Academics & Curriculum

Portrait of a Graduate

visual display of student soft skills

Traverse City Area Public Schools aligns curriculum and assessment with the Michigan Department of Education ‘Common Core K-12 Standards’ (CCK-12) and the ‘Common Core College and Career Readiness Standards’ (CCR) for both mathematics and literacy (English language arts, 6-12 history/social studies, science, and tech subjects). Courses are reviewed, assessments developed, and student materials and resources are purchased to comply with the new Common Core Standards and graduation requirements.

Traverse City Area Public Schools is committed to preparing every student with the knowledge and strategies needed for a lifetime of successful learning and responsible global citizenship through its rigorous and relevant K-12 curriculum.


Common Core Standards

In June 2010, the State Board of Education adopted the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) as the new standards for K-12 mathematics and English language arts. These standards improved upon Michigan’s current standards (the Grade Level Content Expectations and the High School Content Expectations) by establishing clear and consistent goals for learning, and allow Michigan to work collaboratively with other states to provide curricular support to schools and educators. Common Core K-12 Standards (CCK-12) provide a progression of knowledge and skill to meet the College and Career Readiness Standards. (excerpt from External

Beyond the Core

Beyond the Core

Excellence in Practice

Google SlideFull Beyond the Core (2018-2019) Presentation

Comprehensive Music Education Overview

Comprehensive K-12 Music - Parent, Staff, Community Perspective

Comprehensive Music - Student Voice

Theatre, Journalism & Visual Fine Arts Overview

Theatre & Visual Arts - Envision, Create, Empower

Career & Technical Education Overview 

Career & Technical Education - Student Perspective

Physical Education

Physical Education Overview

STEM - Science, Technology, Engineering & Math 

K-12 STEM Opportunities

And More...

Beyond the Core Finale - I Want To Do It All


Business/Technology Education programs concentrate on career and technical areas encompassing preparation for life skills, pre-career fundamentals and further education. These programs also integrate employability skills with work-oriented tasks.

Business/Technology Education provides:

  • preparation for life skills related to business at all levels of education
  • pre-career skills through a variety of settings
  • business occupational preparation for learners entering the workforce
  • courses/outcomes meeting high school graduation requirements
  • courses/outcomes recognized as appropriate for college prep and tech prep learners
  • technology literacy preparation
  • leadership experiences through activities such as DECA club

Lifelong Skills Developed:

  • Capable information technology users and producers
  • Information seekers, analyzers and evaluators
  • Problem solvers and decision makers
  • Creative and effective users of productivity tools
  • Responsible, informed and contributing citizens
  • Knowledgeable and appreciative of business ethics
  • Aware of the importance of interpersonal skills in diverse societies
  • Aware of a broad understanding of skills and knowledge that can transfer between and among industries
  • Realistic in their understanding of work
  • Productive citizens in a global society

Business/Technology Students Are:

  • Technology users
  • Quality producers
  • Self-directed learners
  • Collaborative contributors
  • Effective communicators

High School Courses Offered:

  • Accounting/Finance
  • Architectural Drawing
  • Business Law
  • Business Technology
  • Computer Aided Drafting
  • Engineering and Technology
  • Engineering Problem Solving
  • Interior Design
  • Marketing
  • Principles of Technology
  • Programming
  • Video Production
  • Work Experience
  • Web Design

Middle School Courses Offered:

  • Business and the Internet
  • Computer Applications
  • Drafting
  • Technology Design
  • Technology Education
  • Web Publishing

About the TCAPS Library Program


The mission of the TCAPS Library program is to provide diverse resources, instruction and programs to ensure that staff and students are effective and adaptive users of information, safe and smart in their learning environments, and eager and willing readers.

LMC Staff

Central High School and West Senior High School are staffed with one teacher librarian and library media paraprofessional (LMP) support staff.  East Middle School and West Middle School are staffed part-time by one teacher librarian and library media paraprofessional support staff. Traverse City High School and the eleven elementary schools are staffed by a library media paraprofessional. Elementary library staff hours are based on student enrollment. One teacher librarian coordinates programming in the elementary buildings.

