New CDE Publication!


Improving Multilingual and English Learner Education: Research to Practice


Dear SEAL family,

We are thrilled to announce that SEAL contributed to California Department of Education’s recently published guide for California educators, Improving Multilingual and English Learner Education: Research to Practice. This publication is an important resource for implementing practices and programs aligned to the most current research underlying the California English Learner Roadmap policy. The need for this actionable guidance on implementation of recent research on best practices that address educational equity for DLL/EL students is evermore urgent.

Here is a list of the full contents of this important publication:

  • Introduction: Improving Multilingual Education: Accelerate Learning. By Veronica Aguila, Marcela Rodriguez, and Gina Garcia-Smith
    Chapter 1: The Power and Promise of California’s Multilingual Learners. By Molly Faulkner-Bond, Pamela Spycher, Laurie Olsen and Patricia Gandara
  • Chapter 2: Asset-Based Pedagogy: Student, Family and Community Engagement for Academic and Social-Emotional Learning of Multilingual Students. By Francesa Lopez, Raju DeSai and Allyson Tintiangco-Cubales
  • Chapter 3: Multilingual Programs and Pedagogy: What Teachers and Administrators Need to Know and Do. By Laurie Olsen, with Carla Herrera, Martha Martinez and Heather Skibbins
  • Chapter 4: Early Learning and Care for Multilingual and Dual Language Learners Ages Zero to Five. By Linda Espinosa and Jennifer Crandell
  • Chapter 5: Content Instruction with Integrated and Designated ELD in the Elementary Grades. By Mary Schleppegrell and Alison Bailey
  • Chapter 6: Content and Language Instruction in Middle and High School: Promoting Educational Equity and Achievement. By Pamela Spycher, Diane August and Maria Gonzalez-Howard
  • Chapter 7: Creating Schools and Systems that Support Asset-Based, High Quality Instruction for Multilingual Learners. By Maria Santos and Megan Hopkins

Read CDE Publication


Our contribution in Chapter 3, “Multilingual Programs and Pedagogy: What Teachers and Administrators Need to Know and Do,” is written by SEAL founder Dr. Laurie Olsen, in collaboration with SEAL staff Dr. Martha Martinez, Heather Skibbins and Carla Herrera, and it draws in part from the innovative work of the SEAL Bilingual Working Group and partnerships with SEAL schools. SEAL’s original pilot design drew heavily on CDE’s previous publication, Improving Education for English Learners: Research-based Approaches, published in 2010. We are excited to continue being a part of the greater effort to cultivate school and district-wide learning systems and cultures that uplift and prioritize our DLL/EL students.

During unprecedented moments like these, our commitment to supporting DLL/EL students, educators and families has only been reinforced. We look forward to continuing to do this necessary and important work in partnership with you!

In Solidarity,
The SEAL Team

New CDE Publication!2023-04-06T17:51:41-07:00

EdSource: Preschoolers learning English need to be identified, supported, says California’s master plan


December 2020

California has made numerous efforts in recent decades to ensure that preschools meet the needs of children who are not fluent in English. But the Master Plan includes several new proposals for dual-language learners that advocates hope will improve their education outcomes. “In general the master plan is a huge moment for California and a huge move forward,” said Anya Hurwitz, executive director of Sobrato Early Academic Language, a nonprofit organization that developed an early childhood education program for dual-language learners and has trained teachers across the state. […]

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EdSource: Preschoolers learning English need to be identified, supported, says California’s master plan2023-04-06T17:54:06-07:00

San Jose Spotlight


Funk: Literacy program at Oak Grove making difference for English learners

The SEAL model produces powerful language skills and rich academic vocabulary development through hands-on science and social studies based thematic units addressing the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). SEAL also supports parents to develop language and literacy practices with their children at home and in the classrooms that result in authentic family engagement and a home-to-school connection. […]

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San Jose Spotlight2023-04-06T17:56:26-07:00

Building an Equitable System for DLLs in the California Master Plan for Early Learning and Care


As the state copes with the profound shocks of COVID-19, civil rights uprisings, and the constant threat of environmental devastation, California must recapture the forward-looking optimism that was building before the pandemic. We must channel it into re-envisioning our early learning and care (ELC) system as one that boldly centers equity, addresses systemic racism, and strengthens its mixed delivery system infrastructure.

