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Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently asked questions and answers pertaining to Independent Study.

Independent study is an alternative instructional strategy, but it is not an alternative curriculum. Independent study students work independently, according to a written agreement and under the general supervision of a credentialed teacher or teachers. While independent study students follow the district-adopted curriculum and meet the district high school graduation requirements, independent study offers flexibility to meet individual student needs, interests, and learning styles.

Independent study is outlined in California Education Code (EC) sections 51745–51749.3 and California Code of Regulations, Title 5 (5 CCR) sections 11700–11705.

Getting Started

The following resources are available to help in providing independent study as an option for students:

Answers to Common Questions

Listed below are the topics and frequently asked questions about independent study.

Admission to Independent Study

  1. Can all students participate in independent study?
  2. Is independent study right for my student?
  3. How to find independent study.

Adult Independent Study

  1. Can adults choose to participate in independent study?
  2. Can a minor take high school make-up courses by concurrently enrolling in adult education and in high school independent study?
  3. What resources explain adult education and independent study?

Assigned Work

  1. What is the course content in independent study?
  2. Can a student study religious materials as a part of the independent study curriculum?
  3. Do students need to do as much work in independent study as they would in traditional school?
  4. Are independent study students required to complete their assigned work?

Attendance

  1. What is the minimum length of time for an Independent Study Written Agreement?
  2. Are schools required to maintain separate attendance records for independent study coursework?
  3. How is independent study attendance determined and reported?
  4. What is the difference between attendance credit and academic credit in independent study?
  5. How do schools keep attendance records for online courses?
  6. Can someone other than the supervising teacher enroll a new student and assign work for the first assignment period?

Audits

  1. What does an independent study school or program need to do to prepare for an audit?

Best Practices

  1. Are there any examples of best practices in independent study?

California High School Exit Exam Remediation

  1. Can twelfth-grade students who did not pass the California High School Exit Examination (CAHSEE) choose independent study for remediation to help them pass the test?

Charter School Independent Study

  1. Are the rules and regulations for charter school independent study the same as for regular public schools?

Classroom Sessions in Full-Time Independent Study

  1. Can independent study students be required to attend labs, classes, and other on-site classroom sessions?

Concurrent (Dual) Enrollment

  1. Can a public school student have concurrent enrollment in a private school?
  2. Can students take both independent study and regular classroom-based courses at the same time?
  3. Can high school students choose the option of adult education independent study for credit recovery?
  4. Can independent study high school students be concurrently enrolled in community college courses?

Credits

  1. Is it permissible to grant or accept partial credits?
  2. Is there any law that allows or disallows students to "test out" of courses and be awarded credit?

Data Management Systems

  1. Are there programs that help independent study staff keep track of attendance, grades, and other records?

Emancipated Minors

  1. Do emancipated minors need parent/guardian/caregiver signatures on the Independent Study Written Agreement?

Expelled or Suspended Students

  1. Can expelled or suspended students be served via independent study?

Frequency of Required Meetings

  1. Is there a requirement for how often students and teachers should meet face-to-face (or online) in independent study?

Homeless Students

  1. Can homeless students take classes via independent study?

Independent Study Written Agreements (Also Known as Master Agreements)

  1. What are the required components of an Independent Study Agreement?
  2. What are subsidiary/supplemental agreements and independent study assignment work records?
  3. Whose signatures are required on an Independent Study Written Agreement?
  4. Is it permissible for some of the required signatures to be provided by fax?
  5. If a teacher leaves during the middle of a semester, how is the Independent Study Written Agreement amended to add the new teacher?

Instructional Minutes, Days

  1. What are the required instructional minutes and required length of the school year for independent study?

Online Independent Study

  1. Can an independent study student take online courses?
  2. Are there any program examples or resources for online education via independent study?

