(Last Updated December 30, 2016)
Accreditation, Registration, Licensing, and Approval
- In order for students to satisfy the compulsory attendance laws, they must attend a public school or a non-public school, which includes home schools. Tennessee Code Annotated (TCA) 49-6-3001. The State Board of Education Rule 0520-07-02-.01 defines six categories of non-public schools:
- Category I schools are approved by the State Department of Education. Special purpose schools encompassing some Pre-K programs and short term medical or transient care facilities may be approved as Category I. State Board of Education Rule 0520-07-02-.02.
- Category II schools are approved by a private school accrediting agency, which has been approved by the Tennessee State Board of Education. Schools holding full accreditation status with an approved agency are also approved by the State Department of Education.
- Category III schools are accredited by one of the regional accrediting bodies listed in the State Board of Education Rule 0520-07-02-.04.
- Category IV schools are church related schools as recognized by associations mentioned in TCA 49-50-801. TCA 49-50-801.
- Category V schools are Acknowledged for Operation. State Board of Education Rule 0520-07-02-.06.
- Category VI provides for International schools associated with the state universities. State Board of Education Rule 0520-07-02-.01(f).
- Accreditation: required for Category II and III schools
- Accreditation is not mandated by the department of education, but schools in Categories II and III must satisfy the accreditation standards of their affiliate association. State Board of Education Rule 0520-07-02-.03 and -.04.
- Church-related schools are required to meet the standards of accreditation or membership of the Tennessee Association of Christian Schools (TACS), the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI), the Tennessee Association of Independent Schools (TAIS), the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), the Tennessee Association of Non-Public Academic Schools, the Tennessee Association of Non-Public Academic Schools (TANAS), Tennessee Association of Church Related Schools or a school affiliated with Accelerated Christian Education, Inc. TCA 49-50-801.
- Therefore, church-related schools may fall into Category II if fully accredited or Category IV if they are only affiliate members and do not need accreditation.
- Registration: no requirements
- Licensing: no requirements
- Approval: required for Category I schools and optional for Category IV schools
- Category I schools must be approved by the State Department of Education. Category I schools must follow all state education laws and rules. State Board of Education Rule 0520-07-02-.02.
- Category IV schools are church related schools as recognized by associations mentioned in TCA 49-50-801. Church related schools may voluntarily seek approval by the State Board of Education. TCA 49-50-801.
- Teachers in Category I schools must be licensed and at least one must be licensed in special education. State Board of Education Rule 0520-07-02-.02.
- Teachers serving in Categories II and III must meet the licensure and certification standards set forth by their agency/association. State Board of Education Rule 0520-07-02-.03 and 0520-07-02-.04.
- Category V teachers must hold a baccalaureate degree, but are not required to have a teaching certificate. State Board of Education Rule 0520-07-02-.06.
- Category VI teachers must meet the licensure requirement of Tennessee or their host country. State Board of Education Rule 0520-07-02-.07
Length of School Year and Days
- Schools in Categories I, II, IV, V and VI must be conducted for the same length of term as public schools (6 1/2 hour school days in minimum per the State Board of Education Rule 0520-01-03-.02 and 180 instructional days per TCA 49-6-3004). TCA 49-50-801(c) and State Board of Education Rule 0520-07-02-.02, .03, .06, and .07.
- The State Board of Education Rules do not address the length of school year or days in Category III schools.
- Private high schools which offer a four-year course in literary branches must require every student to have one year of instruction in American history and government. TCA 49-6-1202.
- Category I, II, and VI schools must adhere to the state’s minimum graduation requirements for public schools as listed in State Board of Education Rule 0520-01-03. State Board of Education Rule 0520-07-02-.02, .03, and .07.
- A Category II school’s curriculum must include the areas of reading, composition, speech, mathematics, social studies, science, art, music, health and physical education. State Board of Education Rule 0520-07-02-.03
- A Category VI school’s curriculum must include areas of English, mathematics, social studies, science, the arts, foreign language (it can be the language of the host country), and wellness consistent with Tennessee curriculum standards. State Board of Education Rule 0520-07-02-.07
Recordkeeping and Reports
- Principals and teachers of private, denominational or parochial schools must report to the local superintendent the names, ages and residence of all pupils in attendance at their schools within 30 days after the beginning of the school year. TCA 49-6-3007(c). Pursuant to the State Board rule, attendance is reported to the Local Education Agency (LEA) in which the student resides. For a student attending a virtual school based in Georgia, for example, attendance would be reported to the Tennessee LEA where the student resides. State Board of Education Rule 0520-07-02-.02, .03, .05, and .06.