The majority of young California children are dual language learners (DLLs), children under the age of six developing English in addition to their home language. Many of these children come from low-income families of color that are least able to weather the pandemic’s hardships. Inequities in the pandemic response have been egregious. But we should not lose sight of the fact that they are dramatic escalations of opportunity gaps that have long been woven into California’s education system.

California is currently developing a Master Plan for ELC to guide its early education efforts in the coming years. As we design our ELC system, we must collectively build on the California English Learner Roadmap State Policy’s multilingual and multicultural promise that addresses the specific needs of Black, Latinx, Indigenous, and Asian and Pacific Islander children acquiring a second language. It’s clearer than ever that a child’s home language and culture are central to their healthy growth and development, and this must be reflected in all of the state’s policies and practices. Therefore, support for DLLs’ cultural and linguistic strengths should not be viewed as optional. Now is the moment to ensure that our most vulnerable young children receive equitable, high-quality education that sets them on a path to success.

In addition to addressing significant short-term challenges, state leaders must address the following long-term measures to ensure fair and equitable treatment of DLLs and their families and the dedicated early educators who work to support them. We propose recommendations to our state leaders in the following areas:

  1. DATA: Ensure that the home languages and linguistic profiles of the child are meaningfully included in the development of the Early Childhood Integrated Data System. There is currently no uniform process to identify DLLs across the ELC system. Collecting accurate data is critical to continuous quality improvement and supports for DLLs. It will assist stakeholders to better understand the needs of DLL children and families, and will provide data about program access, participation, and child outcomes. This data collection process will require systemic improvements in how ELC programs across the mixed delivery system engage with families. The ELC system should build in support for administrators and early educators to conduct family interviews when children enroll and throughout the year so that programs are aware of—and continuously supporting—children’s language development and the family’s goals for their child.
  2. WORKFORCE: Support the current early learning workforce in effectively serving DLLs in California’s ELC programs. This means making DLLs’ needs central to pre-service training for educators. For instance, the state should require DLL content in the Child Development Permit, the state’s early educator preparation system. This will also require DLL-focused educator training programs to increase their capacity for providing coursework and training. In addition, the state should develop a bilingual authorization for early educators to teach in bilingual early learning settings. Finally, to ensure the existing early learning workforce is equipped to meet the needs of DLLs and their families, the state must invest in professional development focused on best practices for supporting DLLs.
  3. QUALITY: Prioritize resources for quality improvement (e.g. in Quality Counts funding) to embed DLL content in Professional Development strategy frameworks and support early educators with coaches and mentors on best practices for working with DLLs. Resources for professional development must include best practices for DLLs and their families across the mixed-delivery system and age ranges. To effectively facilitate such support, state leaders must ensure that long-term systemic revisions in the Quality Counts criteria address the needs of DLLs and their families. This also includes investment in assessment tools in multiple home languages and training for assessors that are culturally and linguistically responsive and competent to measure DLL children’s growth and progress.

With California’s Master Plan for ELC, we have the opportunity right now to build a system that paves the way for our children’s success. We must not lose sight of the long-term systemic issues negatively impacting DLLs as we tackle urgent COVID-19 response needs. The Master Plan for ELC can address these issues and strengthen the ELC system to build on California’s rich multicultural and multilingual diversity, where all DLL children can thrive with access to culturally and linguistically competent care designed around their specific needs and assets. Being intentional about including our DLL children in the design of the ELC system will lead to a stronger future for California families and for our state.

This blog is a part of a blog series in collaboration with Advancement Project California, Early Edge California, and the Sobrato Early Academic Language. For more information on our policy recommendations to address DLL children and families’ needs during COVID-19 and beyond, please click here: COVID-19 Rapid Response: Urgent Needs of Dual Language Learner Children and Families (APCA Link/EECA Link).

