Arts Education/State of the Arts (SOTA)

State of the Arts Logo

The State of the Arts program was developed as a public-private partnership between the Country Music Association (CMA) Foundation and the State of Tennessee. This initiative seeks to leverage Tennessee’s rich history in the arts to launch a statewide program focused on expanding students’ access to high-quality music and arts education.

The goal of the State of the Arts program and our vision for arts education is to bring quality, sequential visual and performing arts instruction delivered by a certified arts educator during the school day to every public-school student in Tennessee.

The first phase of the program launched in 2019 with a $1 million investment in a multi-year music grant. This grant opportunity provided the means for eight districts to fund initiatives and strategies to expand student access to high-quality music education programs.

The eight districts selected through a competitive and rigorous application process include:

·       Greene County Schools,

·       Sevier County Schools,

·       Bradley County Schools,

·       Warren County Schools,

·       Rutherford County Schools,

·       Coffee County Schools,

·       Gibson County Special School District, and

·       Shelby County Schools.

You can learn more about the phase one music grant here.

As these eight districts enter the final year of implementation of the State of the Arts Music Grant, some common threads are emerging. Although each district is uniquely different in terms of identified needs and implemented strategies, five focus areas show promising results, and we believe these takeaways represent strategies and promising practices that may be equally effective across all arts education disciplines (dance, media arts, music, theatre, and visual arts).

1.  High-Quality Instructional Materials and Curriculum for Visual and Performing Arts - Investment in high-quality curriculum and instructional materials in the arts improves equity of access and student achievement outcomes.

2.  Visual and Performing Arts Content-Specific Educator Development - Providing opportunities for arts educators to engage in content-specific professional learning leads to improved instructional practice and collaboration. Additionally, the creation of in-district networks, such as content-specific PLCs and mentorships, encourages frequent and sustained collaboration and more effective vertical planning for true sequential K-12 standards-aligned instruction in the arts.

3.   Equipment and Instructional Supplies - Replacing outdated equipment, repairing broken or inoperable equipment, and purchasing new equipment lessens equity gaps and provides students with modern, high-quality equipment on which to learn, create, and perform. Additionally, implementing centralized and detailed inventory processes along with regular maintenance and replacement of aging equipment ensures good stewardship of district investments and assets.

4.  Student Intervention, Remediation, and Enrichment - Tutoring, enrichment, and learning acceleration (such as private lessons, teaching artist residencies, etc.) lead to increased student achievement outcomes.

5.  Innovative Courses and Programming in Visual and Performing Arts – Developing innovative courses and programming attracts students who may be new to the arts or have interests in emerging fields of study beyond traditional arts courses, ensembles, and programs. Providing access to expanded course offerings lessens equity of access gaps and strengthens the school’s overall arts education program and elective focus pathways.

Through a partnership between the Tennessee Department of Education, CMA Foundation, and the Mr. Holland's Opus Foundation, we seek to better understand the inequities and barriers affecting the quality of arts education programming in order to better inform policymaking, district strategic planning, development of resources and support systems, and investment/philanthropic activities by conducting a first-of-its-kind statewide arts education landscape study. This analysis will identify the barriers preventing student access to high-quality programming, gaps in sequential K-12 pathways, and identification of the types of support needed at the school, district, and state level that would have the greatest impact on students.

State of the Arts Study

The State of the Arts Study is a first-of-its-kind statewide landscape study/analysis of school and district arts education programs. The study will be facilitated by the CMA Foundation and Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation in partnership with the Department of Education. The landscape study is a comprehensive assessment of district arts (dance, media arts, music, theatre, and visual arts) education programs powered by the Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation’s Music Education District Support Services (MEDSS) framework and will collect data relative to the quality indicators of arts education programs, such as scheduling, educator professional development, cluster/vertical alignment of course offerings, arts-specific facilities, and equitable student access to programming and equipment.

At the conclusion of the assessment, districts receive a report with recommendations on how to strengthen existing programs and develop new programs. This tool may help districts develop a strategic plan for arts education, apply for funding opportunities, and discover other immediate, zero-cost solutions to barriers and challenges.

Thanks to the generous support of the CMA Foundation, participation in the landscape study is free to all Tennessee public school districts.

Starting in October 2021 and throughout the 2021-22 school year, school districts may opt-in to the State of the Arts by joining the State of the Arts: Arts Education Network.

As part of the State of the Arts program, the Department of Education will establish the State of the Arts: Arts Education Network as a mechanism to develop and strengthen public-private partnerships to support art education (dance, media arts, music, theatre, and visual arts) and facilitate the collaboration and sharing of ideas and promising practices between districts.

Participating district member benefits:

Network participants will have free and immediate access to the State of the Arts Study.

Other benefits to be offered include:

·       Arts content-specific professional learning communities (PLCs) facilitated by TDOE or SOTA partners

·       Access to the arts education content-specific professional learning toolkit and provider directory

·       Exclusive preview access to future visual and performing arts resources

·       A monthly newsletter containing the latest arts education news, highlights of participating districts’ arts programs, and opportunities available through arts providers and organizations.

·       Exclusive preview access to future TN Arts Education Data Project data releases and reports.

·       Social media toolkit for Music in Our Schools Month/Youth Art Month/Dance in Your Schools Month/Theatre in our Schools Month (typically observed annually in March)

·       First access for music educators interested in applying for “Mentor M.E.”, an early career music teacher mentorship program facilitated by the CMA Foundation.

·       Opportunities to develop district-to-district mentor consortium for district leaders to thought partner, share best practices, collaborate, and develop inter-district partnerships.

Membership in the Arts Education Network is free and open to all Tennessee public school districts and charter schools. We encourage all districts to consider participating in the network in order to develop a strong network of practice across the state. Districts interested in participating in the network must submit an intent to participate form. The intent to participate opt in window opens October 7, 2021 and will remain open on a rolling basis.

Contact Us

With questions about the Arts Education Network, State of the Arts Study, or for more information about the State of the Arts program and arts education in Tennessee schools, contact Todd Shipley, TDOE Director of Arts Education, at