Preparation and Enrollment

Whether your child is just beginning his or her first school experience, transferring from another state, or transitioning from private to public school, this site will help you get acquainted with the Tennessee public school system. We hope you’ll get the information you need to help your child succeed in school.

Policies and practices vary from district to district, from campus to campus, and even from classroom to classroom, so the best way to get specific questions answered is to contact your school directly. However, this site is a springboard from which to start. So, let’s begin!

Age, Grade Level, and School Location
Your child’s age and grade level are the indicators of the right school level: elementary, middle, or high school.

Your child’s age is your first indicator of his or her eligibility for beginning school. Students may start kindergarten if they turn five on or before August 15. A child does not have to enroll in school at age five, but must enroll no later than age six. TCA 49-6-3001a, b, c.

Voluntary Pre-K program in some districts. Enrollment in the Voluntary Pre-K program is based upon a child’s eligibility as identified in TCA 49-6-101─104.* Available space in each school system is limited and is based on the funding awarded each year through a grant process. Children must be four years old by Aug. 15 of the year they start the Pre-K program.
*TCA 49-6-101─104.

Grade Level
Schools are traditionally organized by grade bands.

  • Elementary school: Pre-kindergarten, Kindergarten, and grades 1-5. Some districts include grade 6 in the elementary school
  • Middle school: Grades 6-8
  • High school: Grades 9-12

Most schools follow this grade distribution, though some districts may include a sixth grade or ninth grade school/academy to help students adjust to middle school and high school. A few other arrangements exist in some districts, such as grades K-8 in one school.

The following link gives information about public, charter, non-public schools, and home schooling.

School Location
Which actual school is your child to attend?

Your residence address determines which actual school building your child will attend. In some districts, specialized magnet schools and academies may accept students from multiple zones; criteria for magnet and academy school eligibility are available directly from those districts. Additional attendance zoning exceptions may occur from district to district; policies regarding exceptions are also available directly from those districts.

District and Individual School Information
You may access your county’s district information either of the following ways:

List of Active School Districts

  • This link opens to a page with all the district names. Under the district name is the superintendent/director’s name. The address of the district office follows. Clicking on the name of the district links you to a page with phone numbers and web addresses for contacting the district. On the right side of the page (before clicking on the district name) there is a link to schools in the district, active and inactive. Clicking on the “active” link takes you to a list of all schools in the district, addresses, phones, principal’s name, and the grades served by the individual school. Some schools have included a hyperlinked web address for the school. If no web address is listed, contact the school or district at the phone number provided for that information. Also on the right side of the page is a link to the CORE office which is the regional office overseeing information and needs for that district. These offices are used by the district; they are not intended to provide information to parents. After you select a district you will see a link above the name, “Active District Schools.” It will take you to a list of all schools in that district with their addresses, phone numbers, principal’s name, and other basic information. Each school name is linked to a page with the school address and phone number. If you already know which school your child will attend, you may contact the school directly. Some school Websites show zoning maps or zone assignments to help you locate your child’s school.  If the district website does not guide you to the information you need, call the district office. They will assist you in finding that information. A school’s web address usually has a Parent link. Information about attendance zones may be found here if multiple schools exist for your student’s grade level.

School websites are also listed on individual TDOE district pages. They are not hyper-linked. Go to the district’s web address and access the Parent link. Information about attendance zones may be found here if multiple schools exist for your student’s grade level.

Please note that because each district maintains its own Website, there is not a consistent format or heading title for locating the details of how to enroll; use the search window or an identified link on the site to help find your child’s correct school. It may be necessary to call the district office for assistance.

Changes in School Zones
In districts with multiple schools for each level, zones may change occasionally. It is important to check your residence zoning regardless of what it has been in previous years. Some districts provide a ‘Transportation’ link to guide you through finding the appropriate zone for your child’s school.

Transportation and Buses
Information about available transportation and details regarding school bus routes is available from the school or by contacting the district Transportation Department. Some districts include a Transportation link that may provide the needed information.

Whether your child is just starting kindergarten or is transitioning from another district, private school, or home school, there are some basic requirements that must be met before attending a public school in Tennessee.

