Frequently Asked Questions
In 2022, the State Board of Education launched a Quick Reference Guide, designed to answer common questions the Board receives. State Board staff will update this guidance document regularly as necessary.
Questions About My Student
A: The Kindergarten age requirement of turning 5 on or before August 15 is set in state law, T.C.A. § 49-6-201. However, another law, T.C.A. § 49-6-3001(b)(2)(B), allows school districts some flexibility in allowing students who are close to the age cut-off to enroll in Kindergarten early:
Notwithstanding subdivision (b)(2)(A), if the director of schools finds through evaluation and testing, at the request of the parent or legal guardian, that a child who is five (5) years of age on or before September 30 is sufficiently mature emotionally and academically, then the child may be permitted to enter kindergarten (emphasis added).
This option for early enrollment is completely under the jurisdiction of the school district. The State Board does not have authority over that process.
A: Local boards of education are responsible for making student assignment decisions under state law T.C.A. § 49-6-3102(b). T.C.A. § 49-6-3103 lists some factors local boards may consider in making such decisions. Parents/guardians may appeal assignment decisions to the local board of education; the appeal must be submitted within 10 days of the assignment decision as per state laws T.C.A. §§ 49-6-3201 through 3206.
Some districts have open-enrollment schools which means, based on the policies of the district, parents may elect to send their child to a school different from their assigned, zoned school.
A: No. In 2007, the state legislature repealed the statute making social security numbers the method of student identification. Schools may ask for social security numbers to use for school identification documents, but no student is required to provide a social security number. Federal law prohibits state or local government agencies from denying an "individual any right, benefit, or privilege provided by law because of such individual's refusal to disclose his social security account number." Sec. 7(a)(1) of the Privacy Act (found at 5 U.S.C. § 552(a) note (Disclosure of Social Security Number)).
T.C.A. § 49-6-5001(a) authorizes the Commissioner of Health to determine which immunizations are required for school attendance. The list of required vaccinations as well as rules of exemption can be found of the TN Department of Health website here.
A: State law grants local boards of education the authority to establish attendance policies. Under T.C.A. § 49-6-3002(a), those policies must be developed with the following guidelines:
(1) Attendance policies shall be firm but fair so that each student has a reasonable opportunity to meet the minimum requirements;
(2) Effective accounting and reporting procedures shall be developed to keep parents or guardians informed of a student's absence from class;
(3) Policies shall accommodate extenuating circumstances created by emergencies over which the student has no control;
(4) Appeal procedures shall be included to assure the student's right of due process; and
(5) Alternative programs shall be established to provide educational options for any student who severely fails to meet minimum attendance requirements.
Additionally, per T.C.A. § 49-6-3007(e)(2), principals are required to report to the director of schools whenever a student has withdrawn from school or who has accumulated three days unexcused absences. The director of schools may serve upon the parent written notice that the child’s attendance at school is required by law after a student accumulates three days of unexcused absences. T.C.A. § 49-6-3007(e)(3) requires principals to report to Director of Schools when students accumulate five days of unexcused absences and each successive accumulation of such.
A: Home school requirements are outlined in T.C.A. § 49-6-3050. The Department of Education maintains a website with more detailed homeschooling information here. This includes information about attendance requirements as well as curriculum approval.
A: Pursuant to T.C.A. § 49-6-902(a), a non-custodial parent may request in writing that a copy of the child's report card, notice of school attendance, names of teachers, class schedules, standardized test scores, and any other records customarily available to parents be furnished directly to the noncustodial or nonresident parent. The request shall be accompanied by the parent's or parents' current mailing address and the school district shall send a copy of the report card, notice of school attendance, names of teachers, class schedules, standardized test scores, and any other records customarily available to parents to that address.
If a non-custodial parent is denied access to the records, the parent may complain to the Office of Family Compliance in the U.S. Department of Education, which enforces parental rights under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).
Tennessee does not have any requirements addressing seat time in public schools. Students do not have a required number of classroom hours to earn course credits. Instead, Tennessee focuses on giving students enough time allocated each school year to ensure students learn and master course content. The State Board of Education sets the required number of school days each year, the number of hours in a school day, and how local districts may alter their calendars to stockpile inclement weather days.
