Language is a major academic area at the middle and high schools. Middle school students who successfully complete a language course in seventh and eighth grade continue with year two at the high school. Middle school courses and year 2 high school courses are heterogeneously grouped.
French, Spanish, German, Mandarin Chinese, and Latin are offered as regularly scheduled courses at the middle and high schools. At the high school, Ancient Greek, Italian, and beginning Japanese may be offered for independent study credit, depending upon teacher availability and student interest.
Students who are planning education beyond high school are strongly urged to study a classical or modern language, or a combination of languages. Students wishing to derive maximum benefit from language study and who wish to gain entrance to the most selective universities should follow the longest possible sequence. All four-year state colleges and universities in Massachusetts require a minimum of two years of high school foreign language study or the equivalent for entrance.
Students may choose any of the language offerings to fulfill this requirement. In addition, many colleges and universities nationwide have similar entrance requirements as well as a requirement of language study or proficiency for graduation. Some institutions give college credit or exempt students from degree requirements in languages for demonstrated proficiency in high school courses.
Modern language courses stress a balanced approach in which interpretive, presentational, and interpersonal communication are the primary goals. While English may be necessary on occasion, the target language is the language of instruction in these courses. Latin courses also deal with oral aspects of the language, but greater stress is on reading, grammar, and vocabulary development.
At the high school, students of modern languages utilize the language laboratory on a regular basis and are encouraged to use this facility after school or during free time. Students at both the middle and high schools use the CML laptops to develop skills. In most courses, audio and video media presenting authentic culture and language provide the basis for listening comprehension practice and role-playing activities.
Students are expected to develop the skills of understanding modern world languages spoken at normal speed and of speaking these languages, within the confines of vocabulary and structures studied. Progress in oral skills greatly affects a student’s grade and is measured in terms of proficiency guidelines for each course. Evaluation of student achievement varies with the course. Due to the emphasis on oral proficiency development in modern languages, class participation, daily assignments, and listening/speaking work may count as a majority of a student’s grade, especially in the first two years.
Because of the cumulative nature of foreign language acquisition, it is imperative that the student aim for full mastery of structures and vocabulary. Students are expected to demonstrate a high degree of accuracy at each of the developmental stages of language. Students may continue in a sequential course with a C- or above; however, a grade of B or better is recommended when passing into high school honors courses, especially at the Advanced Placement level. A grade in the D range, while still considered passing, requires serious remediation during the summer and the passing of an exam to be administered before the start of the next school year. This exam must be passed with a C- or better for a student to be allowed to enter the next year of study in the sequence.
Students wishing to prepare for the Advanced Placement Exam should take level 1 (honors) courses through the senior year for maximum benefit. Students wishing to prepare for the Achievement Test may take either level 1 (honors) or 2 (advanced college placement) courses, but they should be in at least a fourth-year course to ensure that they have covered sufficient material for the test.