Tennessee Arts Education at a Glance

In Tennessee, arts education includes the study of five separate and distinct disciplines: dance, media arts, music, theatre, and visual arts.

The federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) lists the arts and music as a part of a “well-rounded” education, and Tennessee schools offer a rich history of supporting arts education. Tennessee is recognized nationally for significant contributions in arts and culture, and the state academic standards for arts education contribute to increased student access to quality arts education that impacts college, career, and life readiness for Tennessee students.

While state law (T.C.A. §49-6-1025) speaks to visual art and music instruction for grades K-8, schools also offer courses in dance, theatre, and media arts instruction.

(a) The course of instruction in all public schools for kindergarten through grade eight (K-8) shall include art and music education to help each student foster creative thinking, spatial learning, discipline, craftsmanship and the intrinsic rewards of hard work.

(b) Local boards of education are encouraged to fully implement the art and music curriculum adopted by the board of education through both art and music classes, as well as integration into other core academic subjects.

In addition, Tennessee graduation requirements (SBE Policy 2.103) stipulate one full credit of fine arts, and many students elect to focus concentration on sequential arts course offerings to satisfy the elective focus requirement, including visual arts, dance, media arts, theatre, and vocal and instrumental music. As the economic development of Tennessee becomes increasingly dependent upon skills and outcomes that are embedded in the Tennessee Standards for Arts Education, such as critical and creative thinking, problem solving, collaboration, reflection, and persistence, it is even more important to ensure that Tennessee students are engaged in sequential standards-based arts instruction.

Fine arts academic standards include separate sets of standards for each of the five arts content areas: dance, music, theatre, visual art, and media art. Each set of standards is based on the national standards for that art area. Shared between all fine arts disciplines are the 11 foundations and the four overarching domains.

Each of the courses addresses all of the standards for the specific art discipline. Greater emphasis may be placed on some standards and less on others (major work of the grade) depending on the specific nature of the course. These standards provide a common point of reference for district and local educators and provide direction in meeting the challenge of ensuring that all students attain the appropriate knowledge and skills as set forth in the standards.

Learn more about arts education in Tennessee and view the Tennessee Academic Standards for Fine Arts.

The Tennessee Department of Education manages course codes through the online course code management system. The online course code catalog is the state’s interactive and searchable catalog that lists all approved courses and corresponding endorsements.

For the listing of State Board of Education approved courses in visual and performing arts, see SBE policy 3.205 Approved High School Courses.

There are a number of early postsecondary opportunities available in visual and performing arts, including Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, Cambridge, and dual enrollment courses.

High school students must complete one credit of fine arts. Information about Tennessee graduation requirements is available here.

Additionally, students are required to complete an elective focus of three credits consisting of math and science, career and technical education, fine arts, humanities, Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB).

Students completing an elective focus in fine arts must complete three credits in dance, media arts, music, theatre, or visual arts.