Fine Arts: Dance, Music, Theatre, Visual Art

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 stipulate one full credit of fine arts, and many students elect to focus concentration on sequential course offerings in multiple arts disciplines, 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.

Arts education can also reach a diversity of learners by embodying learning modalities, helping all students learn. For these reasons and others, it is important to consider several supporting factors when implementing the Tennessee Standards for Arts Education. The National Association for Music Education and the National Art Education Association have developed National Opportunity to Learn Standards to correspond to the implementation of standards-based arts education, and local boards of education are encouraged to implement the support needed to facilitate quality fine arts instruction.

Fine arts academic standards include separate sets of standards for each of the five arts: 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 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.


The State Board of Education (SBE) has the authority to adopt academic standards for each subject area in grades K-12.

Download the Fine Arts standards


In partnership with the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) and Tennessee’s affiliate stations, the department has developed a series of short online learning tools for educators. The professional learning tools in the Literacy in the Fine Arts Online Learning Module are available from PBS Learning Media. These online tools focus on literacy components in the fine arts instruction for Tennessee State Standards.

Access the fine arts PBS resources here.