Bilingual Education is an instructional program offered in elementary schools and selected middle schools for students whose native language is other than English (Spanish, Vietnamese, etc.) and who need to enhance English language skills. The program provides limited English proficient (LEP) students with a carefully structured sequence of basic skills in their native language, as well as gradual skill development in English, beginning at PK, through English as a Second Language methodology. In bilingual programs, the function of the native language is to provide access to the curriculum while the student is acquiring English; instruction in the native language assures that students attain grade level cognitive skills without lagging behind.
Due to the critical shortage of bilingual certified teachers at the elementary level, schools are unable to offer bilingual education to all LEP students. These schools that cannot offer bilingual programs, even after team teaching possibilities have been exhausted, must then offer an ESL program (under exception) as an alternative to bilingual education. Due to the lack of curriculum materials and teachers who are bilingual in English and other languages (not Spanish), ESL programs need to be offered as the alternative to bilingual education for non-Spanish speaking LEP students as well.
HISD serves elementary language minority students who speak languages other than Spanish and secondary language minority students through ESL methodology. ESL programs provide language minority students with English instruction that is commensurate with the student's level of language proficiency.