Participation in Graduation, Sports, or Other School Events

  1. Do students in independent study have the right to participate in school events, particularly graduation ceremonies?

Physical Education

  1. Can a school offer physical education via independent study? 
  2. How can a school meet the required number of minutes of instruction for physical education through independent study?
  3. What is the valid teaching credential for physical education instruction via independent study?
  4. For apportionment purposes, what are valid courses for physical education via independent study? For example, can a school collect apportionment for a yoga class taught on campus by a credentialed teacher for independent study students?

Policies and Procedures

  1. What policies and procedures are required for compliance in offering independent study?

Pregnant and Parenting Teens (Expectant and Parenting Students)

  1. How should independent study teachers give assignments and track attendance for pregnant teens, particularly when the students are in the hospital giving birth, or when they are dealing with a newborn?

Program Improvement

  1. If a school/district is in Program Improvement (PI), does that change how independent study is offered?

Records (Record-keeping)

  1. How long must students’ independent study records be kept?

Resources for Independent Study

  1. What resources are available to help understand and/or establish independent study options?

Right to Classroom Option

  1. Is there a requirement for students to have a right to return to their regular classroom program?

Short-term Independent Study

  1. Is there a limit on how many days an Independent Study Written Agreement can be in effect?

Special Education

  1. Can special education students participate in independent study?

Summer Independent Study

  1. Are there rules for establishing independent study for summer sessions?

Travel

  1. Can students use independent study to complete work during family travel?

Teacher Qualifications in Independent Study

  1. What are the credentials required for teachers providing instruction via independent study?
  2. Do the federal requirements for highly qualified teachers apply to those teaching via independent study?

Transcripts

  1. Should “Independent Study” be designated on student transcripts?

Truancy in Independent Study

  1. Do truancy laws apply to students in independent study?
  2. How can schools ensure that independent study students are not picked up by local police for loitering or truancy?

University of California A-G Policy for Non-Site-Based Independent Study Schools

  1. Can schools offer UC-approved courses to high school students via independent study?

Waivers

  1. Can a local educational agency (LEA) apply for waivers of independent study rules and regulations?

Work Samples

  1. What are the rules about keeping samples of student work?

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Admission to Independent Study

  1. Can all students participate in independent study?

    1. Districts and county offices of education are not required to provide independent study, so this alternative instructional strategy is not always available in a local school. EC Section 51745(a)

      If a district does not provide independent study, options may include:
      • An interdistrict transfer
      • Charter schools
      • A school in an adjacent county
      See How To Find Independent Study.  
    2. The option to take courses via independent study must be continuously voluntary. EC Section 51747(c)(7); 5 CCR 11700(d)(2)(A)
    3. Independent study students must be enrolled in a local school as a condition of apportionment. EC Section 51748
    4. Special education students may not participate in independent study unless it is specified as an instructional method in their individualized education program (IEP). EC Section 51745(c)
    5. Independent study charter schools must enroll all students who meet the enrollment requirements set in their charter. EC Section 47605(d)(2)(A)
      • For a student who has an IEP and wants to participate in independent study, a determination as to whether independent study is appropriate must be made within 30 days and written into the IEP.
    6. Community day schools may not claim average daily attendance (ADA) apportionment for any student receiving instruction through independent study. EC Section 48663(d)
    7. Not more than 10 percent of the students participating in a continuation high school or opportunity school are eligible for apportionment credit for independent study. Students who are pregnant or are the primary care-giving parent of a child are not counted toward the 10 percent limit. EC Section 51745(b)
    8. EC Section 48206.3 gives a student who is temporarily disabled the right to home and hospital instruction. EC Section 51745(d) states “No temporarily disabled student may receive individual instruction pursuant to EC 48206.3 through independent study.” Per EC Section 47610, this does not appy to charter schools.
    9. Students in independent study need to have the ability to work independently and schools typically assess an applicant’s likelihood of success in independent study. EC Section 51746(b)(1); 5 CCR 11700(d)(1)(B)

      A school may determine that independent study is not an appropriate educational option if a student is far behind in credits. However, a school may allow a student who is significantly behind in credits to participate in independent study if the school personnel believe that the student has the ability to be successful working independently. The student’s success may depend not only on the student's motivation, commitment, and academic abilities, but also on the school's ability to provide the program, supports, and interventions necessary for that success.
  2. Is independent study right for my student?
  3. How to find independent study

