State and Federal Officials Visit SEAL Partner DJUSD


State and Federal Officials Visit SEAL Partner Davis Joint Unified School District

On February 23, 2024,  U.S. Department of Education Assistant Deputy Secretary and Director, Office of English Language Acquisition, Montserrat Garibay, and California Department of Education (CDE) Deputy Superintendent Sarah Neville Morgan joined  Davis Joint Unified School District (DJUSD) Superintendent Matt Best on a visit of DJUSD schools as part of their dual language immersion California school visits.  

The delegation of state and federal officials first stop was Marguerite Montgomery Elementary’s Two-Way Bilingual Immersion program to learn first hand about the core elements of the schools eight-year partnership with SEAL.  At Marguerite Montgomery, SEAL pedagogy creates alignment and articulation across the grade levels through professional development, curriculum support and coaching. SEAL has helped to build community and uplift the assets of all students in an environment in which approximately 40 percent of students are native Spanish speakers. 

“It’s clear that the teachers are really invested in the SEAL program and to see it in action today is truly an inspiration.” – U.S Department of Education’s Assistant Deputy Secretary, Montserrat Garibay

Throughout the day, visitors conversed with teachers and students in Spanish about their reading and lessons, and they also had the opportunity to discuss with site leaders and district administrators the opportunities and benefits of multilingualism, as well as about the challenges in bilingual teacher recruitment.

Dual language immersion programs have shown to help children from English speaking and non-English speaking households in several ways, including to learn English, to help children become competent in their native language without sacrificing success in school, and to open up doors and bridge gaps between cultures and languages. 

“Dual language immersion programs connect students and families to a school in ways that can’t be replicated. The visit to Davis schools far exceeded the expectations of our CDE team and that of our U.S. Department of Education visiting delegation. This is truly what all schools should be doing.” – Deputy State Superintendent Sarah Neville Morgan.

To learn more information about immersion programming and World Language opportunities in DJUSD, visit our World Language web page. You may also visit DJUSD Graduate Profile to learn more about the District’s Graduate Profile. 


The Davis Joint Unified School District provides innovative educational programs to approximately 8,350 students at 17 school sites. In partnership with parents, DJUSD helps students develop the abilities and values needed to reach their full potential. Each year, an average of 700 students graduate from District high schools. With approximately 1,000 employees, including 500 teachers, DJUSD contributes significant economic value to the community. For more information, visit or

State and Federal Officials Visit SEAL Partner DJUSD2024-03-06T18:45:51-08:00

Ways to Ensure English Learners Benefit from the Science of Reading


Ways to Ensure English Learners Benefit from the Science of Reading

SEAL and New America convened a distinguished panel of experts from across the nation to delve into the critical relationship between the Science of Reading and English Learners. With more than 700 attendees, the discussion provided invaluable insights into the potential impact on multilingualism and English Learners.

Highlights from the discussion include three key take aways:

  1. Policies and practices enacted in the name of SoR must include much more than just phonics
  2. English learners’ oral language abilities in their home language and English should be the starting point for literacy instruction
  3. Consistent collaboration between English learner specialists and early literacy departments is key to ensuring English learners are not left out of SoR reforms

The event featured two panels with the first focused on research and advocacy and the second explored implementation of science of reading policies for English Learner identified students. To learn more about the panelists and to watch the full webinar click here.

Leslie Villegas from New America takes a deep dive into the conversation in her comprehensive blog post. Check out some excerpts below for a glimpse into her insightful analysis. For a full feature, click here.

 1. Policies and practices enacted in the name of SoR must include much more than just phonics

According to panelist Martha Hernandez, executive director for Californians Together, the prevailing narrative around the SoR has favored a very narrow definition on foundational skills and phonics. However, as professor of childhood education and literacy development at New York University, Susan B. Neuman explained, the large body of research behind the SoR emphasizes a structured literacy approach to instruction whereby students receive explicit and direct instruction on what are referred to as the “Huge Seven.” According to Neuman, the Huge Seven include the five pillars of reading from the National Reading Panel, plus two additional skills (highlighted in red), which the field now recognizes as being crucially important for students identified as ELs (Figure 1).

According to the SoR literature, these skills cannot be taught in isolation and must be taught in culturally responsive and personalized ways so that literacy lessons are meaningful to students. Hope Langston, director of instructional services at Northfield Public Schools in Minnesota, underscored the importance of recognizing background knowledge as content knowledge, highlighting that what a student learns in school contributes to their preexisting knowledge. Gladys Aponte, postdoctoral research scholar at The Children’s Equity Project at Arizona State University, added that because reading is cultural, and not just a static practice disconnected from children’s experiences, educators need to help students recognize and leverage their linguistic and cultural assets for literacy learning.

This broader conceptualization of SoR is critically important for schools with dual language programs because, as Hernandez shared, a narrow application of SoR through an English-centric lens can impact the integrity of bilingual programs and diminish the efficacy of their goals of multiliteracy. In New York City, the Office of Multilingual Students has been helping school districts implement their state-approved reading curricula in a way that maintains EL-classified students’ cultural and linguistic identities, shared Aponte. In one school district with a dual language program, for example, a pre-existing literacy implementation guide has been leveraged to help teachers foster translanguaging practices (i.e. moving fluidly between two languages) in their classrooms. These cross-linguistic practices have been embedded into curricula with the help of instructional coaches provided by the department of education who have been able to provide resources that pay explicit attention to biliteracy development (Spanish/English), not just English, within literacy development contexts.

