In Tennessee, you have more options than you may think…
Brick & Mortar Public Schools
In Tennessee, children between the ages of 6 and 17 are required to attend school. Kids can start kindergarten if they turn 5 on or before August 15. They must attend either a public or private school, or they must be homeschooled. The law mandates a minimum of 180 days of school attendance per year, with some exceptions. You can learn more about Tennessee’s attendance laws here!
Tennessee school districts set the requirements for what documentation is required prior to enrolling a student in their district. To get that information, contact the district directly here.
Some legal documents are required for Tennessee students to attend school:
- Certified Birth Certificate/proof of identity
- Official copy of records/transcripts from the previous school the child most recently attended
- A shot immunization record (or proof that immunization is not required for the child)
- Click here to view the immunization requirements
- Proof of home address (for example, a rental agreement or tax statement)
While public education is primarily free, paying some fees is a part of it. Basic school supplies such as paper, pencils, and notebooks are expected to be supplied by students. Each district has a list of approved expenditures for students and fee waiver forms can be requested from the school if a family is unable to pay for required materials or events due to a certain situation.
Some typical items on that list include:
- Summer school
- Student parking passes (high school)
- Lost textbooks
- Late or lost library books
- Field trips
- Special class-required fees (e.g., science lab fees)
According to TCA 49-2-110(c), payment of fees cannot be a requirement for attending public school in Tennessee. However, local boards of education may authorize some fees, such as those for optional activities during the school day. Families facing financial difficulties can request fee waiver forms from the school for required materials or events.
Education Savings Account Program
The Education Savings Account (ESA) Program is a school choice program for eligible students in Shelby, Davidson and Hamilton counties. The program was created and adopted by the Tennessee General Assembly in April of 2023 for the 2023/2024 school year. The ESA Program gives parents and students access to public education funds to use on certain types of approved educational expenses that best meet their students’ unique needs.
Eligibility requirements for participating in the ESA program are:
- Must be a Tennessee resident entering kindergarten through grade 12
- Must meet one of the following requirements:
- Previously enrolled in and attended a Tennessee public school for one full school year immediately before the school year for which the student receives an ESA
- Eligible for the first time to enroll in a Tennessee public school
- Used an ESA in the previous school year
- Currently zoned to attend a Shelby County district school, a Metro Nashville public school, or a school that was in the Achievement School District (ASD) on May 24, 2019
- Must belong to a household that has an annual income for the previous year that does not exceed twice the federal income eligibility guidelines for free lunch
- If identified as “at-risk” as defined in state law, they will automatically meet the income requirements for eligibility
- “At-risk” is defined as children who are homeless or from households that receive benefits under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program.
Find out if your student is eligible below.
How do I apply?
The application for the new ESA program deadline for 2023-24 ESA student applications is May 17, 2023. All applications received will be reviewed in the order of receipt.
To apply for the ESA Program, follow these three easy steps:
- Download and print the application form provided below.
- Fill out the application form completely.
- Make sure you include all the necessary documents.
- Send the completed application with the supporting documents to the following mailing address:
c/o TDOE Andrew Johnson Tower, 10th Floor
710 James Robertson Parkway
Nashville, TN 37243
Frequently Asked Questions
Participating TN Schools
Click below to find the participating schools in your county!
Or you can download this PDF
Individualized Education Account Program
The Individualized Education Account (IEA Program), established through the Individualized Education Act passed by the Tennessee General Assembly in 2015, is a school choice initiative designed for students with disabilities who meet the eligibility criteria. This program empowers parents and students by providing them with public education funds that can be utilized for specific approved educational expenses, allowing them to tailor their educational approach to suit the individual needs of the student.
How do I apply?
Whether you are a first-time applicant or seeking to renew your IEA, you can conveniently complete the process on the official website of the TN Department of Education website.
PLEASE NOTE: Applications & renewals for the 2023/24 school year are closed. Decisions on 2023-24 IEA applications are projected to be emailed to applicants the first week of June 2023.
