Language is a major academic area at the middle and high schools. Middle school students who successfully complete a language course in sixth, seventh and eighth grade continue with year two at the high school. Middle school courses, high school year 1 and year 2 are heterogeneously grouped.
French, Spanish, German, Mandarin Chinese, and Latin are offered as regularly scheduled courses at the middle and high schools. Students who are planning education beyond high school are strongly encouraged to study a classical or modern language, or a combination of languages. Many more selective institutions require the longest sequence possible,through senior year. All four-year state universites in Massachusetts require a minimum of two years of high school foreign language study or the equivalent.
. 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 communicative, proficiency-oriented 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.
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 language acquisition, 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 review during the summer and the passing of a placement assessment (to be administered before the start of the next school year) for a student to be allowed to enter the next year of study in the sequence.