Adult Independent Study

  1. Can adults choose to participate in independent study?
    1. Adult education is covered in EC sections 52500–52523. Independent study within adult education is allowed in EC Section 41976.2.
    2. In adult education, independent study may be used only for high school diploma courses. EC Section 46300.4
    3. An adult who has been continuously enrolled in kindergarten through twelfth grade (K–12) education since his/her eighteenth birthday may remain engaged in K–12 independent study and the district can claim K–12 apportionment for that adult until his/her twenty-first birthday. EC Section 46300.1

  2. Can a minor take high school make-up courses by concurrently enrolling in adult education and in high school independent study?
    Yes. For more information, please see question 23: Can high school students choose the option of adult education independent study for credit recovery?

  3. What resources explain adult education and independent study?
    1. Adult Education provides many helpful resources.

    2. The Adult Education Handbook for California 2005 Edition (PDF) contains a chapter on independent study beginning on page 22.

    For more information about adult education and independent study, please contact the Adult Education Office at 916 322-2175.

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Assigned Work

  1. What is the course content in independent study?
    1. Independent study is established by local governing boards as an alternative delivery method for providing instruction in the core curriculum. EC Section 51745(a)(1–5)
      • It is an instructional strategy for delivering California’s standards-based, grade-level content; not an alternative curriculum, and is expected to be equal in quality to classroom instruction. EC Section 51745(a)(3)
    2. The Independent Study Written Agreement (also known as the Master Agreement) outlines the course of study for each independent study student. EC Section 51747(c)
      • Additional details that will help the parent/guardian/caregiver and student understand the learning goals are provided on subsidiary agreements such as course contracts, assignment and work record forms, and curriculum guides.

  2. Can a student study religious materials as a part of the independent study curriculum?

    The California Constitution, Article IX, Section 8 states:

    • No public money SHALL ever be appropriated for the support of any sectarian or denominational school, or any school not under the exclusive control of the officers of the public schools; nor SHALL any sectarian or denominational doctrine be taught, or instruction thereon be permitted, directly or indirectly, in any of the common schools of this State.

    • Therefore, no religious materials may be assigned as a part of independent study, and students cannot use religious materials to complete independent study assignments. Attendance cannot be taken and the LEA cannot claim apportionment credit for work using religious materials, with the following exception:
    • However, parents/guardians/caregivers can have their students read and use religious materials to supplement independent study assignments, as long as no apportionment credit is claimed.

  3. Do students need to do as much work in independent study as they would in traditional school?

    Yes. 5 CCR 11701.5 provides that independent study is to be substantially equivalent in quality and quantity to classroom instruction. EC Section 51745(a)(3) provides that independent study shall not be offered as an alternative curriculum. It is important to make sure that independent study students understand the commitment they are making when they sign the Independent Study Written Agreement. It is important for parents/guardians/caregivers, teachers, and students to understand that students should expect to spend at least as much time on independent study assignments as they would for courses in the comprehensive school. However, the flexibility of independent study allows students to complete courses at their own pace—either accelerated (for advanced students) or with additional support and practice for those who struggle. The EC Section 51747.5(b) and 5 CCR 11703(b)(4) provide that the time value of a student’s work is personally judged by a certificated teacher.

    For independent study students in K–12 classes, it is important to avoid references to a minimum day program. The Independent Study Written Agreement should not list the minimum hours per week needed to complete assignments. All students at grade level should be assigned a full day’s worth of work that is comparable to the core curriculum assignments in the school that they would attend. To do otherwise will put students at a disadvantage with regard to their readiness for future schooling and careers. High school students routinely given minimum day assignments cannot earn enough academic credit in four years to qualify for graduation.