The best course of action to find out these rules is to contact the school directly.

Types of Schools
Once your child’s grade level school is determined, there are a few other school descriptors that you need to know about:

  • Regular – a traditional school.
  • Magnet – a school that has a specialized curriculum or focus, such as the arts, advanced academics, science, or mathematics. Students’ residential zone lines are not a factor in attending a magnet school; instead, interest in the curriculum is the main reason a student applies to attend there. A limited number of enrollments is allowed.
  • Charter – a school that receives public funding and but operates as a separate entity.
  • Virtual – a school in which the majority of the teaching and learning takes place using on-line or internet video instruction.
  • Pre-school – a school that provides learning to children before they actually begin kindergarten.

Some schools offer a short visit in the summer or before school officially opens to allow new students to visit their school, meet some of the teachers, find their way around the building, and learn about the new school they will be attending.

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.

Tennessee School Directory

Some legal documents may be 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 see required immunizations.
  • Proof of home address (for example, a rental agreement, current utility bills, or tax statement).
  • Proof of custody (if requested).

The school year for students is 180 days, and student attendance at school is important every one of those days! Your child’s learning is directly linked to being in class every day. To ensure that every child and parent knows how important it is to attend school daily, Tennessee has a Compulsory School Attendance Law (TCA-49-6-3001) which requires all children ages 6-17 to attend school each day.

The law gives school districts authority to set requirements related to student attendance following these state guidelines (TCA-49-6-3002(a)🙂

  • Attendance policies shall be firm but fair so that each student has a reasonable opportunity to meet the minimum requirements;
  • Effective accounting and reporting procedures shall be developed to keep parents or guardians informed of a student’s absence from class;
  • Policies shall accommodate extenuating circumstances created by emergencies over which the student has no control;
  • Appeal procedures shall be included to assure the student’s right of due process; and
  • Alternative programs shall be established to provide educational options for any student who severely fails to meet minimum attendance requirements.

The best way to know your district’s attendance requirements regarding excused and unexcused absences is to visit their website and follow any links for Students and Parents. Look within the parent link for a heading labeled “Attendance.”

Tennessee’s minimum requirements for student compulsory attendance can be found in the TCA-49-6-3001(c)(1).

Most districts provide a handbook for students with a code of conduct to ensure that the policies related to behavior are accessible to families.  It is important that you review these policies with your child as early as possible each year to make sure the rules and consequences are clear.

The district Website will most likely have a link to the handbook. Look under Students, Parents, Documents, or School Board for a heading related to Discipline, Behavior, or Conduct. If this link is not available, contact your child’s school regarding expected conduct guidelines.

Student handbooks include topics such as

  • Attendance
  • Daily schedules
  • Emergency procedures
  • Visitors
  • Student Services
  • Guidance Programs
  • Breakfast and Lunch
  • Class or teacher changes
  • Bus conduct
  • Bullying
  • Dress codes

Tennessee law gives authority to local boards of education to develop and manage discipline policies. However, there are some specific issues that the Tennessee Code Annotated does address.

If you would like information on what state law does address, please click on the following links:

Parents often have questions about details concerning their child’s school experience. There are questions about required or suggested supplies, lunch arrangements, school fees, lockers, bus numbers and schedules, textbooks, and reading assignments. The best person to contact for answers to these and similar questions is your child’s teacher. If the teacher doesn’t know the answers, he or she will direct you to someone who does know.

Class rosters may not be distributed until a few days before school begins, so the specific teacher’s name might not be available. Once you know who your child’s teacher is, you may want to contact the school to get in touch with him or her. In some cases, the teacher may send a note home to introduce himself or herself and share a list of items your child should have on the first day of school.

In middle and high school, your child will have several teachers. Students’ class schedules include each teacher’s name and the course he or she teaches. These are often distributed through your child’s Guidance Department. If there is a homeroom or advisory teacher, this may be an alternate option for contact.

For all grade levels, schools offer parent-teacher conference sessions, usually twice during the year. Attending these conferences provides updates on your child’s progress directly from his or her teacher.

