Overview of SEAL
SEAL (Sobrato Early Academic Language) is a powerful English Learner-focused approach to education rooted at the intersection of research and educational equity. The bedrock values are a commitment to further developing the intellectual and linguistic genius of young children’s brains, honoring the value and role of a family’s culture and language in students’ lives, and helping teachers cultivate the skills and mindset they need to become powerfully effective educators. SEAL is inclusive of all students, creating an environment where children engage together in rigorous, joyful, content and language-rich learning.
The Sobrato Family Foundation invested in the design and pilot of the SEAL model, which was led by Dr. Laurie Olsen. A 5-year evaluation of SEAL found that despite starting school with language and academic skills behind their peers, SEAL students catch up or surpass peers on all measures, from language and literacy to math and science. Major findings show statistically significant gains in language, literacy and cognition, as well as a significant impact on family literacy.
SEAL already partners with educational leaders across California, in over 100 elementary schools across 21 districts, and in over 130 preschool classrooms within 24 preschool local education agencies, working to transform the system by providing professional development, curriculum support, and technical assistance for educators. SEAL is helping English Learners turn their home language into an asset.
SEAL provides a clear pathway for California to meet the vision set out by the comprehensive English Learner Roadmap policy. With over 10 years of practice and research that demonstrates an effective model, SEAL fosters systems change in two ways: by continuing to transform more classrooms, schools, and districts, and by advocating for state level changes that focus on English Learners’ needs.
The SEAL Model
Research shows that when we treat English Learners’ home language as an asset, and we design learning to meet their needs, they succeed academically.
The research-based SEAL Model is designed to provide high-quality education to all English Learners starting in preschool through elementary school, and to prevent the development of Long-Term English Learners. We provide professional development, curriculum support, and technical assistance to school systems which bolsters learning for all children, but is especially critical for English Learners.
Learn more about our model
Refer to the following publications to learn more about the SEAL Model and how it is structured for students in preschool through 6th grade.
Our Founding Story
Driven by a strong belief that school should create opportunities for all children to grow and succeed, the Sobrato family began a journey that led to SEAL’s genesis.
In 2008, with the Sobrato family specifically focused on improving outcomes for English Learners in San Jose and Redwood City, the Sobrato Family Foundation partnered with Dr. Laurie Olsen to design and pilot a new, comprehensive approach to learning in preschool and early elementary grades. The result of this pilot was the creation of the SEAL (Sobrato Early Academic Language) model. After external evaluation results proved SEAL’s outsized impact, the model was expanded and replicated, first in the Bay Area and then throughout the state. With consistent support from the foundation over 10+ years, SEAL is now an independent organization that continues to carry forward a powerful evidence base and to support implementation of proven practices. SEAL is now also pursuing wider goals, seeking to engage new partners in projects and activities that connect educators, researchers, advocates, and policy leaders to elevate English Learners and promote bilingualism for all students in California.
“I believe in SEAL because it gives students opportunities to enrich their academic language. It makes them feel confident about learning. They're exposed to high-level language. To teach six- and seven-year-olds about the patterns in the sky, and for them to be grabbing it with so much enthusiasm, is amazing.