Highlights of the Library Program

  • Welcoming and inclusive library spaces and resource
  • Collections designed to support curriculum at all levels, including print, electronic and primary sources
  • Flexible schedules to allow student access throughout the day at the secondary sites
  • Makerspace kits added to elementary collections in 2015
  • Best practice research instruction with teacher collaboration
  • Online catalog access for all patrons
  • Extensive e-Book collections on Overdrive at the secondary sites
  • Group and individual reading motivation and guidance
  • Well-maintained, highly organized libraries

TCAPS Elementary Library Media

Visit the district's elementary library media webpage.

TCAPS and TADL Launch Library Card Program

Every student to receive access to the library system’s resources

On May 22, 2020, TCAPS and the Traverse Area District Library (TADL) launched a new program known as the Library Card Program to provide each student with a TADL library card and all of the digital resources that come with it. In addition, students are able to borrow books, movies, STEM kits, games, and more from any of the six TADL locations.

Along with the large physical collection of materials, your student's TADL library card and account gives them access to many databases to help support their academic pursuits that make learning fun. The resources include databases to learn languages, reference sources, books (audio and electronic), magazines, test preparation, and much more. External LinkClick here to explore what the library has to offer.  We are proud to share this community partnership and the additional resources it unlocks for your child with you. Keep reading, learning and exploring! To learn more about TADL’s resources, visit: External

Directory Information Disclosure

In order to facilitate the Library Card Program, TCAPS discloses the following information for all preschool through 12th grade students to TADL to automatically enroll students who do not have an existing TADL account in the Library Card Program: student name, address, phone, parent email, grade, and birthdate. Students who already have a library account will not receive a new one under this program. If you wish to opt out of this program for any reason, please notify the district by October 15, 2020, by emailing If you do choose to opt out, TCAPS will not release the directory information and your student will not be enrolled in the Library Card Program.

TCAPS Music Program

Traverse City has a long tradition of excellence in public music education. TCAPS’ orchestra, band, choral and general music programs provide quality, rewarding musical experiences for all students in our community. In addition to a talented teaching staff, we are fortunate to have committed students, a very supportive community and a music booster organization that supports all levels of music in our schools.

The Music Department Philosophy

The arts, the universal expression of our common humanity, are essential to living a full life.  Music education provides unique experiences, which cultivate the learner’s emotional and intellectual well being, develop music literacy and bring about working toward a common goal.

The Music Department Belief Statements

We believe that…

  • the arts keep us human in an increasingly technological world.
  • all people are innately musical; therefore schools have an obligation to help each student develop his or her potential.
  • music is an expression of society, therefore it helps us understand and appreciate our own and other cultures.
  • music is a discipline with its own intrinsic value. By its very nature, it is an embodiment of many other disciplines.
  • music education addresses all learning styles and develops higher order thinking skills.
  • a balanced music education program must include opportunities in general music, choral music, band and orchestra.

Music Curriculum & Courses

Michigan Curriculum Standards

TCAPS Scope and Sequence

Preschool through Grade 5

Focus in on developing the 7 strands:

  • Singing
  • Playing Instruments
  • Moving
  • Creating
  • Understanding and applying music literacy
  • Listening with appreciation
  • Relating music to history, culture and other disciplines
Middle School

Students participate in courses organized by grade. Focused studies build skills and appreciation for each child’s area of musical interest.

6th Grade
Creative Arts
Beginning Band
Beginning Choir
Beginning Orchestra

7th Grade
Concert Band
Treble Choir
Tenor/Bass Choir
Intermediate Orchestra

8th Grade
Symphony Band
Treble Choir
Tenor/Bass Choir
Advanced Orchestra

Additional Opportunities
Jazz Band
Madrigal or Chamber Singers
Spectrum Strings

High School

Students participate in ability based ensembles. The skills that have been nurtured and developed at the middle school level are now propelled forward within a program that has a rich tradition of excellence. Students can reach their full potential both individually and in an ensemble member.