  4. Are independent study students required to complete their assigned work?

    Yes. In order to earn credit and continue participating in independent study, a student must complete assignments within the guidelines established by the Board Policy and dates listed on the Independent Study Written Agreement. If a student does not complete an established number of assignments within the required time period, the student will be evaluated to determine if independent study is the correct option for the student. EC sections 51747(b) and 51747(c)(4)

Attendance

  1. What is the minimum length of time for an Independent Study Written Agreement?

    EC Section 46300(e)(1) provides that districts can claim ADA credit for students participating in independent study for five or more consecutive school days. A credentialed teacher determines the time value of the completed student work. If a student has an Independent Study Written Agreement for five days, and participates in independent study for five days, but does only four days of work as determined by the supervising teacher, the district could only claim apportionment for four days. This EC section does not apply to charter schools as they do not have to follow the five or more consecutive school days requirement.

  2. Are schools required to maintain separate attendance records for independent study coursework?

    Yes. Schools must keep:
    • A separate listing of the pupils and adult education students by grade level, program and school, who have engaged in independent study, identifying units of the curriculum undertaken and units of the curriculum completed by each of those pupils in kindergarten and grades 1 to 8, inclusive, and identifying course credits attempted by and awarded to each of those pupils in grades 9 to 12 inclusive and each of those students in adult education, as specified in their written agreements. 5 CCR 11703(b)(2)
  1. How is independent study attendance determined and reported?

    In California, attendance credit is reported by the school district or county office in ADA units or, for some programs, in hours, and generates an apportionment of revenue for that district or county office. Independent study attendance is based on a teacher's evaluation of the time value of a student's work.

    Teachers make assignments in increments consistent with the program that the student is enrolled in (i.e., “full days” for traditional K–12 and opportunity education, “hours” for continuation and adult education). Student work must be turned in as specified in the work agreement. Teachers evaluate completed assignments and award attendance credit based on their determination of the time value of the work. For example, if there were five school days in a particular week, and a comprehensive high school student did at least five minimum days worth of work, the supervising teacher could record attendance for five days. .

    Completed assignments representing more attendance days for the assignment period may not be "banked" for future use or applied to earlier assignment periods. Late independent study work may not be credited against earlier assignment periods.

    Schools report attendance for students on independent study using the district’s attendance system as they would for students in classroom-based programs. However, there will be a delay in reporting independent study attendance since the attendance cannot be reported until the student submits the completed assignments and the teacher determines the time value of that work.
Non-charter School Attendance Reporting
Charter School Attendance Reporting
  1. What is the difference between attendance credit and academic credit in independent study?

    Attendance credit generates funding for the district based on the ADA of all students in district schools. Attendance credit is based on the teacher’s determination of the time value of a student’s work. A student receives full attendance credit as long as he or she completes the time value of a minimum day. See question 35: What are the required instructional minutes and required length of the school year for independent study?

    Academic credit is based on the teacher’s determination of the student’s mastery of course content and leads to a record of progress or promotion toward high school graduation requirements. Completed assignments representing more attendance days for the assignment period may receive academic credit. It is possible for a student to lose attendance credit due to missed work and still receive full academic credit at the end of the semester once the course content is successfully mastered, either through make-up work or some other acceleration to meet course learning goals.

    NOTE: Attainment of full attendance credit based on a minimum day will not prepare a student to graduate from high school. For students in grades nine through twelve, the minimum day for attendance credit is equivalent to four hours of classroom instruction. However, for academic credit, a high school student must be assigned work equivalent to the work that classroom-based students are assigned—a full day’s worth of work or the equivalent of six hours of classroom instruction. ISOM, Chapter 8, page 8-3

  2. How do schools keep attendance records for online courses?

    For more information, see the following:
  3. Can someone other than the supervising teacher enroll a new student and assign work for the first assignment period?
    For example, can the school counselor or administrator enroll a student on Day X and give the “first week” assignment, and then, when the student arrives with all work completed a week later, can the supervising teacher claim five days of attendance credit after reviewing the work?

