Jean graduated from George Washington University in Washington and went to work as one of the first women in management at the local telephone company. It was her goal to save enough money to go graduate school in social work which she did the next year despite huge protest from her Republican family. Jean attended the Jane Adams School of Social Work at the University of Illinois and did her practice work in Chicago projects.
Jean returned to Washington to work. During the day Jean worked at Peace Corps Headquarters selecting and placing new volunteers. In the evenings and on many weekends Jean worked as a volunteer leader of a city community center that served teenagers in one of the poorest neighborhoods in the city. One of her jobs was to help run a tutoring program designed to keep teens in school. It was so difficult for teens to learn to read after so much failure in school that Jean became convinced that the best strategy for children is to make sure that they are successful in the very first years of school and that they can read by the end of second grade at the latest. She has put her conviction into law by securing the first state funding for all day kindergarten and teacher training designed to have children read by the end of second grade.