Reading through all materials sent home by the teacher will not only provide information about the basics of the class, but also help you get to know the teacher. It is helpful to have a good relationship with teachers so that if you need help supporting your child or understanding communications from the school, you have someone you can call at the school who also knows your child.

Find out how your child’s teacher prefers to communicate with parents for routine inquiries. Schools have Websites, and teachers may have school email addresses accessible through the Website. Many schools have phone applications that allow you to communicate with your child’s teacher. Whichever method of communication your child’s teacher prefers, be sure to check it regularly. The information sheets that your child brings home at the beginning of the year will most likely include the teacher’s contact preference. If not, do not hesitate to ask. In addition, teachers may ask that you provide your telephone or email contact information so they can reach out to you with information.

Other opportunities for getting to know teachers and school staff members include volunteering to help with school activities, joining the school’s parent group, visiting open house or conference events, and attending sports or fine arts events.

Special Education/Special Needs Education
If your child has a disability, or if you are concerned that your child might have one, the school’s Special Education department is available to meet with parents. Each district has a system for reviewing students’ learning needs to determine if special services are the best option to support each child’s needs.

The Tennessee State Department of Education is committed to providing support to families regarding special education services and regulations in compliance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). They provide support links on their Website found at the address below. It is most important to check this site if you are concerned about whether or not your child needs special education services: Click on the Special Education link on the left side of the page.

A list of related links will appear below the Special Education title once you click the Special Education link. A direct link to the Special Education page follows:

This site also provides updates for parents and educators regarding the most current Tennessee practices and legal requirements related to special education.

For a student identified as needing special education, an Individual Education Plan (IEP) will be developed; it includes the specifics of the services that a child will receive to support his or her needs as a learner (e.g., reading accommodations, assistive technology, speech therapy). Each spring, the IEP is reviewed by staff members and the parent to identify which services need to be continued, modified, or eliminated to best serve the child’s needs.

Tennessee RTI2
Response to Intervention and Instruction (RTI2) is a tiered approach to ensure appropriate practices for working with all students in both General and Special Education. This involves using systematic, research-based strategies of instruction and intervention to provide appropriate support for student learning. Ultimately, it creates a stronger path toward intervening for students who are behind in their learning path. It also works toward effective placement for students with need or who are behind in achieving the level of learning which they should reach for their age, ability, and grade.

The TDOE RTI2 page includes links to many resources about RTI2 and that support RTI2.

This link includes information specifically for families, and a resource link that includes support for struggling learners. On the opening page, click on each box that contains information on the area you are learning about, such as “RTI2 Current Update,” “Families,” or “Resources”

Special Needs
If your student needs support in relation to vision or hearing educational resources, there are numerous links on the State Department of Education Website under the Individualized Education Account Program. Individual districts will also have information available through the Special Education or Health Services departments.

Links to information on the Individualized Education Account Program: 

Click on the Parents & Students link on the left side of the page. There are numerous resources on that page.

Information about the Tennessee Disablity Coalition can be found on their website:

Health and School Safety
Schools are dedicated to providing students a safe, positive learning environment, healthy food choices in keeping with the National School Lunch Program, disaster response procedures, and bullying and drug prevention programs. Each school within a district has information available to parents regarding the specifics of each of these areas. Some school or district Websites have links for these, as well as calendars that may show when special events are held to educate children about areas of concern. Teacher information letters or blogs are another source of information about such events.

The State Department of Education Website includes links to information educating parents about some of these topics.

For any student with serious health issues, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation and American with Disabilities Act (ADA) ensures that assistance is provided the student. Contact your child’s school to make sure teachers, guidance counselors, and administrators know if your child’s health requires special medical needs. Work with the school to provide the safest way to meet these needs. Find information about the U.S. Department of Education’s Section 504 of the ADA at this link:

Paying some fees is a part of public education, though it is primarily a free education. Students are expected to supply their own basic school supplies such as paper, pencils, and notebooks. Each district has a list of approved expenditures for students. Some typical items on that list include:

  • Lunch
  • 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)

Tennessee does not allow payment of fees to be a prerequisite for attending public school [TCA 49-2-110(c)]. School fees are authorized by the local board of education, and some fees may be requested, though not required such as collecting fees for activities offered during the school day.