Frequently Asked Questions
A student must meet ALL five of the following qualifications:
- be a Tennessee resident; and
- must be in grades K-12, at time of enrollment; and
- have an active IEP through a public school district; and
- have one of the following disabilities: autisim, deaf-blindness, developmental delay, hearing impairments, intellectual disability, multiple disabilities, orthopedic impairments, traumatic brain injury, visual impairments; and
- ONE the following:
- was previously enrolled in and attended a Tennessee public school for the one full school year immediately preceding the school year in which the student receives an IEA;
- is entering kindergarten for the first time;
- has not previously attended a school in Tennessee during the one full school year immediately preceding the school year in which the student receives an IEA, and moved to Tennessee less than one year prior to the date of enrollment in the IEA Program; or
- received an IEA in the previous year.
The IEA Act outlines thirteen (13) categories of expenses that are approved for the use of IEA funds. These expenses should exclusively contribute to the educational benefit of the student enrolled in the IEA Program. It is essential that the purchase date and/or date of service falls within the IEA Account Holder Contract period for the respective participating year. Please note that the IEA Program exclusively operates through direct payments, and it does not provide reimbursements for personal funds expended by account holders.
You can access a comprehensive chart of approved expenses listed by the TN Department of Education by visiting this link!
Curious to learn more about the IEA Program? Watch this informational video courteous of the Tennessee Department of Education.
Public Charter Schools
What are Charter Schools?
Charter Schools are tuition-free public schools operated by independent, non-profit governing bodies.
Parents, teachers, and community leaders collaborate by signing a “charter” or agreement with a school district or state agency to establish a charter school, offering students additional educational choices beyond their assigned school. Charter schools enjoy flexibility in areas such as classroom hours, curriculum, and employment policies, while also being subject to regular assessments based on student achievement. In Tennessee, public charter schools adhere to the same academic standards as other public schools. The academic and financial performance of charter schools is monitored by local boards of education, who have the authority to revoke or decline charter renewal for a school.
Frequently Asked Questions
Most charter schools do not have attendance zones. If you are interested in applying for your child, you must apply directly to the school. The application and selection process can be quite complicated. Make sure to contact the school early to determine the correct next steps to applying.
Tennessee Charter Schools
There are over 100 charter schools in Tennessee! Most Tennessee charter schools are located in Shelby County. However, Davidson, Hamilton and Knox Counties also have charter schools. You can view a map of all the charter schools in Tennessee by visiting Tennessee Charter School Center!
Virtual Public Schools
What are Virtual Public Schools?
Virtual Public Schools are publicly funded educational institutions that employ technology to provide a substantial part of their instruction to students through online platforms, allowing for a virtual or remote learning environment. These schools are established, managed, and supervised by school districts. In Tennessee, students enrolled in public virtual schools are held to the same academic benchmarks as their counterparts in traditional brick-and-mortar schools.
In Tennessee, thousands of children attend school online in virtual classrooms with state certified teachers.
Some virtual programs are open to in-district students only, while others have enrollment open to students statewide. Use the toggles below to see which are available to you!
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How do I enroll my student?
A: To enroll your student in a virtual school, you can follow these steps:
- Visit the virtual school’s website to review their specific enrollment policies and procedures. These guidelines are typically outlined on the school’s official website.
- Contact the virtual school or its corresponding district directly. They will provide you with the necessary information and guidance to proceed with the enrollment process.
- If you’re looking for virtual schools approved to operate in Tennessee, you can refer to the official list provided above. This list will give you an overview of the approved virtual schools in Tennessee.
Q: Is internet required for virtual school?
A: Yes, for virtual school attendance, having an internet connection is essential. However, school districts are responsible for ensuring that students have the required materials and access to necessary technology, including a computer, printer, and internet connection for their schoolwork. At the very least, this can be fulfilled by granting access to a physical computer lab that students can use during designated hours.
Q: Are virtual public schools the same as homeschooling?
A: No, attending a virtual public school is not the same as homeschooling. While both involve education outside of a traditional brick-and-mortar school, there are fundamental differences between the two. While both virtual public schools and homeschooling offer alternatives to traditional schooling, virtual public schools are formal educational institutions funded by the government, while homeschooling is typically parent-led education at home.
What makes a school “private”?