Concert Band
Symphony Band
Wind Ensemble
Percussion Ensemble
Jazz Band
Pep Band

Varsity Women’s Choir
Concert Choir
Bel Cantos
Westmen or Men of Note
Vocal Majority or Bella Voce

Concert Orchestra
Symphony Orchestra
Philharmonic Orchestra
Select String Ensemble


Additional Opportunities
Madrigal Dinner

Why We Learn Music

From A Student’s Point of View

  • Music is science. It is exact and specific. It demands exact acoustics. A conductor’s full score is a chart, a graph that indicates frequencies, intensities, volume changes, melody, and harmony all at once and with precise control of time.
  • Music is mathematical. It is rhythmically based on the subdivision of time into fractions, which must be done instantaneously, not worked out on paper, and often in multiple combinations simultaneously.
  • Music is a foreign language. Most of the terms are in Italian, German, or French; and the notation is certainly not in English, but a highly developed kind of shorthand that uses symbols to represent ideas. The semantics of music is the most complete and universal language. It speaks to the soul.
  • Music is history. It usually reflects the environment and times of its creation, and often even the country and/or racial feelings. It keeps a peoples’ culture alive. It reflects the styles of each historical period, even as do the visual arts.
  • Music develops insight and demands research. Patterns are analyzed, similarities and differences identified, and style and period characteristics observed.
  • Music is technical. It moves into new technologies as easily as we move into a new house adapting to new electronic possibilities.
  • Music is physical education. It requires fantastic coordination of fingers, hands, arms, feet, lips, cheeks, and facial muscles in addition to extraordinary control of the diaphragmatic, back, stomach, and chest muscles, which respond instantly to the sound the ear hears, the symbols the eye sees, and the mind interprets.
  • Music is art. It allows a human being to take all of these techniques to express emotion, build character, develop concentration, and establish self-esteem.
  • This is why we learn music. Music will give us more love, more compassion, more gentleness…In short more LIFE!

A young person’s perspective of Why We Learn Music,
adapted from Why We Teach Music by Kathryn B. Hull

Music Audience Etiquette

There is no substitute for the experience of a live performance. The interaction between the audience and performers – whether in music, dance or drama – can be very moving. In fact, the audience is basic to the live concert experience. A supportive audience can actually help a soloist or group exceed its usual level of performance. Likewise, an inconsiderate or uninvolved audience may significantly lower the quality of a performance by distracting the performers.

Basic etiquette for students and audience members to consider when attending a live performance:

  • When attending a concert whether in a concert hall, little theater, cafeteria or gymnasium, those attending the concert must mentally prepare for being still, quiet and listening to the live performance. In today’s culture, we very seldom have to sit and do just one thing at a time.
  • When moving into position on the risers or sitting in chairs, try to avoid climbing over others, be courteous. Be respectful of teachers or other adults who are trying to help the performers get into place by listening and not talking.
  • Performers should not have gum or candy in their mouth or in their pockets. You can’t perform with that in your mouth and chewing/eating while others are performing is distracting.
  • Performers should not have cell phones or other technical devices with them in the concert. All devices in the audience should be turned off so as to not disrupt the performance with unplanned sounds.
  • Everyone should save conversations and comments until there is an obvious break in the performance. Even whispers can be disruptive.
  • It is OK to be responsive in appropriate ways. Applause at the end of selections is always appreciated; whistles, shouts, and calling names of performers is not.
  • If there is a speaker or narrator involved in the performance, give that person your undivided attention. Speakers in live performances are usually there to make explanations that will help you understand or appreciate the performance.
  • Even if you are disappointed in a performance, be considerate of the performers and assume that others have a right to their own opinions. None of us have the right to spoil a performance for someone else by being distracting or unkind.
  • An emergency is the only reason to leave during a performance. Stay seated and quiet for the duration of the performance. Wait for dismissal instruction, and then leave in a quiet and orderly manner.

Elementary Audience Program Awareness

The seven strands of the TCAPS music curriculum are studied during the preparation for elementary music programs.

  • Singing
  • Playing instruments
  • Moving
  • Creating
  • Listening
  • Understanding and applying music literacy
  • Relating music to history, culture and other disciplines

For your listening pleasure, please keep your non-performing children with you during the entire performance and please refrain from talking, even between pieces.

  • Strand 6.5 states: Demonstrate appropriate concert audience behavior.
  • Strand 7.5 states: Begin to develop the cooperation and interdependence that are essential to a meaningful music experience.