- All private and parochial schools shall keep daily reports of attendance, verified by the teacher making such record and open for inspection by the local superintendent. TCA 49-6-3007(d).
- Private schools are under a duty to report promptly to the local superintendent the names of students who have withdrawn or who have been absent five days without adequate excuse. TCA 49-6-3007(e).
- Category II and VI schools must maintain cumulative records on each student. State Board of Education Rule 0520-07-02-.03 and .07.
- All non-public schools in category 1 shall submit annually: 200 Day Accountability Report, Non-Public Reporting Form; S-File (for student numbers); T-File (for teacher information) as part of the school’s direct application for approval. State Board of Education Rule 0520-7-2 and Tennessee Department of Education Non-Public School Website.
- Category V schools must submit by November 1st of each year the name, mailing address and telephone number of the school; the name and academic credentials of the principal or headmaster of the school; the number of students in each grade level as of October 1 of current school year; the name and academic credentials of each teacher and the subjects taught by that teacher; and certification that the school year provides an operating schedule that includes the minimum number of instructional days and hours as required of public schools. State Board of Education Rule 0520-07-02-.06.
Health and Safety Requirements
- The Commissioner of Health is authorized, subject to the approval of the public health council, to designate diseases against which children must be immunized prior to attendance at any school of Tennessee. Parents may file a written statement with the school authorities that if such immunizations conflict with their religious tenets and practices. TCA 49-6-5001.
- Fire drills must be held monthly in private schools. A record of all fire drills; including the time and date, must be kept in the respective school and made available upon request to the State Fire Marshal. TCA 68-102-137.
- All doors serving as exits must be kept unlocked during the periods that a building is occupied. TCA 68-102-137.
- It is a criminal offense in Tennessee for a student to carry a firearm, not for instruction or school-sanctioned ceremonial purposes, in a private school building, bus, campus or athletic field. Private school administrators must display in prominent locations a sign, at least six (6”) inches high and fourteen (14”) inches wide, stating: FELONY. STATE LAW PRESCRIBES A MAXIMUM PENALTY OF SIX (6) YEARS IMPRISONMENT AND A FINE NOT TO EXCEED THREE THOUSAND DOLLARS ($3,000) FOR CARRYING WEAPONS ON SCHOOL PROPERTY. TCA 39-17-1309.
- The chief administrative officer of any private, denominational or parochial school, who has probable cause to believe that any person has committed a drug-related offense on school grounds has a duty to report such probable cause to the local law enforcement official. TCA 53-11-405(b).
- Sentencing for an offense may be enhanced if the offense was performed on the grounds or facilities of a private school building. TCA 40-35-114.
- School personnel having knowledge of any child who is suffering from any physical or mental condition which reasonably appears to have been caused by brutality, abuse or neglect, must report the harm immediately. TCA 37-1-403.
- School personnel who know or have reasonable cause to suspect that a child has been sexually abused must report such knowledge or suspicion. TCA 37-1-605.
- Community residential facilities that accommodate state or federal adult prisoners on release programs are prohibited within 1,000 feet of a private school in counties with populations of 750,000 or more, or counties having a metropolitan form of government. TCA 41-22-128.
- Annual inspections by the Fire Marshal’s Office and the Health Department are required for all categories of non-public schools. State Board of Education Rule 0520-07-02.
- Any school buses purchased by a private contractor to transport school students must meet national minimum bus standards and all applicable federal motor vehicle safety standards. A van used for such transport is only required to comply with rules and regulations of the state board of education. TCA 49-6-2115.
- Operation and standards for student transportation can be found in State Board of Education Rule 0520-01-05.
- Category I schools must use the same state-approved textbooks as public schools. State Board of Education Rule 0520-07-02-.02 and Tennessee Department of Education Non-Public School Website.
- Category II and VI schools are required to use textbooks that are adequate to meet instructional needs. State Board of Education Rule 0520-07-02.-03 and .07.
- Category I schools must test in accordance with public school requirements. State Board of Education Rule 0520-07-02-.02.