Building an Equitable System for DLLs in the California Master Plan for Early Learning and Care2023-04-06T17:59:09-07:00

Remembering Ruby Takanishi (1946 ─ 2020)


It is with deep sadness that we inform you of the passing of our founding board member, and longtime dual-language learner advocate, Dr. Ruby Takanishi. The early education leader and research pioneer passed away peacefully earlier this month. Her legacy within the field and the extended SEAL community inspires our collective responsibility to carry it forward.

Dr. Takanishi’s values and passion were evident throughout her lifelong work. She was an extraordinary leader in the field of research who quickly earned a national reputation as a champion of early childhood education. Once quoted saying “primary education today reflects the social and economic divides in our country,” her sharp, evidence-based approach to tackling systemic barriers in education challenged policy-makers to reimagine public school systems nationally. Notably, Dr.Takanishi led the launch of the preschool through 3rd movement in 2003 as the president and CEO of the Foundation for Child Development.

Ruby played a critical role in SEAL’s pilot, replication, and growth into a nonprofit organization. During the preliminary years leading to SEAL’s development, Dr. Takanishi was one of the leading experts tapped by the Sobrato Family Foundation. It was Dr. Takanishi’s early education policy research that helped set the stage for the SEAL model. As chair of the 2017 National Academy of Science, Engineering, and Medicine report, Promoting the Educational Success of Children and Youth Learning English: Promising Futures, Dr. Takanishi helped ensure SEAL was included as a spotlight within this meta-analysis. Furthermore, it was a great honor that Dr. Takanishi became a founding SEAL board member.

Dr. Takanishi has been recognized by the American Psychological Association, the American Sociological Association (Division of Children and Families), and the Society for Research in Child Development for her contribution to connecting research with public policies. In 2014, the American Education Research Association honored her with its Distinguished Public Service Award. Most recently, she served as a senior research fellow in the Early and Elementary Education Policy division at New America in Washington, DC.

Dr. Takanishi’s accolades are only a small testament to a lifetime of achievement. Ruby was both brilliant and generous, she acted as a mentor to many and gave all of herself to colleagues and friends alike. Even in her final months, she never missed an opportunity to act as a bridge of communication, connection, and inspiration. Her legacy both propels and inspires us to live up to her vision of educational equity for all children, especially our youngest dual language learners. While we mourn this enormous loss, we are up for the challenge – she wouldn’t want it any other way.

Our deepest condolences go out to Ruby’s family and loved ones in this time of immense challenge. Ruby’s friends and family have created a website to celebrate her life. Check it out here.

Remembering Ruby Takanishi (1946 ─ 2020)2023-04-06T18:02:44-07:00

Fall 2020 Newsletter


As we navigate these uncertain times, SEAL remains steadfast in our commitment to serving our English Learner/Dual Language Learner students along with their teachers, families, and school communities. SEAL is working to adapt our programs, resources, and services to online formats and distance learning contexts to support our partners and school communities across the state. […]

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Fall 2020 Newsletter2023-04-06T18:04:32-07:00

Elevating Urgent Needs of Young Dual Language Learners and Their Families During COVID-19


Everyone is feeling the impact of COVID-19 as the country grinds through yet another month of abnormalcy, with low-income and communities of color bearing the brunt the most.

Working families of color are carrying a particularly heavy load—juggling work and child care responsibilities while gauging the extra risks of sending their kids back to early learning and care (ELC) settings.

Data show the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on communities of color, especially Black, Latinx, Native Hawaiian Pacific Islander, and low-income populations—many of whom are linguistically diverse families. Their children, a great number of whom are dual language learners (DLLs), are inevitably suffering as their families work on the frontlines as essential workers, risking exposure to COVID-19 while trying to balance competing demands.

This is a special challenge for California, home to the nation’s largest population of DLLs: young children who are developing proficiency in both their home language and English. This group makes up nearly 60 percent of California’s children under the age of 6. It is clear that without ensuring access to early learning and care designed for DLL children and families, the state is not meeting the basic needs of all children.