The students are working diligently to complete transitions silently. The audience can help them by silently listening and watching the transitions. We urge you to watch your child(ren) throughout the program. This is what you should see:

  • Singing: eyes on the director, good posture
  • Playing: preparing instrument (before and after), keeping steady beat, keep “one eye” on the director
  • Moving: quickly and silently getting into position, knowing the steps, moving within the beat, good posture
  • SILENT TRANSITIONS: student knows where to go, which song comes next. If remaining on riser, wait patiently for the next cue from the director

Traverse City Music Boosters

Traverse City Music Boosters, Inc. is an all-volunteer, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization formed more than 50 years ago to support Traverse City Area Public Schools (TCAPS) music education. Membership is open to all parents and community members. We support all music education at TCAPS, from the youngest pre-kindergarten learners through the most advanced high school students. If you have a child in a TCAPS music program, You are a music booster! 

External LinkVisit the official Traverse City Music Boosters website for more information on events, scholarships, mini-grants and more.


Traverse City Area Public Schools is proud to provide a quality physical education program taught by certified professionals. The K-5 elementary curriculum incorporates thirty-five objectives in the areas of locomotor skills, object control skills, fitness, cognitive concepts, and personal/social skills. Each objective is broken down further into grade-appropriate benchmarks. These benchmarks help us assess the expected levels of achievement as identified by the Michigan Exemplary Physical Education Curriculum. The elementary curriculum is based on a program that provides kindergarten through 2nd grade students three, thirty-minute sessions and 3rd through 5th grade students two, thirty-minute sessions per week.

The physical education staff believes a strong partnership between home and school is a critical part of your child’s learning. Thomas Jefferson once said, “Exercise and recreation…are as necessary as reading: I will rather say more necessary, because health is worth more than learning.” Although it has been 200 plus years since Jefferson voiced these astute words, they still ring true. Being well informed allows you to better support your child’s learning and continued growth.

Learn to Move  ~  Move to Live

Secondary 6-12

Physical education contributes to the physical, intellectual, social and emotional well-being of the student. Our curriculum is devoted to purposeful instruction in progressive activities to promote a positive self-concept through fitness, sport, dance and lifetime recreational pursuits.  Participation and involvement are required at all levels. Health-related fitness is the goal for all students. The curriculum intent is to provide students of all abilities and interests with a variety of movement experiences that will lead to an active and healthy life. Activities are taught in a coeducational environment.

TCAPS middle schools and high schools require all students to take physical education. In sixth grade, physical education classes are taken every other day throughout the school year. Seventh and eighth grade students are required to take one semester of physical education. All middle school students may take additional physical education courses through their elective options. Students in grades 9-12 must earn 1 credit (two semesters). High school students may also take additional physical education courses through their elective options. All health education is included in the secondary physical education curriculum and will be taught during physical education courses.

“Physical education is the only subject, which by the very nature of its content has the potential to affect how a person will feel every moment of every day for the rest of his or her life.” – Allen Russell

TCAPS’ students will benefit from physical fitness by increasing self-confidence, building strength, flexibility, and cardiovascular endurance, coordination, posture, and balance.

The Big Ideas in Art

  • Art is a personal and passionate response to circumstances.
  • Through art we express and communicate creatively.
  • Through art we gain appreciation and connections to other cultures.
  • Art takes commitment and organization, which leads to personal growth.

The Traverse City Area Public Schools Art Department provides an art curriculum for all students in grades 1-12.  The elementary curriculum is experienced in weekly forty-five minute lessons taught by a certified art instructor, focusing on art production techniques connected with art appreciation and art history. Students explore ideas about themselves, their world, and other cultures through work in various art processes such as painting, collage, drawing, sculpture, and ceramics. References to art of the past and present teach how others have explored these ideas and media. Art history is a major component of the elementary art curriculum. The lessons are designed to allow the individual student to solve visual problems using her or his own unique vision.

