, focused on how students use language to negotiate content. This can become an incredibly rich data source for research. Stay tuned, this may become the empirical database for the field of "epistemological linguistics".

Please click on the topics below for details. For those who have visited my website in the past, you will notice that I am using a minimalist design to bring attention to the information content. My wife thinks its ugly, but let me know what you think. I am also trimming back on content on the philosophy that less is more. Click here to get back to my old website.

This page was last updated December 5, 2011