MassLang: The Lexplorers Survey of Foreign Languages Taught in Massachusetts High Schools

MassLang: The Lexplorers Survey of Foreign Languages Taught in Massachusetts High Schools

In the United States, the courses offered by high schools and the requirements for high school graduation vary greatly from state to state, as well as from town to town within a state.  This is especially true for language instruction.  While almost all high schools in the United States teach classes in English (i.e. the teacher speaks English to the students) and offer courses about English language and literature, there is a wide range of offerings for languages other than English.  Usually known as foreign languages or world languages, dozens of different languages are taught in American high schools, with common options being Spanish, French, Latin, German, Japanese, Mandarin Chinese, and American Sign Language, according to the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL).

In these pages we focus on the state of Massachusetts and provide a survey of the options for foreign language study in Massachusetts public high schools.  We look at foreign language course offerings and graduation requirements for 351 public high schools in Massachusetts, using information publicly available from each individual high school or school district’s Program of Study, Student Handbook, or website.  In addition to overall results across all high schools, we look at the foreign language offerings in four primary types of high schools: traditional, non-traditional, charter, and vocational (as defined in the Methodology section).   We sought to answer three primary questions about foreign language instruction in Massachusetts.  The key results are summarized below.

Summary of Results

  • Which languages are offered in Massachusetts public high schools?
    • 16 different languages are offered by Massachusetts public high schools.  In decreasing order of popularity, they are Spanish (offered by all but 3 of the 328 high schools that offer at least one foreign language, 325 of 351 schools overall, or 92.6%), French (236 of 351 schools, 67.2%), Latin (134, 38.2%), Mandarin (81, 23.1%), Italian (39, 11.1%), German (26, 7.4%), American Sign Language (22, 6.3%), Portuguese (18, 5.1%), Greek (9, 2.6%), Arabic (5), Japanese (3), Turkish (3), Russian (2), Khmer (1), Irish (1), and Armenian (1).
  • How many different languages does each Massachusetts public high school offer?
    • The number of different foreign languages offered in Massachusetts public high schools ranges from 0 to 7, with 328 of the 351 schools (93.4%) offering at least one foreign language.  76% of all high schools offer at least 2 different languages, with the most common numbers of languages offered being 2 languages (88 schools) and 3 languages (92 schools).   2 high schools in Massachusetts offer 7 different languages, and 9 schools offer 6 languages.
  • How many public high schools in Massachusetts require all students to study a foreign language in order to graduate?  
    • We found that the graduation requirements for Massachusetts public high schools range from 0 to 8 years of foreign language study.  Of the 351 schools, 198 (56.4%) require each student to study a foreign language for at least 1 year in order to graduate, while 153 schools (43.6%) have no foreign language requirement for graduation.  The most common requirement, at 160 of the 198 schools with a graduation requirement, is 2 years.  Only 4 high schools in Massachusetts require all students to study 2 different foreign languages, and these are the only schools that require more than 4 years of study.

More Information

The full details of our survey of the foreign languages taught in public high schools in Massachusetts are available via the links below and at left.

Graduation Requirements: We look at high school graduation requirements in Massachusetts and summarize foreign language requirements.

Languages Offered: We look at which languages are taught in Massachusetts schools and how many different languages are offered at each school.

Notable Offerings: We look at some public high schools in Massachusetts that have outstanding or otherwise noteworthy foreign language programs.

Methodology: A summary of data sources, categories, and possible sources of error in our analysis.  Links to all the raw data used in our analysis are here, including information sources and spreadsheets of compiled results.

Searchable database of all schools surveyed