At the middle school level, TCAPS offers a sixth grade elective, Video Document“Art Unleashed,” in which students explore all foundation areas in 2-dimensional and 3-dimensional art. Seventh and eighth grade students may elect from a variety of media. Advanced level courses are available with instructor approval. Video DocumentView this video highlighting middle school art classes

High school classes are designed to offer a level of advancement into all students’ concentrated fields of art study. Students have a multitude of courses to choose from including an Advanced Placement course in Studio Art for students who wish to participate in college-level courses and have the potential to earn college credit.

Additional Information

Secondary Curriculum

Middle school and high school students have the opportunity to study Anishinaabemowin, Chinese, French, German or Spanish. Certain other languages may also be available through online resources. Middle school students may earn high school world language credit if they meet TCAPS’ requirements. High school students may choose to continue their second-language skills throughout their high school career since TCAPS offers Advanced Placement courses in French, German and Spanish. Students also have the opportunity to enroll in world language courses at Northwestern Michigan College once they have exhausted the opportunities offered at the high schools. At the secondary level we also offer global study opportunities to our students, with teacher-led trips and exchange programs to France, Germany, Mexico, and Spain.

Additional Information & Programs

About EL

The English Learner (EL) program provides English language instruction and support for students K-12 who are unable to communicate fluently in English. Through development of listening, speaking, reading and writing (including vocabulary and grammar skills), students are assisted in becoming independent English speakers and learners. English Learners meet with EL staff on a regular basis for instruction. Materials and methods are appropriate to the grade, age, and language levels of students.

EL Mission

The intent of the EL program is to ensure successful academic achievement for all TCAPS students who qualify for English language services.

EL Goals

The English Learner Program strives to accomplish the following goals:

  • To provide quality English language instruction for all English Learners (EL) in grades K-12 so they may become proficient in the four domains of the English language: listening, speaking, reading and writing.
  • To assist all students in accessing content-area instruction while learning English, so that they can work towards or remain at grade level and make progress toward grade level competencies in content areas.
  • To familiarize the EL student with the varied cultures and customs of the United States while promoting their own ethnic pride through cultural diversity and sensitivity.
  • To assist English Learners and their families in becoming participating members of the Traverse City Area Public Schools community.

In addition, Traverse City Area Public Schools' EL program maintains follow-up on students who have exited the program. This process ensures that all Former English Learner (FEL) students are monitored through collaboration with the EL teaching assistant and the classroom teacher, in addition to the district EL coach.


About the Program

TCAPS’ Indigenous Program meets the unique needs of Native American and Alaska Native students. The goal of the program is to improve student proficiency and graduation rates. The program provides assistance to students early on and throughout their learning journey at TCAPS.

The program is funded by a federal grant through the U.S. Department of Education as part of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and is administered through the Office of Indian Education. The program is further supplemented through additional grant monies from the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians’ Community 2% Funds.


Special Education

Traverse City Area Public School provides services in the least restrictive environment (LRE) that will meet the individual’s educational needs. The determination of the setting, services and programs is made in a collaborative effort with the student’s Individual Educational Planning Team.

Following an evaluation, a student’s planning team will recommend how and where to best meet the student’s educational needs. The child’s parent is an integral part of the team throughout the evaluation and educational planning process.

External LinkTraverse Bay Area Intermediate School District, provides many of the services that students may be eligible for within our school buildings. Services such as Speech and Language, Occupational Therapy, Schools Social Work, Teacher Consultants for students with visual impairments, hearing impairments and physical impairments can sometimes be provided in the neighborhood school.

When a child’s team determines there is a need for an increased service model, TBAISD operates many categorical classrooms. These classrooms are currently located in Traverse City. Should a child’s team determine a more restrictive placement is needed for educational success, TCAPS will work with the TBAISD along with MDE to assist in meeting the student’s needs.



Students with Disabilities

Students identified with a disability are entitled to a Free and Appropriate Education. Modifications, accommodations or interventions will be put into place, regardless of mitigating factors. In some cases, a 504 Plan, which is an accommodations plan for a student with a disability, may be indicated. Any service provided for a child with a disability must be aligned with the impairment.

TCAPS Vision

Every learner will reach his or her potential in an engaging, inspiring, and challenging environment.

What is a student with a disability?

Any student with a mental or physical impairment that impacts a major life activity is considered a student with a disability.