With the profound financial impact of COVID-19, California now faces a $54.3 billion budget deficit for 2020 and 2021. The needs of the early childhood field are more dire than ever, and support for DLL children and families must be urgently addressed. We cannot allow the state’s health, economic, and fiscal crises derail our state’s commitment to equitable ELC for DLLs.

As COVID-19 continues to exacerbate existing inequities to children’s full access and participation in high-quality ELC, in the immediate term, we recommend that state leaders:

  1. Provide immediate financial support for home-based and center-based early educators who are adapting to the rapidly changing health and safety guidelines of COVID-19. Many are at grave risk of closing permanently under financial pressures driven by the pandemic. The state should guarantee that all programs (home-based and centers) receive their full share of public funding, even if they can only serve a reduced number of families due to COVID-19 restrictions on teacher-child ratios. A significant number of the youngest and most vulnerable populations of DLLs are served in home-based settings (Family, Friend, and Neighbor and Family Child Care Homes). The state must increase licensed home-based settings through targeted funding to trusted messengers such as Childcare Resource and Referral agencies and community-based organizations that are the backbone of sustaining the ELC field.
  2. Equip early educators to support DLLs and their families in culturally, linguistically, and developmentally appropriate ways during hybrid/distance learning. Until full reopening is possible, many children will spend significant time engaged in hybrid/distance learning. The state must ensure that early educators are equipped with the necessary tools and training to fully and authentically engage DLL families. This begins with providing equitable access to learning technologies and internet connectivity, and also including translated family communications and multilingual resources to support DLLs’ emerging bilingual development in hybrid/distance learning plans.
  3. Prioritize the social-emotional health of DLL children, as well as families’ and early educators’ mental wellbeing. Many children have been living with the stress of regular precarity for over 6 months. Whether programs are able to open in person or in a hybrid/distance learning model, relationship building and socioemotional health of DLLs must be prioritized, particularly for children under the age of six. All 2020 state guidance should make this clear. Moreover, early educators must be supported with paid time and communities of support to manage their own mental health as they address the stresses facing many of the children in their programs. As we respond to our current state of emergency, DLLs should be brought to the center of policy decisions. By addressing these immediate needs, we will ensure that we are building a strong foundation for the majority of the state’s young children. The quality of education these children receive in the present will do much to determine the quality of California’s future workforce and economy.

This blog is a part of a blog series in collaboration with Advancement Project California, Early Edge California, and the Sobrato Early Academic Language. For more information on our policy recommendations to address DLL children and families’ needs during COVID-19 and beyond, please click here: COVID-19 Rapid Response: Urgent Needs of Dual Language Learner Children and Families (APCA Link/EECA Link).

Elevating Urgent Needs of Young Dual Language Learners and Their Families During COVID-192023-04-06T18:07:39-07:00

Closing the Learning Divide for Young DLLs during COVID-19 and Beyond


September 21, 2020

Closing the Learning Divide for Young DLLs during COVID-19 and Beyond

As data on the pandemic continue to roll in, it’s clear that the pandemic’s burdens are not shared equally. It is increasingly evident that California’s families of color–the state’s linguistically and culturally diverse communities–have been among the state’s hardest hit

Many families of color who work in frontline service sectors like health care or food services are at an exceptionally high risk of exposure to the virus. Their children, many of whom are dual language learners (DLLs), continue to experience stress and anxiety as their families work as essential workers risking exposure to COVID-19. Families speaking languages other than English at home were more likely to report food insecurity concerns. What’s more, there is evidence that the state’s DLLs are likely to face digital divides—that is, lack of access to the learning technologies required for distance learning. As a result, polls suggest that many DLLs could not reliably access schools’ online learning offerings, and—even when they accessed them—were not adequately supported.

California must do better. Over half of the state’s young children speak a language other than English at home. In too many instances, the pandemic has disrupted their access to Early Learning and Care programs and exacerbated existing opportunity gaps for them and their families. California’s future depends on these students’ success, and that begins with a strong developmental foundation in the early years. 