Private schools are considered private because they operate independently of government funding and control. Unlike public schools, which are funded and regulated by the government, private schools rely on tuition fees, donations, and other private sources of funding to cover their operating costs.
The term “private” refers to the ownership and governance structure of these schools. Private schools are usually owned and operated by non-governmental entities, such as religious organizations, foundations, or individuals. They have the autonomy to establish their own educational philosophies, curricula, admission policies, and hiring practices.
The private status of these schools allows them to have more flexibility in terms of educational approaches, class sizes, and specialized programs. Private schools often emphasize specific religious, cultural, or academic values, and parents who choose private education for their children generally have more influence over the educational experience compared to public schools, which must adhere to government regulations and policies.
Click below for the complete list of almost 600 private schools across the state.
🚨 Information on non-public school admission requirements should be obtained from the school directly. 🚨
Private Virtual Schools
What are virtual private schools?
Virtual private schools, like brick and mortar private schools, operate independently and rely on private funding sources, like, tuition fees, donations, and other private sources of funding, to cover their operating costs. However, like virtual public schools, they provide a substantial part of their instruction to students through online platforms, allowing for a virtual or remote learning environment.
Virtual Private School:
- Funding: Virtual private schools are privately funded institutions. They often rely on tuition fees paid by students or their families to cover their operating costs. They may also receive additional funding from donations, endowments, or other private sources.
- Governance: Virtual private schools are independently owned and operated by private entities, such as educational organizations, religious institutions, or individuals. They have more autonomy in determining their own curriculum, educational philosophy, admission policies, and standards.
- Accessibility: Virtual private schools generally have specific admission requirements and may be more selective in accepting students. They can set their own criteria for enrollment, which may include academic performance, interviews, or other factors.
Virtual Public School:
- Funding: Virtual public schools are publicly funded institutions. They receive government funding, similar to traditional public schools, and do not charge tuition fees to students.
- Governance: Virtual public schools are typically operated and overseen by a school district or a public educational authority. They must adhere to government regulations and follow state or district-approved curriculum and academic standards.
- Accessibility: Virtual public schools are open to all students who meet the eligibility criteria, usually based on residency within the school district or state.
Virtual Private Schools
|School||Grades Served||Contact Information|
|Archway Online Accredited School||Kfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Liberty University Online Academy||K-12||Request Information!|
|Pearson Online Academy||K-12||Request Information!|
|Calvary Preparatory Academy Online||K-12||(760) 410-8283|
|Excel High School||6-12||infoContact@excelhighschool.com|
|International Virtual Learning Academy||K-12||info@internationalVLA.com|
|Veritas Scholars Academy||Kemail@example.com|
|Stanford Online High School||7-12||Request Information!|
|The George Washington University Online School||8-12||Request Information!|
|The Keystone School||Kfirstname.lastname@example.org|
There are many more private virtual schools! You can find more by visiting niche.com.
In Tennessee, parents have the opportunity to provide education for their children at home, which is commonly referred to as homeschooling or home education. Parents in Tennessee can make the decision to homeschool their children from kindergarten through 12th grade. The Tennessee Homeschool law defines a “homeschool” as a school operated or supervised by one or both parents or legal guardians for their own children. Parents who wish to homeschool their children can choose one of the following three options: Independent Home School, Church-related Home School, or Accredited Online School.
Independent Home School:
To be an independent home school student you must:
- Provide a Letter of Intent to the local director of schools prior to each school year. The letter of intent must include the parent’s intent to conduct a home school, the names, number, ages and grade levels of the children to be home schooled, the location of the school, the proposed curriculum to be offered, the proposed hours of instruction and the qualifications of the parent-teacher.
- Maintain attendance records and submit these records to the Director of Schools at the end of each school year.
- Submit proof of vaccination and receipt of any health services or examinations as required by law.
- Student attendance (at least 4 hours per day, 180 days per year) must be reported to the local school district at the end of the school year.
- Testing of independent home school students is required in grades 5, 7, and 9 and coordinated through the local school district. (1 year or more below grade level for 2 years in a row, superintendent MAY require parents to enroll child in public or private school unless child is learning disabled)
- Must be tested in each subject for credit toward graduation.