Fee waiver forms can be requested from the school if there is a situation that prevents a family from being able to pay for required materials or events.

The safety of children in any school requires that certain rules about visitors are established and followed closely. If you have reason to visit your child during the school day, you must contact the school and teacher to find out what regulations are in place in that building. Some schools have special days or times of day for parents or grandparents to visit, such as a parent lunch day or a daytime program highlighting the arts or academics. School websites may have calendars listing such events, including the times to arrive and depart. Teacher information letters or blogs are another source of information about such events.

When children enroll in school or at the beginning of each year, you will probably be asked to fill out an information card listing the names and telephone numbers of anyone who has your permission to pick up or visit your child at school. Schools will require official photo identification before admitting you to the building or before allowing anyone to take a child out of the building during the school day.

At the end of the school day, students may need the resources of a school or community for aftercare services. If parents work and need someone to care for a child during the hours after school, they may be able to partner with the school for supervised time that will provide academic enrichment or extracurricular activities.

The State Department of Education has links for parents to guide them to resources related to afterschool information:

These links include

  • 21st Century Learning Centers in which public or non-profit organizations offer afterschool educational programs
  • Lottery for Education: Afterschool Programs and LEAP that provides programs by using some funds from the state lottery.


Safe and Supportive Schools Website:

Beginning on the very first day of the education journey, students and their parents share the goal of graduation! Every school day during every school year, students work toward being better prepared for the life that follows school. The Tennessee Department of Education sets graduation requirements that best prepare students for opportunities to be successful in their post K-12 experience whether they choose college, career institutes, or immediate transition to the work force.

At present, high school students must complete 22 credits to graduate. They also take tests in core subject areas with End of Course exams, part of the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program, or TCAP, also referred to as TNReady.

During the eleventh grade-year, students must take either the ACT or the SAT in order to receive a regular high school diploma. View the FAQ on the policy here:

Tennessee’s TCAP (Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program) requires assessments in English Language Arts (ELA) and mathematics. The current measurement of learning for ELA and mathematics is Tennessee Ready (TNReady). See more at:

Per state law (T.C.A. § 49-6-1028), all districts shall implement a project-based civics assessment at least once in grades 4–8 and once in grades 9–12. The project-based civics assessments are developed by the district to ensure students demonstrate an understanding of civics and achieve the learning objectives contained within the social studies standards. All districts must complete the project-based assessment form by the date posted on the State website, usually in July.

Additionally, per state law (T.C.A. § 49-6-408), students must take and pass (70 percent or higher) the United States citizenship and immigration test during the student’s high school career (i.e., grades 9-12). Schools in which all seniors earning a regular diploma score 85 percent or higher on the U.S. civics test will be recognized by the department as a U.S. Civics All-Star School. All districts are required to submit their civics compliance forms for their graduating seniors.

For information about which courses are assessed, when, and how, the following link shows updated information:

See more at:

Credit Requirements

Total Credits: 22

  • Math: 4 credits – Including Algebra I, II, Geometry and a fourth higher level math course (Students must be enrolled in a mathematics course each school year.)
  • English: 4 credits
  • Science: 3 credits – Including Biology, Chemistry or Physics, and a third lab course
  • Social Studies: 3 credits – Including U.S. History and Geography, World History and Geography, U.S. Government and Civics, and Economics
  • Physical Education and Wellness: 1.5 credits
  • Personal Finance: 0.5 credits – Three years of JROTC may be substituted for one-half unit of Personal Finance if the JROTC instructor attends the Personal Finance training.
  • Foreign Language: 2 credits – May be waived for students, under certain circumstances, to allow for additional elective focus.
  • Fine Arts: 1 credit – May be waived for students, under certain circumstances, to allow for additional elective focus
  • Elective Focus: 3 credits – Math and Science, Career and Technical Education, Fine Arts, Humanities, Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB)

More information can be found on the TDOE website at:

Graduates in need of a duplicate copy of their high school diploma should complete the Duplicate Diploma Request form that can be downloaded from the following link: