Center for Equity for English Learners, Loyola Marymount University and Wexford Institute
The Sobrato Early Academic Language (SEAL) Model Research and Evaluation Final Report is comprised of three sets of studies that took place between 2015 and 2019 to examine the effectiveness of the SEAL Model in 67 schools within 12 districts across the state of California.
Over a decade ago, the Sobrato Family Foundation responded to the enduring opportunity gaps and low academic outcomes for the state’s 1.2 million English Learners by investing in the design of the SEAL Model. The SEAL PreK–Grade 3 Model was created as a whole-school initiative to develop students’ language, literacy, and academic skills. The pilot study revealed promising findings, and the large-scale implementation of SEAL was launched in 2013. This report addresses a set of research questions and corresponding studies focused on: 1) the perceptions of school and district-level leaders regarding district and school site implementation of the SEAL Model, 2) teachers’ development and practices, and 3) student outcomes. The report is organized in five sections, within which are twelve research briefs that address the three areas of study. Technical appendices are included in each major section. A developmental evaluation process with mixed methods research design was used to answer the research questions. Key findings indicate that the implementation of the SEAL Model has taken root in many schools and districts where there is evidence of systemic efforts or instructional improvement for the English Learners they serve. In regards to teachers’ development and practices, there were statistically significant increases in the use of research-based practices for English Learners. Teachers indicated a greater sense of efficacy in addressing the needs of this population and believe the model has had a positive impact on their knowledge and skills to support the language and literacy development of PreK- Grade 3 English Learners. Student outcome data reveal that despite SEAL schools averaging higher rates of poverty compared to the statewide rate, SEAL English Learners in grades 2–4 performed comparably or better than California English Learners in developing their English proficiency; additional findings show that an overwhelming majority of SEAL students are rapidly progressing towards proficiency thus preventing them from becoming long-term English Learners. English Learners in bilingual programs advanced in their development of Spanish, while other English Learners suffered from language loss in Spanish. The final section of the report provides considerations and implications for further SEAL replication, sustainability, additional research and policy.
Masking the Focus on English Learners: The Consequences of California’s Accountability System Dashboard Results on Year 4 Local Control and Accountability Plans (LCAPs)
Magaly Lavadenz Ph.D., Professor; Elvira G. Armas Ed.D., Associate Director; and Sylvia Jáuregui Hodge M.Ed., Doctoral Fellow
California’s Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), signed into law in 2013, centers equity as a key to increased and improved services for three targeted student subgroups, including English Learners (ELs), low-income students, and foster youth. As a component of LCFF, districts develop Local Control and Accountability Plans (LCAPs) to specify their goals and strategies for using LCFF funds for equity and continuous improvement purposes. The California Model Five by Five Grid Placement Report (Spring 2017 Dashboard) included the Five by Five Placement Grid, a key function of which is to identify the needs of diverse ELs. The Dashboard and the LCAPs are two policy mechanisms with great promise in combining school finance and accountability reform to promote equity and coherent state-wide. In this report, Lavadenz and colleagues review the EL policy context and examine the connection between the two contemporary policy mechanisms in California, namely the Year 4 LCAP and the California Department of Education’s Accountability Model (Spring 2017 Dashboard). The authors use a sample of 26 California school districts with high numbers/percentages of ELs and conclude that California’s current accountability system diminishes the urgency to respond to educational needs of the English Learner subgroup and undermines the equity intent of the LCFF. Few promising practices and assets-based approaches were identified in the LCAPs, and there is minimal mention of metrics focused on EL outcomes. The authors provide recommendations at state, county office of education and district levels.
Laurie Olsen Ph.D., Director; Elvira G. Armas Ed.D., Director; and Magaly Lavadenz Ph.D., Professor
A panel of 32 reviewers analyzed the Local Control and Accountability Plans (LCAPs) of same sample of 29 districts for the second year of implementation of the 2013 California Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF). Using the same four questions as the Year 1 report, the Year 2 analysis also addresses the key differences between first and second-year LCAPs. Key findings from the Year 2 LCAPs review include: (1) similarly weak responses to the needs of ELs by LEAs in Year 2; (2) some improvement in clarity about services provided to ELs in some areas, though most evidence was weak; (3) minimal attention to the new English Language Development Standards; (4) minimal investment in teacher capacity building to address EL needs; (5) lack of attention to coherent programs, services and supports for ELs and failure to address issues of program and curriculum access; (6) weak engagement of ELs’ parents in LCAP process and content of LCAP plans; (7) poor employment of EL data to inform LCAP goals and weak use of EL indicators as an LCAP accountability component; (8) lack of specificity in describing district services and site allocations for supplemental and concentration funding; and (9) difficulty identifying the coherence of responses of EL needs in year 2 LCAPs. Overall, the analysis of the 29 LCAPs continue to signal a weak response to EL needs. The authors reassert the urgency of the recommendations in the Year 1 report, offer additional specific recommendations for the state, county offices of education, and districts, and call upon the state to reaffirm the equity commitment in the LCFF design.
Elvira G. Armas Ed.D, Magaly Lavadenz Ph.D., and Laurie Olsen Ph.D.
California’s Local Control Funding Formula was signed into law in California in 2013 and allowed districts the flexibility to meet their student needs in locally appropriate manners. One year after its implementation, a panel of 26 reviewers, including educators, English Learner (EL) advocates, and legal services staff reviewed the Local Control and Accountability Plans (LCAPs) to understand how districts employ this flexibility to address the needs of ELs. The report uses the English Learner Research-Aligned LCAP Rubrics with 10 focus areas, and reviews sample LCAPs from 29 districts, including districts with the highest numbers/percentages of English Learners in the state, districts representative of California’s geographic Regions, and districts providing quality EL services. The review centers around four questions of the extent to which first-year LCAPs: (1) specify goals and identify outcomes for ELs, (2) identify action steps and allocate funds for increased or improved services for all types of ELs, (3) reflect research-based practices for achieving language proficiency and academic achievement for English Learners in their actions, programs and services, and (4) are designed and implemented with EL parent input as reflected in stakeholder engagement. The results indicate that overall, the LCAP is inadequate as part of the state’s public accountability system in ensuring equity and access for ELs. Six key findings were: (1) difficulty in discerning funding allocations related to EL services and programs; (2) inability to identify districts’ plans for increased services for ELs; (3) lack of explicitly specified services and programs aligned to EL needs; (4) weak approach or missing English Language Development (ELD) or implementation of ELD standards in most LCAPs; (5) weak/inconsistent representation of EL parent engagement; and (6) lack of EL student outcome measures. The authors also present detailed findings for each focus topic and offer district and state level recommendations.
Magaly Lavadenz Ph.D. and Elvira G. Armas Ed.D.
The Observation Protocol for Academic Literacies (OPAL) conceptual framework and validation report describes the development of the OPAL instrument and the results of the validation study that confirms OPAL as a research-based tool to measure classroom practices for ELs.
The OPAL development began in 2006 as a research-based behavioral observation tool that measures teacher practices and classroom interactions from a sociocultural language acquisition perspective. It utilizes a six-point Likert- scale (1-Low – 6-High) to rate instruction across four domains and 18 indicators: 1) Rigorous and Relevant Curriculum, 2) Connections, 3) Comprehensibility, and 4) Interactions. The instrument allows for anecdotal notes to be taken during the observations. This report is organized into two sections: 1) the conceptual framework–including the underlying sociocultural perspectives and effective teaching practices for ELs with the description of the four domains; and 2) the technical report describing the validation study–including phases of development, content validity, construct validity, and data analysis and results.
Key highlights from this report position the OPAL as a valid and reliable measure of instructional practices that can support teachers of ELs in refining the content and language development of ELs given that the OPAL:
- standardizes the description of research-based practices for ELs
- has content validity for measuring the optimal classroom conditions that bolster EL’s academic achievement
- has construct validity for each of the four domains as measured by confirmatory factor analysis
- is proven to be a reliable tool as measured by the Cronbach’s Alpha
The final chapter of the report provides recommendations for the OPAL for professional development and for examining teaching and learning for school reform and for conducting research that leads to improvement of EL outcomes. Further research to establish the predictive validity of the OPAL is also implied.
Pursuing Regional Opportunities for Mentoring, Innovation, and Success for English Learners (PROMISE) Initiative: A Three-Year Pilot Study Research Monograph
Laurie Olsen Ph.D.; Kathryn Lindholm-Leary, Ph.D. Ph.D.; Magaly Lavadenz Ph.D.; Elvira G. Armas Ed.D.; and Franca Dell'Olio Ed.D.
The Pursuing Regional Opportunities for Mentoring, Innovation, and Success for English Learners (PROMISE) Initiative Research Monograph is comprised of four sub-studies that took place between 2006 and 2009 to examine the effectiveness of the PROMISE Initiative across six implementing counties.
Beginning in 2002, the superintendents of the six Southern California County Offices of Education collaborated to examine the pattern of the alarmingly low academic performance of English learners (EL) across Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, San Diego, Riverside, and Ventura. Together, these six counties serve over one million EL students, more than 66% of the total EL population in the state of California, and close to 20% of the EL population in the nation. Data were compiled for the six counties, research on effective programs for ELs was shared, and a common vision for the success of ELs began to emerge. Out of this effort, the PROMISE Initiative was created to uphold a critical vision that ensured that ELs achieved and sustained high levels of proficiency, high levels of academic achievement, sociocultural and multicultural competency, preparation for successful transition to higher education, successful preparation as a 21st century global citizen, and high levels of motivation, confidence, and self-assurance.
This report is organized into six chapters: an introductory chapter, four chapters of related studies, and a summary chapter. The four studies were framed around four areas of inquiry: 1) What is the PROMISE model? 2) What does classroom implementation of the PROMISE model look like? 3) What leadership skills do principals at PROMISE schools need to lead transformative education for ELs? 4) What impact did PROMISE have on student learning and participation?
Key findings indicate that the PROMISE Initiative:
- resulted in positive change for ELs at all levels including achievement gains and narrowing of the gap between ELs and non-ELs
- increased use of research-based classroom practices
- refined and strengthened plans for ELs at the district-level, and
- demonstrated potential to enable infrastructure, partnerships, and communities of practice within and across the six school districts involved.
The final chapter of the report provides implications for school reform for improving EL outcomes including bolstering EL expertise in school reform efforts, implementing sustained and in-depth professional development, monitoring and supporting long-term reform efforts, and establishing partnerships and networks to develop, research and disseminate efforts.
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