Accredited Online School:
Parents may also enroll their child in an accredited online school. Parents choosing this educational option must be sure to determine that the school has legitimate accreditation status.
To be an acceptable online school for students who reside in Tennessee, the school must be accredited by one of regional accrediting agencies listed below:
- SACS CASI — Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Council on Accreditation and School Improvement
- NCA CASI — North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement.
- NWAC — Northwest Accreditation Commission
- Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools (MSA)
- MSCES — Middle States Commission on Elementary Schools
- MSCSS — Middle States Commission on Secondary Schools
- New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC)
- Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC)
- National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) and affiliates (e.g., SAIS)
- National Council of Private School Accreditation (NCPSA)
Church-Related Umbrella School:
Parents may instead choose to homeschool their own children by registering with a church-related “umbrella” school. An umbrella school, in the context of homeschooling, refers to an educational institution or organization that provides support, oversight, and legal compliance assistance to homeschooling families. It serves as a middle ground between traditional public or private schooling and independent homeschooling. An Intent to Homeschool form is not required for students who enrolled in a church-related school. The church-related school will determine record keeping requirements for students enrolled in their program.
Here are a couple of resource for parents looking for more information on homeschooling in Tennessee.
Homeschool Legal Defense Alliance (HSLDA)
For more than four decades, HSLDA has dedicated its efforts to ensuring that homeschooling remains accessible to all families who choose this educational path. HSLDA advocates for the right to homeschool, actively engaging in legal battles, legislative advocacy, and various other platforms. Their ultimate goal is to support and uplift homeschooling parents, empowering them in their educational journey as they strive to provide their children with a personalized and enriching learning experience that embraces their individuality and fosters a genuine love for knowledge.
Tennessee Home Education Association
Established in 1984, the Tennessee Home Education Association (THEA) was founded with the aim of safeguarding and advocating for parental rights in directing their children’s education. Its primary objective is to create a comprehensive network across the state, offering support, encouragement, and valuable assistance to homeschooling families. They have local chapters all across the state!
Dual enrollment for high school students refers to a program that allows students to enroll in college or university courses while still completing their high school education. It offers students the opportunity to earn college credits and high school credits simultaneously, providing a head start on their college education.
In a dual enrollment program, eligible high school students can take courses at a local college, university, or community college. These courses are typically taught on the college campus, online, or in a blended format. Students may choose to take general education courses, specialized subjects, or explore areas of personal interest.
Dual enrollment programs vary by institution and region, but generally, they require students to meet specific criteria, such as a minimum GPA or standardized test scores. The programs often have agreements between high schools and colleges to ensure the seamless transfer of credits earned towards college degrees in the future. Homeschool students are also eligible for dual enrollment.
Where can I find opportunities for dual enrollment?
It’s important for students and parents to research specific dual enrollment programs offered by local colleges, universities, or school districts. Each local college/university has it’s own eligibility requirements, application process, course availability, transferability of credits, and any associated costs or tuition fees. High school counselors and college admissions offices are valuable resources for gathering information and guidance on dual enrollment opportunities.
The fee and tuition requirements for dual enrollment courses are determined by each individual college or university. If you require financial assistance, check with your current high school school or the college/university where you will be taking classes.
In addition, the Tennessee Education Lottery Scholarships offers grant funding specifically for dual enrollment tuition and fees. Detailed information regarding eligibility for the grants and the requirements for participation can be obtained from the Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation.
Benefits of Dual Enrollment:
- College credit: Successful completion of dual enrollment courses earns students both high school and college credits, which can be applied toward their future college degree. This can reduce the time and cost required to complete a bachelor’s degree.
- Advanced learning opportunities: Dual enrollment exposes high school students to college-level curriculum and academic rigor, challenging them academically and preparing them for the demands of higher education.
- Exploration of interests: Students have the chance to explore diverse subjects and disciplines, allowing them to gain insight into potential areas of study and career paths.
- Smooth transition to college: By experiencing college-level courses and campus environments early on, students can become familiar with college expectations, classroom dynamics, and college life, easing their transition from high school to college.