- Category II schools must test at least once every school year, give a nationally standardized achievement test covering the areas of reading, language arts, spelling, math, science, and social science to each pupil in grades two through eight and grade ten; the results must be communicated to teachers and parents and kept on file at the school for one calendar year. State Board of Education Rule 0520-07-02-.03.
- Category V schools must administer a nationally standardized achievement test covering the basic academic areas at grades two through eight and grade ten. Test results should be used to improve student instruction. State Board of Education Rule 0520-07-02-.06.
- Category VI schools must administer high school tests required by the state. Results must be communicated to teachers and parents, and kept on file for one calendar year. If the state requires minimum scores to receive a diploma, Category VI students must achieve such scores to receive a diploma. State Board of Education Rule 0520-07-02-.07.
- Category VI students must achieve English language proficiency per the standards of the associated public university. State Board of Education Rule 0520-07-02-.07.
- “Every school district must test and examine, or cause to be tested and examined, each Tennessee resident attending a private school within its boundaries to determine whether such child is disabled.” TCA 49-10-108.
- The Department of Education is empowered to provide special schools and special classes in private schools, and transportation to and from school for physically handicapped, visually handicapped and crippled children. TCA 68-12-109.
- Blind students have the option of attending any private school that teaches the course of study used in the public schools or a course of study adapted for the blind and approved by the Commissioner of Education. TCA 49-6-3015(c).
- A Special Education Services Association may make arrangements and pay private schools for services to handicapped children if the association is unable to provide satisfactory service with its own facilities or the facilities of member school districts. TCA 49-10-205.
Nursing and Health
- No state policy currently exists.
- No state policy currently exists.
- Schools in Categories II must meet the state public school requirements of five in-service education days each school year. State Board of Education Rule 0520-07-02-.03.
Reimbursement for Performing State and Local Functions
- No state policy currently exists.
- Admission to events or activities sponsored by private schools, K-12, is exempt from amusement tax. TCA 67-6-330(a)(1).
Public Aid for Private Education
- Constitutional Provisions: No related provisions.
- Programs for financial assistance for attendance at private schools: The Individualized Education Act Program creates individualized education accounts (IEAs) for eligible students with disabilities to use for educational purposes. The program provides options for parents of certain students with disabilities to choose the education opportunities, including private school tuition, that best meet the individual needs of their child by giving them direct access to state and local public education funds associated with their child. Title 49, Chapter 10, Part 14 Individualized Education Act [Effective on January 1, 2016, first IEA’s awarded January 1, 2017].
State-Level Non-Public School Group
- No state policy currently exists.
Initial and Renewal Applications
- A parent-teacher conducting an independent home school must provide annual notice to the director of schools. The report must include the names, numbers, ages and grade levels of the children, the location of the school, proposed curriculum, proposed hours of instruction, and qualification of the parent-teacher. TCA 49-6-3050.
Curriculum and Instruction
- Parents or legal guardians conducting an independent home school must have a high school diploma or a GED to teach. TCA 49-6-3050(b)(4).
- Students must receive a minimum of four hours of instruction per day for 180 days per year required of public schools in TCA 49-6-3004. TCA 49-6-3050(b)(3).
- Attendance records are sent to the Superintendent at the end of the school year. TCA 49-6-3050(b)(2).
- Home schools can be associated with a church-related school will be supervised by the Category IV director. Parent-teachers of students in grades nine through twelve who register with the school are required to have a high school diploma or a GED. TCA 49-6-3050(a)(2)(B).
Assessment and Diplomas
- Home schools associated with church related exempt schools must offer nationally standardized tests to be exempt from meeting the requirements proscribed to independent home schools. TCA 49-6-3050(a)(2)(A).
- Independent homeschool students are required to take the same State Board approved secure standardized tests required of public school students in grades five, seven, and nine, except that the high school proficiency test is not required of ninth graders who are home schooled. TCA 49-6-3050(b)(5)(A).
- If students score one year or more below grade level for two years in a row, the Superintendent may request that the parent enroll the child in public or private school, unless the child is learning disabled. TCA 49-6-2050(b)(6)(C).
Public School Access
- Homeschool students may use public school facilities with the permission of the principal of the school, but they have no explicit right to use public school facilities. TCA 49-6-3050(a)(1).
- Homeschool students cannot be prohibited from trying out for an interscholastic athletics team, based solely on the status as a homeschool student. TCA 49-6-3050(e)(2).