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Madison Metropolitan School District

Hmong Heritage Language Bilingual Program

MMSD Hmong Heritage Bilingual Program: The What, Why, and How

Program Description: What is a heritage language bilingual program?

In a Hmong heritage language bilingual program, native Hmong speakers and native English speakers who have Hmong spoken in their home maintain and develop their first language while acquiring native-like communication and literacy skills  in a second language. Academic content is taught and assessed in both languages, Hmong and English, over an extended period of time.

Teachers in the Hmong heritage language bilingual program practice language separation to support language development goals. For example, during the Hmong reading block, only Hmong language is used to teach the reading content and all reading materials used are written in Hmong. During the English reading block, only English language is used to teach the reading content and all reading materials are in English.  Teachers do not mix languages in their instruction with students.

Both languages serve as a vehicle of instruction, a learning resource, and a learning target within bilingual programs. Bilingual programs enhance academic and linguistic abilities in two languages. Teachers in bilingual programs integrate multicultural content to promote the development of cross-cultural competence.

Children in a classroom coloring

Program Objectives: Why choose the Hmong heritage language bilingual program for your child?

Effective bilingual heritage programs result in improved academic achievement and graduation rates of English Learners (ELs),   or students who speak a language other than English at home. The Hmong bilingual program also supports district efforts to close the academic achievement gap between ELs and their peers.  Having native speakers of Hmong and native English speakers with Hmong spoken in their homes provides authentic opportunities for students to learn from each other, build pride in their linguistic and cultural identities, and encourages them to take risks in using their non-dominant language in a safe linguistic environment.

In addition to enhanced academic achievement, bilingual students develop the ability to read, write, and communicate in their first and second languages, which prepares them for full participation in today’s interconnected and increasingly competitive global context. Bilingual programs reflect and honor the linguistic and cultural diversity of our community and prepare students for academic and personal success.  Bilingual programs also report positive outcomes for bilingual students as compared with students of similar background in monolingual programs (ie: English only programs). “Students who started out as English language learners and studied through bilingual immersion not only scored significantly higher than ELLs educated in English-only classrooms but also performed on par with native English speakers educated in English-only classrooms” (Lindhom-Leary, 2004, Lindhom-Leary & Borsato. 2004, in press).

Program Model: How does it work?

Teachers in bilingual programs help their students learn language and subject matter by using language immersion strategies in their instruction to support student understanding of both languages. Bilingual program teachers also include language goals along with content learning goals and frequently check for understanding along the way.  Students are assessed in the language of instruction, except in cases of assessments mandated by the state. Research has shown that students perform at or above grade level on standardized tests within five to seven years of experience in bilingual programs.

Children listening to their teachers

Languages of instruction in the Hmong heritage language bilingual program are:


  • Reading

  • Writing

  • Math

  • Science


  • Reading foundational skills

  • Writing

  • Social Studies

Students in the Hmong heritage language bilingual-program receive instruction in Hmong and English daily.

Dual language, or bilingual, programs are programs that provide "literacy and content instruction to all students through two languages and...promotes bilingualism and biliteracy, grade-level academic achievement, and sociocultural competence-a term encompassing identity development, cross-cultural competence, and multicultural appreciation-for all students." (Guiding Principles for Dual Language Education - Third Edition)

The Hmong Bilingual Program in MMSD is a Heritage Language Bilingual Program. While the structure and design of Heritage Language Bilingual programs vary, this program type is specifically designed for students who are heritage or home language speakers of a language other than English, such as Hmong. In our program, the Hmong language is used for up to 50% of the instructional day during core instruction.

The curricula used in the Hmong Heritage Bilingual program are aligned with the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), and language standards for both Hmong and English. All Hmong instructional materials are created within our school district by curriculum writing teams.

To learn more about a specific type of bilingual program, Dual Language Immersion, similar to the Hmong heritage language bilingual  program, watch this video made by The Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition (CARLA) at the University of Minnesota. Please note that there are some differences in programming from what is described in this video in St. Paul, Minnesota's school district and our own.

For other information, check this FAQ on the Hmong bilingual program.

In schools where bilingual programs are not available, students are supported through Bilingual Resource Specialists or Bilingual Resource Teachers throughout the school day.  Some secondary schools may, in addition, offer courses designed to build literacy in the student’s home or primary language.

The Hmong Heritage Bilingual Program is offered at  Lake View Elementary School (school webpage) and at Black Hawk Middle School starting in the 2023-2024 school year. For more information please contact Lake View directly at (608)204-4040 or Black Hawk at (608)204-4360.

Children singing on stage
Student showing parent their work