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ELR Illustrative Example: SEAL Model

The English Learner Roadmap Sobrato Early Academic Language (SEAL) Model.

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Illustrative Example Overview

The Sobrato Early Academic Language (SEAL) model is a research- and evidence-based, language-rich, early education through third grade model designed to build the capacity of educators to powerfully develop the language and literacy skills of young English learner (EL) children. This approach strengthens instruction and curriculum across the school for all students while centralizing the needs of English learners. Working through standards-based, teacher-created, integrated, thematic units, SEAL locates language development within and in connection to science and social studies content, thus ensuring access to the full curriculum for all children and providing motivating instruction to engage students. Teachers become deeply immersed in state English language arts (ELA) standards, English language development (ELD) standards, Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and social studies standards, explore the Frameworks within the context of research about the development of dual language students in order to design curriculum and prepare high-leverage instructional strategies. They are supported in this work through a series of professional development workshops, job-embedded coaching, and collaborative and reflective professional learning in grade level teams over a three-year period. SEAL further supports students and teachers by providing school and district leaders professional learning opportunities as they lead systemic change.

The SEAL model rests on four pillars: A focus on the development of powerful, precise, academic language; the creation of content- and language-rich and affirming environments; articulation across grades and alignment of the preschool and kindergarten through third grade systems; and strong partnerships between families and schools. All of these pillars are built on the bedrock for instructional improvement and the implementation of the SEAL model: teacher intentionality and responsiveness. Through an extensive series of professional development modules, teachers come to understand how language develops, the needs of English learners and dual language learners, and the optimal schooling conditions that foster learning. SEAL teachers learn strategies in the context of the broader research on literacy development, discussing why particular strategies are effective and when and for whom they might be used. The SEAL model of professional development follows the components of high quality staff development (per the National Standards for Staff Development), including sustained professional development supported by job-embedded coaching and facilitation, coupled with leadership development, and the building of a collaborative culture. SEAL provides a toolkit of research-based instructional strategies that fit in the larger pedagogical context of integrated language and content instruction and cross-content thematic units.

Further, SEAL recognizes that mastering a complex set of new instructional strategies and curricular approaches takes time, resources, and support for teachers. Teachers also need opportunities to see the practices being modeled in their own classrooms, encouragement to try new strategies, and constructive feedback from a knowledgeable and supportive coach and from colleagues.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with each participating school district outlines all the components of implementation, including job-embedded coaching.

SEAL is currently being implemented at 101 sites across 20 California districts. These districts range from rural (Williams, Coalinga-Huron, Golden Plains, Mendota, and Fillmore Unified School Districts) to urban (Los Angeles Unified School District), to suburban (Oak Grove and Milpitas Unified School Districts). SEAL implementation also entails leadership development and technical assistance for site and district administrators.

Principles, Elements, and Priorities Addressed

Principle One: Assets-Oriented and Needs-Responsive Schools

Pre-schools and schools are responsive to different EL strengths, needs, and identities and support the socio-emotional health and development of English learners. Programs value and build upon the cultural and linguistic assets students bring to their education in safe and affirming school climates. Educators value and build strong family, community, and school partnerships.

Element 1A: Language and Culture as Assets

The languages and cultures English learners bring to their education are assets for their own learning, and are important contributions to learning communities. These assets are valued and built upon in culturally responsive curriculum and instruction and in programs that support, wherever possible, the development of proficiency in multiple languages.

Element 1B: English Learner Profiles

Recognizing that there is no single EL profile and no one-size-fits-all approach that works for all English learners, programs, curriculum, and instruction must be responsive to different EL student characteristics and experiences. EL students entering school at the beginning levels of English proficiency have different needs and capacities than do students entering at intermediate or advanced levels, as do students entering in kindergarten versus in later grades, and the needs of long term English learners are vastly different from recently arrived students (who in turn vary in their prior formal education). Districts vary considerably in the distribution of these EL profiles, so no single program or instructional approach works for all EL students.

Element 1C: School Climate

School climates and campuses are affirming, inclusive, and safe.

Element 1D: Family and School Partnerships

Schools value and build strong family and school partnerships.

Principle Two: Intellectual Quality of Instruction and Meaningful Access

English learners engage in intellectually rich, developmentally appropriate learning experiences that foster high levels of English proficiency. These experiences integrate language development, literacy, and content learning as well as provide access for comprehension and participation through native language instruction and scaffolding. English learners have meaningful access to a full standards-based and relevant curriculum and the opportunity to develop proficiency in English and other languages.

Element 2A: Integrated and Designated ELD

Language development occurs in and through subject matter learning and is integrated across the curriculum, including integrated ELD and designated ELD (per the ELA/ELD Framework).

Element 2B: Intellectually Rich, Standards-based Curriculum

Students are provided a rigorous, intellectually rich, standards-based curriculum with instructional scaffolding for comprehension, participation, and mastery.

Element 2C: High Expectations

Teaching and learning emphasize engagement, interaction, discourse, inquiry, and critical thinking—with the same high expectations for English learners as for all students.

Element 2D: Access to Full Curriculum

English learners are provided access to the full curriculum along with the provision of appropriate EL supports and services.

Element 2E: Use of Students' Home Languages

Students’ home language is understood as a means to access subject matter content, as a foundation for developing English, and (where possible) is developed to high levels of literacy and proficiency along with English.

