VPA honors-level courses

Course criteria & guidance

Beginning with the 2016-17 submission period, the following course criteria are effective for honors-level courses seeking approval in the visual and performing arts ("f") subject area:

Honors-level courses in the visual and performing arts (VPA) must have as a prerequisite at least one year of college-preparatory work in the discipline or comparable (alternative) experience that includes all five component strands of the Visual and Performing Arts Content Standards for California Public Schools [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).

Honors-level VPA courses will be demonstrably more challenging than regular college-preparatory classes, 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 require in-depth written assignments that demonstrate student knowledge across the component strands and related arts standards. Each student must complete a variety of individual assessments with a comprehensive final examination in the form of a recital, production, analytical/historical paper or exhibition, and that will include a written component (in the case of a recital, exhibition or production) and post-performance presentation as the culmination of their “capstone project,” as well as other assessment tools appropriate to the five strands of the art form, and representative of high levels of analysis and self-evaluation.

The use of college-level textbooks is encouraged. All VPA honors-level coursework shall include a capstone project, examples of which are listed for each specific arts discipline in the sections below.

UC honors-level 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.


Honors-level dance courses require students to demonstrate artistic mastery in multiple aspects of dance as an art form. Dance honors capstone projects may include, but are not limited to, sophisticated choreography including production collaborations, advanced written and oral research analysis, advanced kinesthetic mastery and historical and/or performance knowledge of many genres of dance, including dances from non-Western cultures. 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). Capstone projects should include a written analytical or historical research document that may be presented to peers in either a classroom or public forum.


Music courses will delineate the honors level of achievement expected by the individual student as well as explicit descriptions of honors studies capstone 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. A key element of the capstone project is a classroom or public presentation of a document related to the project, with content either analytical and/or historical in nature and demonstrating the student’s engagement with music they are creating and/or performing. Given that some musical traditions do not support solo and/or small ensemble performance, an alternative capstone would be a more in-depth paper and presentation detailing elements of their specific cultural tradition.


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 is responsible 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, and then must serve as producer of the project or chief of a major area of production for a capstone project. A post-performance analysis of the student’s capstone project is required, and must include a critique of leadership skills conducted by the teacher and ensemble peers, and a critical self-analysis of the project presented in either a classroom or public forum.

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 (e.g., produce an artist website, produce a film salon, curate a gallery exhibition) or written research and analysis of a particular genre, style or historical period. The capstone project should include critical self-analysis through portfolio development, solo exhibition of original work and post-exhibition classroom or public presentation about the exhibition experience, or a presentation of the research and analysis project.