Goals for Students with Disabilities

  • To provide the least restrictive environment for learning.
  • To provide academic support services when a need is identified.
  • To provide ancillary support services when a need is identified.

More Information About Students with Disabilities

For more information regarding students with disabilities, please contact your child’s principal or the 504 Compliance Officer for Traverse City Area Public Schools, Brooke Laurent at 231.933.1780.


Hour of Code

Make Computer Science Fun, Starting with an Hour of Code

Computer Science Education Week is an annual call to action to inspire K-12 students to learn computer science. With technology changing every industry on the planet, computing knowledge has become part of a must have high demand, well rounded skill set. The Hour of Code is a one-hour introduction to computer science, designed to demystify code and show that anybody can learn the basics. This annual, nation-wide program has allowed millions of students to discover how accessible and fun computer science can be by doing just one Hour of Code.


Elementary, Middle School, and High School

Assessment is a fundamental part of the learning cycle. The primary purpose of assessment is not to measure, but to further learning. Students are more likely to reach their full potential in an environment where there are frequent loops of assessment and informed instruction.

Students Assessments 

District Literacy Assessments

Running Records: Running Records assessments are administered to all kindergarten through 2nd grade students. Students not meeting the district standard will continue performing Running Records assessment. Running Records provide an assessment of text reading and are designed to be taken as a child reads orally from any text. The assessor is able to find an accuracy rate (number of words read correctly) as well as a comprehension score and a fluency rate as measured in “words correct per minute.” A deeper analysis of a Running Record also informs the assessor as to the strategies a reader is and is not using when interacting with text. This analysis provides valuable information for matching the reader to appropriate text.

Degrees of Reading Power (DRP): DRP are administered beginning in 5th grade, once a student has met or exceeded the Running Record standard. This standardized test that equates with national norms is given to all students 5th through 7th grade using forms with a progression of difficulty. Students take this test independently and answer numerous multiple-choice questions. The standard form of DRP assesses the ability to comprehend the surface meaning of increasingly more difficult textual material, while the advanced form assesses the ability to reason with – that is, analyze, evaluate, and extend the ideas that are presented with increasingly more difficult textual material. DRP assessments provide valuable information for matching the reader to appropriate text.

Scholastic Reading Inventory (SRI): Scholastic Reading Inventory is a way to assess student reading levels and monitor reading progress. SRI identifies struggling readers in grades 4th – 12th. The SRI assists teachers in planning for instruction, and gauges the effectiveness of TCAPS’ curriculum. Currently, all students are administered the SRI assessment in the spring of 6th grade, prior to 7th grade enrollment. Identified students are enrolled in the READ 180 program the following fall and continue in the program until grade level reading scores are attained. In addition, all secondary schools and most of TCAPS’ elementary schools have READ 180 programs available to any student struggling with reading.

Michigan’s Alternative Assessment Program (MI-Access): The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires that all students with disabilities be assessed at the state level. In response to this legislation, the Michigan State Board of Education approved the Michigan Educational Assessment System (MEAS). It has three components, Michigan Education Assessment Program (MEAP) or Michigan Merit Exam (MME), MI-Access, and English Language Proficiency Assessment (ELPA). MI-Access is designed for students for whom the IEP Team has determined that the MEAP or MME assessments, even with assessment accommodations, are not appropriate.

English Language Proficiency Assessment (ELPA): The implementation of the ELPA is federally mandated as part of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation. It is an assessment to assist schools in determining proficiency of English Language Learners (ELLs). For qualifying students, this assessment can be used in place of MEAP English Language Arts. These students take the MEAP mathematics and science or social studies assessments with the appropriate accommodations.

The Role of a School Social Worker

Traverse City Area Public Schools’ certified school social workers are licensed and experienced master’s level professionals who hold an integral role within our buildings across the district.


About UpNorth Virtual

Traverse City Area Public Schools is pleased to offer families a full-time K-12 online learning program. Open to K-12 students in the five-county region, UpNorth Virtual (UPNV) provides a unique opportunity for students to receive 100% of their courses virtually while still being part of a local school community. 

Every student learns differently and what works for one, may not work for another. No matter the reason, whether it's the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, you are homeschooled, or you just prefer to work at your own pace, UpNorth Virtual is here for you.