Upper School


The Upper School Department at the Tennessee School for the Deaf includes students from grades 7 – 12.  Approximately 70% of our students live on campus with the other 30% commuting daily. 


The department has several programs that are designed to meet the specific needs of individual students. These programs include:

  • Academic Program
  • Career-Technical Program
  • Comprehensive Development Classes (CDC)
  • Transition Services

TSDK Students in Classroom

The mission of the Upper School can be summed up in three words: Students, Staff, and Stewardship. Our goal is to meet the needs of each student and to ensure that they have a comprehensive program of study that is rigorous, challenging, and leads them to their post-secondary goal.


Research shows that the classroom teacher is the most important factor in student achievement. Therefore, TSD recruits, trains, and supports only the most highly skilled and qualified teacher force. We are proud of the instructional staff in the Upper School and the high-quality education they provide to our children.


Finally, as a publicly funded school, we manage our resources carefully and ensure that the taxpayers of Tennessee are receiving a full return on their investment.


The Upper School Principal is responsible for the overall operations of the school and is supported by an Assistant Principal who works closely with the Career-Technical Program, CDC, and CAP programs.


There are four (4) diploma options students can work towards: 

  • Regular Diploma
  • Special Education Diploma
  • Occupational Diploma
  • Alternative Academic Diploma

Each student's preferred diploma option is determined by their IEP team. In addition to their diploma, the IEP team determines the student’s program of study, sets transition goals, and assists in developing post-secondary plans. 

All Upper School students participate in district assessments as well as the Tennessee State Assessments, more commonly known as the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP). In grades 7 and 8, students take the TCAP Achievement tests which include: English, Mathematics, Science, and Social Studies. Beginning in 9th grade, students take the TNReady exams and End-of-Course exams for the following courses: English I, English II, English III, Algebra I, Algebra II, Geometry, U.S. History, and Biology.


To receive a diploma from the Tennessee School for the Deaf, students must complete and pass the required 22 core credits, have satisfactory attendance, and meet the goals of their IEP.  Core requirements are:


  • 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
  • Foreign Language: 2 credits (American Sign Language will meet this requirement)
  • Fine Arts: 1 credit – May be waived for students not going to a university to allow for additional elective focus
  • Elective Focus: 3 credits – Math and Science, Career and Technical Education, Fine Arts, and Humanities

The school year is scheduled to allow each student to earn up to 32 credits over their high school career.  These additional credits allow students to create rich learning opportunities through elective courses.


Transition is a critical component of the Upper School experience. The transition goal identified in the student’s IEP drives and directs all instructional decisions. Does the student’s experiences in Upper School support their post-secondary goal? This is the question consistently being asked when working with each student.


The Upper School Transition team consists of the Principal, Assistant Principal, the parents, a Transition Coordinator, and a Transition Counselor. Other agencies such as Vocational Rehabilitation are also included on this team when appropriate. The commitment of the Transition Team is that every student that graduates from TSD will have a fully-integrated post-secondary plan that can be implemented upon graduation.