Overview of the SEAL Approach

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, 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 successful because it is a comprehensive, whole-school strategy. It encourages preschool and school district leaders, principals, teachers, and families to establish systems and practices that support language development, literacy, and engaging, joyful learning— for English Learners, and ALL students.

The Sobrato Family Foundation invested in the design and pilot of the SEAL model, which was led by Dr. Laurie Olsen. Two separate and independent external evaluations of SEAL found promising evidence of SEAL’s effectiveness in increasing research-based instructional practices and contributing to stronger student engagement and positive outcomes for SEAL English Learners on measures of English proficiency and academic achievement.

Transforming the system to have equitable outcomes starts at the classroom level. SEAL partners with educational leaders across California, in over 113 elementary schools across 24 districts, and in over 132 preschool classrooms within 24 preschool local education agencies, to provide professional development, curriculum support, and technical assistance. SEAL helps schools transform so that their practices support home language as an asset for English Learners.

SEAL provides a clear pathway for California to meet the vision set out by the comprehensive English Learner Roadmap policy. Armed with two separate, rigorous, and independent evaluations and over a decade 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.

SEAL addresses English Learner needs at all levels to create long-term systemic changes.

Practice, Research Policy & Advocacy Graphic


We partner with schools over multiple years to train teachers in research-based pedagogy, spark cross-school collaboration, and build internal coaching and leadership capacity to support English Learners.


We conduct research in classrooms, pilot new approaches, and publish insights to advance the field’s understanding of what works for English Learners.


We engage district leaders, educators and other education stakeholders, using our research, practice, and analysis to connect them to opportunities to advocate for policies that centralize the needs of English Learners.

See our impact

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.

Chart of The SEAL Model

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.



Preschool to 3rd Grade


4th to 6th


Pedagogical Practices Compared Across Grades

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