Yasuko Kanno

Associate Professor
Program Director for Language Education

Yasuko (pronounced “Yasko”) Kanno is an Associate Professor of Education at Boston University, where she also directs the TESOL Licensure Program. Her research focuses on English language learners’ access to postsecondary education and how K-12 public schools shape ELLs’ postsecondary trajectories. Prior to arriving at Boston University, she was Associate Professor and Program Coordinator of the TESOL Program at Temple University, overseeing the Ph.D., Master’s, and certificate programs in TESOL.

Dr. Kanno is the author of three books and has published extensively in high-impact journals, including a 2014 American Educational Research Journal article for which she received the 2015 TESOL Award for Distinguished Research. She is currently working on journal articles based on her three-year ethnographic study of high school ELLs’ transition to college. Dr. Kanno is also Co-Editor of the Journal of Language, Identity, and Education.

Co-Editor of the Journal of Language, Identity, and Education

Ph.D. in Education, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education/University of Toronto

M.A. in Linguistics, Keio University

B.A. in French, Keio University

BI515: Methods in Bilingual Education

TL508: Methods in Teaching English as a Second Language

BI620: Educational Issues in Bilingual Education

Dr. Kanno studies immigrant English learner (EL) students' access to postsecondary education. She is interested in how EL students negotiate their transition from high school to college/vocational training and how high schools facilitate or hinder this process. Ultimately, Dr. Kanno's research explores how being institutionally identified as English learners affects students' educational opportunities.

English Learners’ Transition from High School to Postsecondary education: An Ethnographic Study (Multilingual Matters)

Nearly 50% of English native speakers advance to four-year colleges immediately upon high school graduation whereas only one in five English learners (ELs) have direct access to four-year colleges. On the other hand, almost half of ELs never experience postsecondary education. Dr. Kanno conducted a three-year ethnographic study following eight EL students at a large public high school in Pennsylvania in order to investigate why ELs’ access to postsecondary education is so limited. She is currently writing a book based on this project, which will be published by Multilingual Matters in 2020. Some of the factors that inhibit ELs’ access to college include: institutional barriers preventing ELs from taking advanced college-preparatory courses; students’ and parents’ lack of college knowledge with which to navigate the college planning and application processes; and ELs’ own linguistic insecurity about their English.

Massachusetts English Learners’ Access to Four-Year Colleges: How Socioeconomic Status Structures Their Options (with Chris Leider)

This study aims to investigate how English learners navigate transition to postsecondary education and what role socioeconomic status (SES)—both students’ SES and schools’ SES—plays in shaping ELs’ college access. With an additional boost of a million dollars in lifetime earnings that a bachelor’s degree can bring, a four-year college degree can make a real difference in improving financial wellbeing for ELs’ families and also contribute to upward mobility. However, because many ELs come from low-income backgrounds and/or the schools they attend are often under-resourced, they may assume that a college education, especially a four-year college education, is out of their reach.

Through qualitative case studies of several public schools in the Greater Boston area, we investigate how schools that serve communities of various SES (e.g., a resource-rich high school serving an affluent suburban community vs. a resource- constrained urban high school in a low-income community) provide college guidance to their students and how ELs at these schools navigate the college-planning and application processes, with the goal towards identifying ELs’ barriers to four-year college access and providing better support for their postsecondary education. This project has been funded by the 2018 BU Wheelock Faculty Research Catalyst Award.

English Learner Education in the State of Massachusetts: Secondary Data Analysis of the State Administrative Data (with Marcus Winters and Nathan Jones)

Together with Drs. Winters and Jones, Dr. Kanno is conducting a series of secondary data analysis of Massachusetts’ longitudinal administrative data to investigate the state of EL education in the state. In the “Deconstructing the EL Gap” project, Drs. Kanno and Winters have found that what is commonly identified as the EL achievement gap (i.e., that there is a large academic achievement gap between EL and non-EL students by a number of measures) is in fact largely a function of their other demographic factors such as socioeconomic status and race/ethnicity. That is, if we compare ELs with non-ELs from comparable demographic backgrounds, there is very little achievement difference between the two groups; if anything, ELs perform slightly better than comparable non-ELs because they are receiving language support services. This project was funded by the Spencer Small Research Grant. Currently, Dr. Kanno is working with Drs. Winters and Jones on the effect of Massachusetts’ RETELL Initiative on ELs’ academic performance. They are investigating whether having all general education teachers in public schools undergo Structured English Immersion training will result in a measurable impact on ELs’ achievement.

Visit Dr. Kanno's Faculty Profile

Kanno, Y. (2018). High-performing English learners’ limited access to four-year college. Teachers College Record, 120(4), 1-46.

Nuñez, A,-M., Rios-Aguilar, C., Kanno, Y., Flores, S.M. (2016). English learners and their transition to postsecondary education. In M.B. Paulsen (Ed.), Higher Education: Handbook of Theory and Research, Volume 31 (pp. 41-90). New York: Springer.

Kanno, Y., & Cromley, J. (2015). English language learners’ pathways to four-year colleges. Teachers College Record, 117(120306), 1-44.

Kanno, Y., & Kangas, S.E.N. (2014). “I’m not going to be, like, for the AP”: English language learners’ limited access to advanced college-preparatory courses in high school. American Educational Research Journal, 51(5), 848-878.

Kanno, Y., & Vandrick, S. (Eds.). (2014). Social class in language learning and teaching. Journal of Language, Identity, and Education, 13(2, Special Issue).

Kanno, Y., & Cromley, J. (2013). English language learners’ access to and attainment in postsecondary education. TESOL Quarterly, 47(1), 89-121.

Kanno, Y., & Harklau, L. (Eds.) (2012). Linguistic minority students go to college: Preparation, access, and persistence. New York: Routledge.

Kanno, Y., & Stuart, C. (2011). Learning to become a second language teacher: Identities in practice. Modern Language Journal, 95(2), 236-252.

Kanno, Y., & Varghese, M. M. (2010). Immigrant and refugee ESL students’ challenges to accessing four-year college education: From language policy to educational policy. Journal of Language, Identity, and Education, 9(5), 310–328.

Kanno, Y. (2016, November). English learners’ access to postsecondary education and opportunity to learn in high school. Keynote Address, Illinois TESOL Conference, Indianapolis, IN.

Kanno, Y. (2016, October). Neither college nor career ready: English learners’ transition to postsecondary education. Keynote Address, Terra Conference on English Language Learners, Buffalo, NY.

Kanno, Y. (2016, April). Latino English-learner students as the underserved third. TESOL Convention, Baltimore, MD. (Colloquium “Latina/o Students’ College and Career Readiness” organized by Ann Johns, with L. de Oliveira, T, Ruecker, and G. Kovats).

Kanno, Y., & Cromley, J. (2016, April). English learners’ high school academic preparation, community college enrollment, and eventual bachelor’s degree attainment. American Educational Research Association (AERA) Annual Meeting, Washington, DC.

Kanno, Y. (2015, March). English language learners, identity, and access to postsecondary Education. Plenary Speaker, American Association for Applied Linguistics Annual Conference, Toronto, Canada.

Kanno, Y. (2014, December). ELLs: Access to higher education and structural barriers. Keynote Address, William Patterson University 34th Annual Bilingual/ESL Conference, Wayne, NJ.

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