Massachusetts High School Diploma Requirements

Find out what's required to earn a high school diploma in Massachusetts. Learn about the units needed to graduate, the specific courses required, and more.

What Graduation Requirements Exist to Earn a High School Diploma in Massachusetts?

To graduate from high school, the state of Massachusetts recommends that students earn 22 units in a graduation program referred to as MassCore. Among these unit requirements are courses in English, math, science, history, the arts, a foreign language, and core electives. Additional courses beyond these 22 units are commonly expected, but not required, and may include Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB), dual enrollment college courses, or other forms of advanced classwork, and physical education. Local graduation requirements may vary extensively, since MassCore is only a recommendation. Students must also pass grade 10 Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) exams in English, math, and science, and meet the MCAS competency determination requirement in order to graduate.

Assessment Requirement MCAS taken in grade 10
MassCore Course Requirements 22 total units
English and History Requirements 4 units of English, 3 units of history including US and world history
Math and Science Requirements 4 units of math up to Algebra II, 3 units of science with 2 units involving labwork
Other Requirements 1 unit of arts, 2 units of same foreign language, 5 units of core electives

What English and History Units Must be Earned to Graduate with a Diploma in Massachusetts?

Four English units are required in Massachusetts high schools, with one course taken each year. Three history units are required, which must include 1 unit of US history and 1 unit of world history. The third unit is up to student choice, and may be filled by AP/IB and similar courses.

What Math and Science Units Must be Earned to Graduate with a Diploma in Massachusetts?

The MassCore program requires 4 units of math be taken, and algebra II (or its equivalent in the integrated math courses) must be included. Students who have taken algebra I in middle school will then need to choose two math courses beyond algebra II, while most other students will only need one. Three units of science are required, including 2 units with extensive labwork. These subjects with labwork typically consist of biology, chemistry, or physics, although local districts may have more specific requirements. Certain computer science courses may count as either math or science credits, but cannot fulfill both at once.

What Units of Other Subjects Must be Earned to Graduate with a Diploma in Massachusetts?

Students on the MassCore program are required 1 unit of the arts, which they are free to choose from any available arts courses. Two units of the same foreign language are also required, although students attending approved career and technical education (CTE) programs and students who are already bilingual may have this requirement waived. Physical education is required by law, but isn't strictly part of the MassCore program, and as such can be fulfilled differently according to local school districts. Five units of core electives are available under MassCore, which can be fulfilled by courses in any subject area, and may be reduced in order to meet other requirements (such as health/physical education, or local requirements). Any additional CTE courses will also fall under these 5 units.

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