Fine Arts: Dance, Music, Theatre, Visual Art

Fine arts academic standards include separate sets of standards for each of the four arts: dance, music, theater, and visual art. Each set of standards is based on the national standards for that art area. Each has grade level standards for K-5, subject area course standards for grades 6-8, and course-level standards for grades 9-12. Working from the national standards, teams of educators in each area developed the state standards including Grade or Course Level Expectations (GLEs or CLEs) and Checks for Understanding.

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. Under each course title, select the grade level to view a description of the course and the standards adopted by the state board.

The state board sets the requirements for high school graduation. Per SBE Rule, students must achieve one high school level unit of Fine Arts in order to graduate with a high school diploma. In exceptional circumstances, schools may waive the foreign language and fine art requirement for students who are not planning to attend the university to expand and enhance their elective focus.







Visual Art


Introduction to Fine Arts

This is a one credit course that is designed to give the high school student an experience in several fine arts areas. By exploring at least three of the four areas of Fine Arts, the student will develop problem-solving and critical-thinking skills, enhance their creativity and perceptual skills, and develop an appreciation for the arts which in turn will reinforce their academic skills. 

The dance component will give the students an introduction to the study and performance of dance. It will include exploration in creative movement, improvisation, and various dance techniques.

The music component will strive to develop in the students an appreciation for vocal and instrumental music. Self-expression through creation and performance of music will be an integral part as well as an understanding of the art of music.

The theatre component will have the students study, write, research, critique, create, design, perform, and participate in a variety of theatre-based learning experiences. Appropriate theatre technology and media will also be studied.

The visual art component will have the students apply various media, techniques, and processes in the areas of art production and will develop their skills to analyze artworks. They will discover how concepts, enduring themes, and societal issues relate to the visual arts.

The student will explore the cultural and historical context of dance, the creative and intrinsic values of music, theatre's significance and influence on society, and how art is an interpretation of the times. The relationships among these arts areas will also be explored through common vocabulary, the study of historical periods, and how the arts singularly and collectively reflect the times both past and present.

This course must include at least three of the following four components:

Online Resources

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.

Format of Standards

For each standard, the standard is stated with its number.

Following the statement of the standard, there will be a set of either grade level expectations (GLEs) or course level expectations (CLEs). These are numbered with each number prefaced by the standard number. 1.1 indicates standard one and GLE or CLE 1. 1.3 is standard one and GLE or CLE 3, but both relate to standard 1. If the numbers are 3.2, then it is standard 3 and GLE or CLE 2 for standard 3.

Following the GLEs and CLEs, are the Checks for Understanding. These are examples of measurable items that may be used to indicate that the GLE or CLE has been met. This may be a formative or summative assessment (teachers, of course, should include both formative and summative assessments in their classes). For each GLE or CLE, there may be one Check for Understanding or an entire list, but there will always be at least one. The numbering is the same as for the GLE or CLE without further breakdown since any of the items on the list under that number may be used for that particular GLE or CLE.

Following the Checks for Understanding, are the Student Performance Indicators (SPIs).**

For grade levels K-5, there are three levels of SPIs for each GLE. These represent basic, proficient, and advanced levels. The target is at least proficient for each student.

At the 6-8 grade levels, there are three levels of SPIs for each CLE. Due to the wide variation in the way courses are taught at the middle school level (some are yearlong, some are 9 weeks and some are 6 weeks), these may be used to represent 6th grade, 7th grade, and 8th grade levels.

For grades 9-12, many include 4 levels of SPIs to show growth over the years including students who continue to study all four years (this may be in any of the arts although more prevalent in choral and instrumental music). For high school courses such as art history or music theory that are one year courses, there remain 3 levels of SPIs to show basic, proficient, and advanced levels of achievement.

Numbering for SPIs begins with the number of the standard, followed by the number of the GLE or CLE and then the SPI number. So that in grade 1, you might have 1.1.1 which would be standard 1, GLE 1, and SPI 1 (basic level). Student performance indicator 3.2.3 would be standard 3, GLE 2, and SPI 3 (advanced level).