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Independent Study - CalEdFacts

This content is part of California Department of Education's information and media guide about education in the State of California. For similar information on other topics, visit the full CalEdFacts.

The purpose of independent study is to provide an alternative education program and setting for students. Independent study programs are voluntary and use alternative instructional strategies that respond to individual student needs and learning styles.

The flexibility of independent study programs makes it possible to serve a wide variety of students, enabling some students who otherwise might not graduate to stay in school. Students who enroll in independent study include students who have health problems, are parents, need to work, and are child actors or aspiring Olympic athletes. Additionally, independent study serves students who desire to accelerate or move more slowly through a course, or to make up a subject that they have missed in a traditional classroom. Independent study is available to students from kindergarten through high school, as well as to students in adult school who are taking courses to meet the requirements for a high school diploma. Independent study programs are required to follow the district-adopted curriculum, and work is governed by a written agreement signed by the student, teacher, parent, and other relevant adults.

During the October 2014-15 school year, nearly 168,000 students in kindergarten through grade twelve received more than 50 percent of their instruction through independent study; 64,491 students in grades kindergarten through eight and 103,485 students in grades nine through twelve received more than 50% of their instruction through independent study.

Additional information can be found in the Independent Study Operations Manual.

Questions: Dan Sackheim | dsackhei@cde.ca.gov | 916-445-5595 
Last Reviewed: Friday, February 24, 2017
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