Lisa Tabaku

Director, Dual Language and Multilingual Education

Lisa Tabaku returned to CAL in 2018 to serve as Director of Global Language and Culture. Lisa was the director and assistant director of PK–12 ELL Professional Development at CAL from 2008 until 2013.

In the interim, Lisa served as principal researcher and technical assistance consultant at the American Institutes for Research (AIR) where she was responsible for using research findings to inform technical assistance provided to states and districts to improve educational outcomes for English learners (ELs). While at AIR, Lisa provided state technical assistance on behalf of ELs for the Midwest Comprehensive Center (MWCC).  Her work included, for example, supporting Minnesota in the development of a process for identifying students with limited or interrupted formal education (SLIFE), revising the state home language survey, and assisting MDE with the development of a customizable, online handbook for linguistically and culturally diverse (LCD) families enrolled in public schools in Minnesota. As part of her work at MWCC, Lisa also developed a report for MWCC on state assessments in languages other than English. At AIR, she wrote curricula for New York state and New York City that ensure access for ELs of grade-level text. Lisa also performed evaluations of policies and practices for ELs in districts in Washington, Colorado and Delaware.

Lisa has 30 years of experience in helping to educate students of diverse language and cultural backgrounds. While at CAL she developed educational materials and provided professional development on effective and culturally responsive instruction for English learners, especially on the topic of teaching reading to students learning to read in a second language and on the development of academic language. Lisa’s knowledge and skills are grounded in many years of serving in an urban, high poverty school district. Over the course of her career she has directly taught ELs in grades PreK 3 through 12. She served in a variety of roles addressing EL education in the District of Columbia Public Schools. These roles included director of Civil Rights and Multicultural Affairs, Executive Director of the Office of Bilingual Education, Assistant Principal of a Spanish-English, dual-language elementary school, professional developer, grant writer, curriculum writer, federal grants coordinator, and bilingual and ESL teacher.

Lisa is a co-author of a Department of Education, Office of English Language Acquisition, report, Dual Language Education Programs: Current State Policies and Practices (2015) and a CAL Practitioner Brief, Implementing the Common Core for English learners: Responding to Common Questions from Educators (2013).

Tabaku holds an MAT degree in bilingual education and a BS degree in languages from Georgetown University.She has served on the State Title III Advisory Board, Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE), District of Columbia, from 2014 - 2019 and as an advisory board member of the Mid Atlantic Equity Consortium (currently to the Equity Assistance Center, Region I) since 2012.


Great Lakes Comprehensive Center

CAL is collaborating in the operation of this Comprehensive Technical Assistance Center to provide capacity-building assistance to Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio in their efforts to improve the education of English language learners.


The Guiding Principles and the Critical Third Pillar: Sociocultural Competence

The Guiding Principles and the Critical Third Pillar: Sociocultural Competence

February 9, 2021

Did you know that the earlier editions of the Guiding Principles referred to the third pillar as “cross-cultural understanding” rather than “sociocultural competence?” The change in terms in the 3rd edition was deliberate. It reflects a shift in thinking in two important ways:  first, “cross-cultural understanding” infers that developing cultural competence is viable only in two-way programs attended by fairly equal numbers of English home-language students and “partner” home-language students and, secondly, that cultural competence may be limited to positive attitudes and feelings of self-esteem.


Leading Dual Language Programs for Student Success - Oct 2021


Learn how to enhance or develop your dual language program based on the 7 research-based strands of effective dual language education in the Guiding Principles.

Sign up with your leadership team and work collaboratively to make your dual language program the best it can be!

Sociocultural Competence in Language Programs: Lessons from Dual Language

▸What does the term “sociocultural competence” mean in the context of dual language, world language, and ESL?▸How is sociocultural competence included in the  Guiding Principles for Dual Language Education (Howard, et. al.,2018)?▸What is the relevance for other language programs?