Thomas is the faculty director of the Center for Education Policy Research, a university-wide research center that works with school districts and state agencies. Between 2009 and 2012, he directed the Measures of Effective Teaching project for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. His work has spanned both K-12 and higher education, covering topics such as the design of school accountability systems, teacher recruitment and retention, financial aid for college, race-conscious college admissions and the earnings impacts of community colleges. From 1995 to 1996, Kane served as the senior economist for labor, education, and welfare policy issues within President Clinton's Council of Economic Advisers. From 1991 through 2000, he was a faculty member at the Kennedy School of Government. Kane has also been a professor of public policy at UCLA and has held visiting fellowships at the Brookings Institution and the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.