Element 2G: Programmatic Choice

English learners are provided choices of research-based language support/development programs (including options for developing skills in multiple languages) and are enrolled in programs designed to overcome language barriers and provide access to the curriculum.

Principle Four: Alignment and Articulation Within and Across Systems

English learners experience a coherent, articulated, and aligned set of practices and pathways across grade levels and educational segments, beginning with a strong foundation in early childhood and appropriate identification of strengths and needs, continuing through to reclassification, graduation, higher education, and career opportunities. These pathways foster the skills, language(s), literacy, and knowledge students need for college- and career-readiness and participation in a global, diverse, multilingual, twenty-first century world.

Element 4A: Alignment and Articulation

EL educational approaches and programs are designed for continuity, alignment, and articulation across grade levels and system segments beginning with a strong foundation in early childhood (preschool), and continuing through elementary and secondary levels onto graduation and postsecondary education and career preparation.

Local Control and Accountability (LCAP) Priority One: Basic (Conditions of Learning)
  • Rate of teacher misassignment as relates to equity, professional learning, resource alignment, and teachers.
  • Student access to standards-aligned instructional materials as relates to curriculum, instruction, and resource alignment.
  • Facilities in good repair as relates to culture and climate and resource alignment.
LCAP Priority Two: State Standards (Conditions of Learning)
  • Implementation of academic content and performance standards adopted by the state board for all pupils, including English learners as relates to assessment, curriculum, equity, instruction, and professional learning.
LCAP Priority Three: Parental Involvement (Engagement)
  • Efforts to seek parent input in decision making and promotion of parent participation in programs for unduplicated pupils and special need subgroups as relates to culture and climate, equity, and family and community.
LCAP Priority Four: Pupil Achievement (Pupil Outcomes)
  • Performance on standardized tests, score on Academic Performance Index, share of pupils that are college and career ready, share of English learners that become English proficient, English learner reclassification rate, share of pupils that pass Advanced Placement exams with three or higher and share of pupils determined prepared for college by the Early Assessment Program as relates to assessment, curriculum, equity, and instruction.
LCAP Priority Five: Pupil Engagement (Engagement)
  • School attendance rates, chronic absenteeism rates, middle school dropout rates, high school dropout rates, and high school graduations rates as relates to culture and climate, equity, and family and community.
LCAP Priority Six: School Climate (Engagement)
  • Pupil suspension rates, pupil expulsion rates, and other local measures including surveys of pupils, parents, and teachers on the sense of safety and school connectedness as relates to culture and climate, equity, and family and community.
LCAP Priority Seven: Course Access (Conditions of Learning)
  • Pupil enrollment in a broad course of study that includes all of the subject areas described in Education Code (EC) section 51210 and subdivisions (a) to (i), inclusive, of EC section 51220, as applicable, as relates to curriculum, equity, and professional learning.
LCAP Priority Eight: Other Pupil Outcomes (Pupil Outcomes)
  • Pupil outcomes in the subject areas described in EC Section 51210 and subdivisions (a) to (i), inclusive, of EC Section 51220, as applicable as relates to curriculum, equity, and professional learning.

Evidence of Effectiveness

The Characteristics of Examples Page includes information on the criteria used to evaluate illustrative example submissions.

Standard 1 (supported by an existing research basis)

The program explicitly states three foundations that draw from research syntheses on effective instruction and the importance of attending to student language development.

Standard 2 (local metrics of system implementation and adult learning outcomes)

Teachers who participated in professional learning supports showed evidence of SEAL instructional approaches; SEAL parents who were involved in training on the importance of engaging in literacy activities with their children showed greater engagement compared with national comparison statistics.

Standard 2a (local metrics of student learning supports and processes)

There was an increase in the number of preschool parents who requested enrollment in the kindergarten classrooms on campus and an evaluation showed that school and district leaders cited increased involvement of preschool personnel and preschool families in the life of the school.

Standard 3 (student learning outcomes)

In a five year pilot evaluation study, SEAL students made statistically significant growth on measures of language and literacy in Spanish and English, as well as in assessments of cognitive and social skills and on the California English Language Development Test (CELDT). SEAL students also consistently outperformed demographically similar comparison groups in growth and achievement, especially in areas related to language and literacy. Building on these promising results, a major external evaluation of SEAL is currently under way, using controlled comparison groups and an expanded set of outcome measures.


Introduction to SEAL External link opens in new window or tab. (Video; 40:50)
In this video, Dr. Laurie Olsen, former Director and current Strategic Advisor for SEAL, provides an overview of the SEAL model.

SEAL in Action: Parkview Elementary School External link opens in new window or tab. (Video; 7:42)
This video provides a look at SEAL in action including video of students and teachers implementing the model and administrators discussing its results.

SEAL: Powerful, Joyful, Rigorous Language and Literacy Learning (PDF)
This SEAL publication provides an overview of the model including the research foundations, the four components or pillars, the pedagogical practices, information on replication and implementation, and a summary of findings to date on the impact of the SEAL model.

SEAL Depth of Implementation Tool (Coming Soon)
The SEAL Depth of Implementation Tool is a resource intended for all stakeholders, including teachers, coaches, and leaders at the project, district, and site-levels, to reflect on and record evidence for levels of implementation of the SEAL Model.

Questions:   Language Policy and Leadership Office | | 916-319-0845
Last Reviewed: Tuesday, February 27, 2018
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