VPA honors-level courses

Course guidance

Honors-level courses in the visual and performing arts (VPA) should have as a prerequisite at least two years of college-preparatory work in the discipline or comparable (alternative) experience that includes all five component strands of the California VPA Content Standards [PDF].

Honors courses may be open to students who have not completed the prerequisite college-preparatory work but whose preparation in the art form is at a high artistic level and who can demonstrate comprehensive knowledge in all five component strands of the art form. Alternative entrance into the honors-level course shall be by audition/demonstration and a standards-based content exam (oral, written or portfolio/performance).

These courses should be demonstrably more challenging than regular college-preparatory courses and study content in the art form that is of artistic and cultural merit, and represents a variety of styles, genres or historical periods. The curriculum must be comparable to college curriculum and target skills and conceptual development beyond the art form’s advanced level of the VPA content standards. The curriculum must require in-depth written assignments that demonstrate student knowledge across the component strands. Each student must complete a variety of individual assessments with a comprehensive final examination that includes a written component as well as other assessment tools appropriate to the five strands of the art form and are representative of high levels of analysis and self-evaluation.

Honors-level coursework in the art form may not require a separate section in the regular college-preparatory curriculum. The use of college-level textbooks is encouraged. All VPA honors course work shall include advanced studies/projects, examples of which are listed for each specific arts discipline in the sections below.

UC-approved honors visual and performing arts courses must also meet the general “a-g” honors-level course criteria.

Additional discipline-specific criteria

In addition to the above general criteria, each separate arts discipline must include the following specific guidelines to qualify for honors credit.


Dance courses at the honors level require students to demonstrate artistic superiority in multiple aspects of dance as an art form. Dance honors studies/projects may include, but are not limited to, sophisticated choreography including production collaborations, advanced written and oral research analysis, advanced kinesthetic mastery and historical knowledge of many genres of dance. Critical self-analysis and peer review of projects may be broadened by technology resources, traditional and innovative documentation, and recording (e.g., notation, virtual reality and/or simulation).


Theater courses at the honors level require students to demonstrate artistic leadership. Collaborative skills continue to be essential in students’ work, but the honors distinction is that the individual takes the responsibility for organizing others to complete a theatrical performance project. The student must first qualify as an outstanding playwright, director, designer, dramaturge, actor or stage manager, then must also serve as producer of the project or chief of a major area of production. Analysis of the honor student’s project is required and must include a post-show critique, written or oral, of leadership skills conducted by the teacher and ensemble peers, and a critical self-analysis.


Music course descriptions will delineate the honors level of achievement expected by the individual student as well as explicit descriptions of honors studies/projects that will be completed. These studies/projects may include, but are not limited to, solo and/or small ensemble performance, score analysis, musical composition and/or arranging, critical analysis of individual performances by others and critical self-analysis through portfolio development.

Visual arts

Visual arts course descriptions will define the high level of achievement expected by the individual student as well as suggested descriptions of honors visual arts projects. The honors-level subjects/projects may include, but are not limited to, compiling a body of work at the mastery level in a particular arts medium and written research and analysis of a particular genre, style or historical period. Critical self-analysis through portfolio development, solo exhibition of original work and verification of honors achievement level relevant to the art form is required.

Sample courses

Samples of honors-level courses approved in the “f” subject area are available for reference as you prepare your own course for UC approval.