State and local leaders must invest in an Early Learning and Care system that supports DLLs and their families’ needs with distance and/or hybrid learning. Here are a few ideas: 

  1. Address and close—digital divides—for families of young DLL children. Disparities in access to technology make distance learning prohibitive to many DLLs in California. DLLs’ families appear to be more likely to lack access to devices and internet connectivity necessary for video-based learning. 
  2. Provide DLLs and their families with support and guidance in using available technology in their primary language. While access to learning technology is critical during the pandemic, this is still just a first step. Tablets, laptops, and mobile hotspots are not magic devices. It is not enough to leave them on families’ doorsteps. Families deserve guidance on how they can ensure that their children are using these resources appropriately and effectively. This guidance must include translated instructions, multilingual video training, and resources on online, electronic, or digital platforms to support DLL children in multiple languages.
  3. Provide information about the critical role home language development plays in supporting English acquisition and reaping bilingualism’s numerous benefits. With many families at home with their children during the pandemic, the Early Learning and Care system should equip our programs to build on this opportunity for families to further develop their young DLLs’ home language. Families and caregivers need developmentally appropriate learning materials in their home languages. They also need guidance, resources, and strategies that can help them to develop their children’s home language proficiencies. 

As we respond to our current state of emergency, we must bring DLL children to the center of our policy conversations around the digital divide and distance/hybrid learning. We must not miss the critical window of opportunity that the early years bring for brain and language development and set children on the path to success. As the largest proportion of California’s young child population, DLLs, in many ways, are the future drivers of the state’s economic and social well-being. Their future is our future. This blog is a part of a blog series in collaboration with Advancement Project California, Early Edge California, and the Sobrato Early Academic Language. For more information on our policy recommendations to address DLL children and families’ needs during COVID-19 and beyond, please click here: APCA/EECA

Closing the Learning Divide for Young DLLs during COVID-19 and Beyond2020-09-23T01:52:57-07:00

What Does it Really Mean to Support English Learners in the Time of Coronavirus?


By Joanna Meadvin & Jennifer Diehl

When schools across the globe were forced to close in the spring, educators scrambled to adapt their resources to best meet students’ emotional, physical, and educational needs. Without mercy, the pandemic overwhelmed our most vulnerable populations, revealing once again that society is designed to serve different groups inequitably, and is particularly rigged against people of color and those living in poverty.

Sadly, despite best intentions, schools often contribute to this cruel reality. Champions of English Learners and other marginalized communities have known for decades that the system is perfectly designed to produce the results it is getting. In the face of upheaval, the visionaries amongst us began to imagine how this pandemic might be an opportunity to transform our world. Hugh Vasquez of the National Equity Project specifically wondered, “What if we…don’t return to school as usual?” What if we use this “disturbance” to our everyday as an opportunity for great change?

Now deep into this pandemic with no end in sight, and in seeming defiance of these earlier calls to imagination and transformation, the inequities baked into our schools continue to deepen and more harshly reveal themselves, Many of us have begun to worry whether these beleaguered systems really can change? Or do they even want to?

For SEAL, the answer must be, “Yes!” And, here is how.

Of course, teachers and schools must remain committed to instructing English Learners according to research-based best practices. (See our Six Key Considerations for Supporting English Learners.)

However, after more than ten years of working with teachers, administrators, and coaches, it has become increasingly clear to us that rote implementation of strategies are, at best, mildly effective unless people with power interrogate their privilege and squarely face their culpability in a system that continues to deliver inadequate results for English Learners. Policy makers have power. Administrators have power. And, perhaps most importantly, teachers wield enormous power in their classrooms.

So, how do you REALLY support English Learners in the time of Coronavirus?

First, acknowledge the truth.

Systemic change begins with the acknowledgment that we can no longer define equitable schools as places where “every child gets what they need.” This well-intentioned platitude obscures the painful truth: Year after year, we fail miserably in our attempts to meet the needs of English Learners. Statistically speaking, English Learners have never made comparable educational gains to their native English-speaking peers and are twice as likely to drop out of high school. These children require and deserve more than children who speak English as their first language. For SEAL, putting resources where they are most needed means setting a laser sharp focus on English Learners.