The Tennessee Department of Education strongly recommends seat time in the case of RTI interventions. Additionally, some early post-secondary opportunity (EPSO) courses, such as dual-enrollment, may have their own seat time requirements. Please check with your local school district if you have any questions about RTI or EPSO seat time requirements.
A: Tennessee law requires schools to identify a student (regardless of age) by the names on the student’s birth certificates. T.C.A. § 49-6-5106 provides that “the student shall be known by such lawful name [name that appears on the student’s certificate of live birth or certificate of birth by adoption] in all facets of school records, report cards, student testing and any school activities." Schools may change names on student records due to marriage or following a court order, but only after receipt of a marriage certificate or court order.
A: Parents may request their student’s records anytime by reaching out to the school. If the school has since closed or the student has graduated, please contact the school’s district office.
A: Copies of high school diplomas may be obtained from the Tennessee Department of Education. Please call 615-532-4867, or send an email to email@example.com for more information.
A: Any college/university that closes down is instructed to send all student records to the Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC). You can reach THEC at (615) 741-3605.
A: The Tennessee State Board of Education is the policy-making body for K-12 education in Tennessee, which means that the Board set policies, such as education standards, for schools across the state. However, this does not grant the Board oversight over the affairs of local districts, such as education leadership. Your best course of action is to contact your local board of education and the director of schools/superintendent. They will be more equipped to assist you in this matter.
Depending on state law and local board policy, some decisions of principals may be appealed to the director of schools (for example, suspension decisions from a due process hearing) or to the local board of education (for example, student assignment to a school). However, neither the Tennessee Department of Education nor the State Board of Education has authority to overturn the decisions of local boards of education. Local boards of education hire and supervise the director of schools. Members of local boards of education are elected by the voters in their district.
A: First, start with your local director of schools and school board as they have the greatest level of jurisdiction and control over schools and principals. If the issue still has not been resolved, you may contact the Office of Safe and Supportive Schools at the Tennessee Department of Education for assistance at (615) 741-3248.
State law T.C.A. § 49-6-4503 instructs each school district to adopt their own policy prohibiting harassment, intimidation, bullying, or cyber-bullying. The law specifies that each district’s bullying policy should include the following:
- A procedure for reporting an act of harassment, intimidation, bullying or cyber-bullying, including a provision that permits a person to report an act of harassment, intimidation, bullying or cyber-bullying anonymously. Nothing in this section may be construed to permit formal disciplinary action solely on the basis of an anonymous report;
- A procedure for prompt investigation of a report of an act of harassment, intimidation, bullying or cyber-bullying;
- A statement of the manner in which a school district shall respond after an act of harassment, intimidation, bullying or cyber-bullying is reported, investigated and confirmed.
Additionally, the Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE) released a bullying and harassment guide that states the following:
"According to guidance issued by [The Office of Civil Rights], a school is responsible for addressing incidents about which it knows or reasonably should have known. Therefore, school officials must investigate all incidents of bullying and/or harassment for which they have knowledge and cannot merely wait until a complaint has been filed. School officials should also inform all staff of their obligations to report incidents of possible bullying and/or harassment when they become aware of them. While LEAs [districts] may not require that a student file a complaint in writing before the complaint can be addressed, all LEAs must make students aware of how to seek help if they are being bullied and/or harassed. Once a school has notice of bullying or harassing incidents, it must take immediate and appropriate action to determine what occurred. The specific steps will vary depending upon the nature of the allegations, the source of the complaint, and the age of the student(s) involved."
The law and guidance document listed above indicate that issues of student conduct and bullying are at the discretion of the local school districts. The State Board of Education also has several relevant policies:
- The Unsafe School Choice Policy: aligned with federal requirements and offers alternatives for students in persistently dangerous schools.
- The Mental Health Guidelines Policy: requires schools to implement anti-bullying laws.
- Parent and Family Involvement Policy: notes the importance of schools communicating with parents, which could include issues such as bullying and building a collaborative community environment.
State Testing and School Performance
A: Each year, the Tennessee Department of Education releases the State Report Card that outlines performance on multiple criteria at the school, district, and state level.
*Please note, the State Report Card is often not updated until the following fall. Ex: the 2018-2019 Report Card will be available in Fall 2019.