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.
Independent study enrollment was not collected for the 2009–10 and 2010–11 school years. In October 2008, there were 1,418 schools that reported students engaged in independent study, with an enrollment of more than 128,000 students in kindergarten through grade twelve. In 2007–08, more than 19,000 independent study students graduated from high school or passed a high school equivalency exam.
Additional information can be found in the Independent Study Operations Manual.