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Dr. Virginia Collier

Dr. Virginia Collier


Dr. Virginia Collier is Professor Emerita of Bilingual/Multicultural/ESL Education at GeorgeMasonUniversity in Fairfax, Virginia, located in the metropolitan area of Washington, D.C. She is best known for her work with senior researcher, Dr. Wayne Thomas, on school effectiveness for linguistically and culturally diverse students, working with many school districts in all regions of the U.S. over the past 29 years. Spotlighted by the national and international media, their award-winning national research studies have had a substantial impact on school policies throughout the world.  Since 1988, Drs. Thomas and Collier have been regularly interviewed by the popular media, with 181 published newspaper articles and interviews on television and radio in the U.S. and abroad, reporting on their continuing research findings. A popular speaker, Dr. Collier has given 226 keynote speeches and 445 invited and refereed presentations to international, national, state, and local conferences over the past 34 years. She and Dr. Thomas have also conducted educational leadership training for superintendents, principals, and education policy makers in 32 U.S. states and 15 countries.

Drs. Collier and Thomas are authors of two new books that summarize all their research of the past 28 years: Educating English Learners for a Transformed World (2009) and Dual Language Education for a Transformed World (2012), and editors of a third book, Dual Language Administrators Speak (to be released November, 2014), all three books published by Dual Language Education of New Mexico and Fuente Press ( These books present a readable synthesis of research in our field, written for all educators and policy makers, including an overview of the Thomas & Collier research findings with our research figures for staff developers to use. The first book has been translated into Spanish and is available in electronic form in Spanish as of November, 2013. In addition, Dr. Collier has 66 other publications in the field of language education.

In 1989, Dr. Collier received the Distinguished Faculty Award from GeorgeMasonUniversity for excellence in teaching, scholarship, and service. Proficient in Spanish and English, having lived in Central America five years of her childhood, she has served the field of bilingual/ESL education for 43 years as parent, teacher, researcher, teacher educator, and doctoral mentor. As a retired emeritus professor, she is currently working with Dr. Wayne Thomas on continuing longitudinal research with school districts and writing books. In 2005-2006, they served as visiting scholars at the University of Texas-El Paso, the University of Texas-Pan American, and Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. 

            In their collaborative work, Drs. Thomas and Collier have contributed new theoretical perspectives for the field of bilingual/multicultural education. They are well known for developing the Prism Model, a theory and guide to empirical research. This model makes predictions about program effectiveness, from a theoretical perspective. Drs. Thomas and Collier have tested the Prism Model by collecting and analyzing program effectiveness data, and they have refined the model based on empirical findings. They have also developed unique theoretical perspectives on analyses of longitudinal student data, to demonstrate the importance of following English learners’ achievement over long periods of time, with school policy implications. By following individual student progress over 5-6 years at minimum (instead of the typical 1-2 years), they have shown that the typical short-term finding of “no significant difference across programs” has misled the field and policy makers; whereas, long-term findings yield extremely significant differences among school programs. They have found with consistency in each of their research studies that only high quality bilingual schooling has the potential to close the academic achievement gap. By introducing degree of gap closure as the primary measure of program success, rather than pre-post score differences among groups, they have shown that English-only and transitional bilingual programs of short duration only close about half of the achievement gap, while high quality long-term bilingual programs close all of the gap after 5-6 years of schooling through two languages.

[To download Thomas & Collier publications on the Internet, go to the website and click on “Publications.”]