Second, provide more of our most valuable resource: Time

At the very least, English Learners should get more of their teachers’ time and attention — more frequent check-ins, more targeted small group instruction, and in hybrid (blended virtual and in-person learning) models, more physical time in the classroom. Yes, when prioritizing time with students, English Learners should be at the head of the class.

Third, ensure the right teachers are in front of the kids.

In California, 2/3 of students are children of color, while 2/3 of the teaching force is white. One out of every five students in California’s is an English Learner. And while there is no available data on the percentage of teachers who are second language learners, it is highly likely to be less. This means that for many children, their teachers have enormous blind spots and implicit biases about their students’ lived realities.

Teachers must be willing to do deep personal, and oftentimes, painful work to examine these blind spots. Through professional learning and guidance from experts, all California teachers must better understand the history of racism and linguicism in our schools, and be prepared to accept their own place within the system.

Teachers must commit to teaching curricula that not only portrays history accurately, but also disrupts systematic oppression and celebrates the strength, resilience, and contributions of people of color.

School staff must create spaces and places to address the socio-emotional needs of both students and staff (especially during this time of increased upheaval and trauma). This includes scrutinizing discipline policies that disproportionately affect children of color, including how practices such as zero-tolerance and cracking down on minor offenses contribute to the “school-to-prison pipeline.”

And, schools must increase bilingual programming which necessitates active recruitment of bilingual teachers. The research has been clear about the benefits of bilingualism. Yet, this huge asset that every English Learner possesses – their home language – is cast aside by the schools, as English, the language of power, is implicitly and explicitly forced upon them.

Finally, school systems must recognize the “whole” child includes their family.

For almost a century, we have known that children cannot learn if their most basic needs are not met. Yet, English Learners, at disproportionate rates, return home every day to families and communities in crisis. Schools and district offices must create deep partnerships with social services to provide wraparound care for at-risk families which includes access to healthcare, mental well-being, technology, and food.

As Arundhati Roy writes, “Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway, between one world and the next.”

How will we walk through the portal? Our children are watching.

About the authors

Joanna Meadvin
Joanna’s experience in education began as a Peace Corps teacher in a small, trilingual city in Nicaragua. Seeing her Miskito-speaking students struggle with Spanish sparked a passion for supporting language learners. Joanna taught 2nd, 3rd and 7th grades in New York City, taught writing to first-generation college students in Mississippi, and college-level literature classes in California. She has an MA in bilingual/bicultural education from Teachers College in New York City, and in 2016 received her Ph.D. in Literature with a focus on language and migration from the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Jennifer Analla

Jennifer has been working in the field of elementary education for over 20 years. She began her career as a classroom teacher, and then transitioned to providing professional development for teachers and administrators throughout California — specializing in early literacy, and working with English Learners. Jennifer joined the SEAL team in 2009, the second year of SEAL’s 5-year pilot. She worked closely with Dr. Laurie Olsen to design and deliver the model of training for SEAL replication. Jennifer is a certified Reading Recovery teacher and a Tier IV GLAD Trainer. She holds an MA in Education from UC Santa Barbara, and an MA in Educational Leadership and Administrative Credential from San Jose State University.

What Does it Really Mean to Support English Learners in the Time of Coronavirus?2023-04-07T09:28:22-07:00

EdSource: Helping English learners succeed should be a top priority for schools amid the pandemic


July 2020

There is little time built into calendars and schedules for teachers to get the needed training and planning time to successfully support students. Professional development, curriculum, and policies should also emphasize a research-based approach that best supports English learners, such as integrated language and content. This research shows that children learn best when teachers acknowledge and build from the linguistic and cultural assets children bring to schools, and when learning is designed to support their specific needs. […]

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EdSource: Helping English learners succeed should be a top priority for schools amid the pandemic2023-04-07T09:31:13-07:00
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