2. English learners’ oral language abilities in their home language and English should be the starting point for literacy instruction

Several panelists remarked on how the vast research base on bilingual and biliteracy development is currently missing from the SoR conversation, so much so that we forget that students identified as ELs come to school with linguistic resources other than English. Panelist Ester de Jong, professor of culturally and linguistically diverse education at the University of Colorado-Denver, emphasized that these students have an oral base in their home language that has been developed through exposure and experiences in that language, a resource that is critical in second language acquisition. Students identified as ELs have seen literacy practices in their home language, even if in informal ways, and not taking these resources into account when it comes to literacy instruction puts these students at a disadvantage.

In practice, this means teachers must understand that they can and should build cross-linguistic connections (i.e. applying what is learned in one language to situations presented in another language) between their home language and English to encourage skill transfer and develop meta-linguistic awareness (i.e. understanding of how language works and how it changes and adapts). Additionally, panelists reminded the audience about the essential nature of English language development (ELD) services for students identified as ELs as it is intimately connected to their literacy development. ELD services are supposed to provide ELs access to grade level content and help them become proficient in English. However, as de Jong explained, ELs come with varying levels of English proficiency, which means instruction should be differentiated for students who are at the beginning levels of English language development. Langston shared that a simple yet massive shift for teachers at Northfield Public Schools was being able to offer their literacy screener in Spanish to newcomers and other EL students. Doing so has allowed them to see what their strengths are in their home language before they start anything else. Ultimately, the question is how to help all EL students understand the connection between what is in print and spoken language.

3. Consistent collaboration between English learner specialists and early literacy departments is key to ensuring English learners are not left out of SoR reforms

When SoR started rolling out in Oakland Unified School District, Nicole Knight, executive director of English language learner and multilingual achievement in Oakland shared that it was solely focused on foundational skills (i.e phonics) at the expense of broader literacy skills that are critical in the SoR. As a result, dual language instructors felt they were being pushed towards monolingual English instruction despite everything known about how ELs learn language and content. In response, Knight joined forces with the early literacy director and together created a language and literacy framework for all classrooms in grades TK–5.

Collaboration between early literacy and English learner teams allows for teacher professional learning that factors in both language and literacy needs for EL-classified students. In Oakland, for example, the district has been providing coaching to school sites as they adjust their language and literacy blocks to ensure they are allocating the right amount of time to each and that English language development was not being left out of the foundational literacy block. In Delaware, reading specialists and interventionists have been partners in helping teachers understand what skillful implementation of SoR materials look like when attending to the needs of ELs.

The joint statement described the SoR movement like a bad game of telephone plagued with frequent miscommunications or misinterpretations of the term “Science of Reading.” Many panelists expressed similar frustrations about the full message not getting to districts, parents, legislators, and the public at large, a problem they attributed largely to the simplistic way the issue is portrayed by the media. When asked where the message is getting lost, Neuman focused on journalists and the terms they use. “Our journalists are coming out with ‘phonics-based instruction’. And if you look at what the policy-makers are saying, they are mimicking what the journalists have told them or have said to them.” Instead, Neuman emphasized, the messaging should convey the importance of a comprehensive approach to literacy.

Webinar Resources:


Ways to Ensure English Learners Benefit from the Science of Reading2024-03-06T18:42:47-08:00

Welcoming Julie Castro Abrams & Dr. Ryan J. Smith to SEAL’s Board of Directors


We’re thrilled to announce the addition of two exceptional individuals, Julie Castro Abrams and Dr. Ryan J. Smith, to the SEAL Board of Directors, further enriching our mission to prepare all English Learners and Dual Language Learners in California to learn, thrive and lead.

Julie Castro Abrams is an expert in board governance and building diverse boards that are a strategic advantage. She is an experienced non-profit CEO and entrepreneur, and through her consulting practice she supports leaders to build high-performance boards break through performance for the leaders and high performing multicultural teams. She is the CEO of How Women Lead, a network of over 20,000 women dedicated to promoting diverse women’s voices and propelling women’s leadership forward, as well as the Managing Partner of How Women Invest, the country’s largest venture fund focused exclusively on women founders.

Read more about Julie

Dr. Ryan J. Smith serves as the President and CEO of the Saint Joseph Center in Los Angeles, CA. For almost fifty years, One of LA County’s largest service providers, St. Joseph Center’s mission is to provide working class families, as well as homeless men, women, and children of all ages with the inner resources and tools to become productive, stable and self-supporting members of the community. Prior to joining St. Joseph Center, he served as the Chief Strategy Officer for Community Coalition—an organization founded by Mayor Karen Bass with the mission of transforming the social and economic conditions of residents in South Los Angeles and beyond. Before his tenure at Community Coalition, Dr. Smith served as Interim CEO and Chief External Officer for LA Unified’s Partnership for Los Angeles Schools, an organization supporting 15,000 students and their families in Watts, Boyle Heights, and South LA.

Read more about Dr. Smith

Welcoming Julie Castro Abrams & Dr. Ryan J. Smith to SEAL’s Board of Directors2024-02-15T12:09:23-08:00
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