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Homeschooling America
TN HOME SCHOOL GUIDELINES
TENNESSEE is dedicated to ensuring the best possible education for all its high school students. The state's curriculum is designed to challenge students for today and prepare them for tomorrow. Learn the state's requirements for high school graduation by reading this article.

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  • Tennessee is a great place to learn for high school students! According to the National Education Association (www.nea.org), more Tennessee students are scoring well on SAT exams. High scores on the Verbal portion of the SAT have increased 28% since 1994 and high Math scores have increased 28% since 1996. (High scores are defined as those of 600 or more.)

    Tennessee High School Core Curriculum

    The Tennessee Department of Education requires the following core courses for high schools:

    • 4 units of English
    • 3 units of Mathematics (all students must complete one of the following: Technical Algebra, Algebra I, or Integrated Math I)
    • 3 units of Science (all students must complete either Biology, Biology for Technology, or an equivalent and one course in physical sciences)
    • 3 units of Social Studies
    • 1 unit of Health, Physical Fitness, and Wellness.

    Tennessee Gateway Exams

    Ten high school courses have been designated for end-of-course exams. Three of these courses - Algebra I, Biology I and English II - are required for graduation, so these tests are known as Gateway Tests. The tests serve as end-of-course tests for students enrolled in the class and as diploma requirements for students who have entered as freshmen starting in the 2001-02 school year.

    All students in the state of Tennessee, planning to graduate in 2005, must pass all three Gateway exams to earn a diploma. Students will take a Gateway exam upon completion of the corresponding course in Algebra I, Biology I, or English II.

    The End-of-Course Assessment Program consists of the remaining seven courses designated for testing by the State Board. These courses include English I, Math Foundations II, Algebra II, Physical Science, Chemistry, Geometry, and U.S. History.

     
     
     
    Last Update: 06/04/2009

    Home Schooling in Tennessee

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    Parents may home school their own children pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. §49-6-3050 by registering with their local education agency (LEA). Parents choosing this educational option must meet specified educational requirements, test the child and report attendance to the local education agency at the end of the year.

    By authority of the same statute, parents may also home school their own children by affiliating with and registering with a church related school defined by Tenn. Code Ann. §49-50-801.  If a parent is exercising this educational option by home schooling a child who is in grade 9-12 they must also register with the LEA they would otherwise be attending.  For parents exercising this option, with the exception of grades 9-12, the testing requirements are determined by the church related school.  Parents exercising this option for children in grades 9-12 must also meet certain educational requirements.  Church-related schools must determine what recording-keeping requirements are in place for these parents.  However, church-related schools must keep daily attendance reports which pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. §49-6-3007(d) shall be open to inspection at all reasonable times, to the director of schools of the system in which the school is located or to the director of school’s authorized representative.

    Additional Educational Option

    There is an additional educational option allowing parents to teach their children at home in Tennessee that does not fall under the definition of “home school” in Tenn. Code Ann. §49-6-3050.  Sometimes, the phrase “home school” is still used for this educational option and this causes confusion.  This educational option and its requirements and obligations for parents and schools are described below for your information.

    Parents in Tennessee may enroll their children in a church-related school, pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated § 49-50-801.  Tenn. Code Ann. § 49-50-801 and State Board of Education Rule 0520-7-2-.05Acrobat file (.pdf)govern the establishment and maintenance of church-related schools.  Pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. §49-50-801, these schools must be operated by a denominational, parochial or other bona fide church organization and the organization must be accredited by one of the agencies listed in Tenn. Code Ann. § 49-50-801(a).  Alternatively, an organization not accredited by one of those agencies may seek approval directly from the State Board of Education as a Category IV school. 

    Church-related schools

    Tenn. Code Ann. § 49-50-801(b) states:

    “The state board of education and local boards of education are prohibited from regulating the selection of faculty or textbooks or the establishment of a curriculum in church-related schools.”

    The only regulations that church-related schools must follow are listed in State Board Rule 0520-7-2-.05(2)Acrobat file (.pdf).  This rule states that church-related schools must:

    1. “Comply with all rules and regulations and codes of the city, county, and state regarding planning of new buildings, alterations and safety.”
    2. “Comply with all rules and regulations of the Tennessee Department of Health regarding construction, maintenance and operation of the school plant.”
    3. Observe “all fire safety regulations and procedures promulgated by the Tennessee Fire Marshal’s Office.
    4. “Comply with the requirement of TCA 49-6-5001 that each child in the school be vaccinated against disease.”*
    5. “Comply with the requirement of TCA 49-6-3007 that the names, ages, and addresses of all pupils in attendance be reported to the superintendent of the public school system in which the school is located.

    Please note that a child without proof of immunization may comply with Tenn. Code Ann. Section 49-6-5001, by meeting one of the exceptions  under subsection (b) and/or (e) of the statute.

    Because there is nothing in statute or rule that would prevent a denominational, parochial or other bona fide church organization from hiring or appointing parents to serve as teachers in their own homes as part of the school that the organization operates, many church related schools do hire parents to serve as teachers and establish schools in their own homes.  This results in many parents teaching their children and possibly other children in their homes.  Even though this is not defined in state law as a “home school” and actually falls under the definition of a church-related school operating at a home, many parents exercising this educational option refer to this process as “home schooling.” However, each church-related school - whether conducted in a church, school or home - must meet the requirements of State Board Rule 0520-7-2-.05(2)Acrobat file (.pdf)listed above.

    Parents serving as teachers in a church-related school must follow the requirements for all church-related schools including the duty to report only the names, ages and addresses of all pupils in attendance to the LEA.  Parents teaching in such a capacity do not need to meet the educational requirements of the home school law, Tenn. Code Ann. § 49-6-3050.  Whereas, parents merely affiliated with a church-related school but conducting a home school for their own children by registering with a church-related school pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. §49-6-3050, are required to meet the educational requirements of the home school law.  Parents who are home schooling pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. §49-6-3050 must also ensure their children satisfy the testing requirements and they must meet the stricter attendance reporting requirements of that law. 

    Students attending church-related schools that do not meet the State Board of Education requirements for church-related schools are not in compliance with the compulsory school attendance law in Tennessee and must be considered truant.  The sole responsibility and authority for the enforcement of the compulsory attendance laws is placed with the local board of education and its designated employees and officers.    Thus, when working with associations, accrediting agencies and parents, attendance officers should rely on Tenn. Code Ann. § 49-50-801 and State Board Rule 0520-7-2-.05Acrobat file (.pdf)to determine whether a church-related school exists for purposes of enforcing the compulsory attendance laws.  They may also require the organization operating the church-related school to provide assurance that they are meeting the requirements of the statute and rule. 

    Frequently Asked Questions

    If parents are members of one of the agencies listed in Tenn. Code Ann. § 49-50-801, does that make their home a church-related school? No.  The school, even if conducted in a home, must be operated by a bona fide religious organization and meet the requirements of State Board Rule 0520-7-2-.05Acrobat file (.pdf).

    How are the statutes and regulations regarding church-related schools enforced? Statutes and regulations regarding church-related schools must be enforced through truancy statutes.  Local attendance officers may pursue truancy actions against students attending schools that do not qualify as church-related schools, or the requirements of any of the other approved categories of non-public schools.