    No. The following codes and regulations guide schools in claiming attendance credit:

    • Each written agreement shall be signed, prior to the commencement of independent study, by the pupil, the pupil's parent/guardian/caregiver, if the pupil is less than 18 years of age, the certificated employee who has been designated as having responsibility for the general supervision of independent study, and all persons who have direct responsibility for providing assistance to the pupil. For purposes of this paragraph "caregiver" means a person who has met the requirements of Part 1.5 (commencing with Section 6550) of the Family Code. EC Section 51747(c)(8)
    • The independent study by each pupil or student shall be coordinated, evaluated, and, notwithstanding subdivision (a) of Section 46300, shall be under the general supervision of an employee of the school district or county office of education who possesses a valid certification document pursuant to Section 44865 or an emergency credential pursuant to Section 44300, registered as required by law. EC Section 51747.5(a)
      • “General supervision” means the supervising teacher’s:
        1. Continuing oversight of the study design, implementation plan, allocation of resources, and evaluation of pupil or adult education student progress for any pupil's or adult education student's independent study; and
        2. Personal determination or personal review of the determination made by another certificated teacher of the time values for apportionment purposes of each pupil's or adult education student's work products. 5 CCR 11700(b)
      In the example given, the first week of work is not assigned by the supervising teacher.

Audits

  1. What does an independent study school or program need to do to prepare for an audit?

    The best way to prepare is to follow all the laws and regulations concerning a legally compliant independent study program or school. Several resources are available as guides:

    • The Standards and Procedures for Audits of California K–12 Local Education Agencies is available from the Education Audit Appeals Panel External link opens in new window or tab. .
      • Provisions related to independent study are in the audit guide, section 19819.
      • Provisions for charter schools using nonclassroom-based instruction (independent study) are in the audit guide sections 19850, 19852, and 19853.
    • Review the CDE Audits in Independent Study Web page (coming soon).

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Best Practices

  1. Are there any examples of best practices in independent study?

    Yes, there are at least two sources of examples:

California High School Exit Exam Remediation

  1. Can twelfth grade students who did not pass the California High School Exit Examination (CAHSEE) elect independent study for remediation to help them pass the test?

    State funding for CAHSEE remediation is currently unrestricted, and it is a local decision as to how the funds are used. If the LEA still uses the funds for CAHSEE remediation, the student must be enrolled in school to qualify for the remediation, with enrollment determined by the school district or charter school. Enrollment does not need to be full-time; a student can be enrolled for only the remediation class or only the examination. For further information, see California High School Exit Examination (CAHSEE), or contact the CAHSEE Office by phone at 916-445-9449.

Charter School Independent Study

  1. Are the rules and regulations for charter school independent study the same as for regular public schools?

    There are many EC sections that are different for charter school operations. Please see Charter Schools or the Legal Requirements for Independent Study Web page (coming soon).

Classroom Sessions in Full-Time Independent Study

  1. Can independent study students be required to attend labs, classes, and other on-site classroom sessions?

    Due to the federal requirements to use “highly qualified” teachers, there is a trend toward grouping independent study students for on-site labs, classes, and small group sessions.

    As a result, an independent study student may be scheduled and required to come to group sessions or labs that are specified in his or her written agreement. However, independent study attendance is never based on student presence at “seat-based” sessions. It is based only on the time value of student work. EC Section 51747.5(b)

    If a student fails to attend group sessions or labs, he or she cannot be reported truant since independent study attendance is based only on student work. However, according to EC Section 51747(b), a student who misses a specified number of assignments must be evaluated to determine whether he or she should remain in independent study or return to the regular school program.

Concurrent (Dual) Enrollment

  1. Can a public school student have concurrent enrollment in a private school?

    For non-charter schools, this is a local decision that should be established in Administrative Regulations or policies. There are a number of attendance and accountability considerations.

    1. Article IX, section 8, of the California Constitution prohibits public money from being appropriated for the support of “... any sectarian or denomination school, or any school not under the exclusive control of the officers of the public schools…” Since public schools cannot collect revenue for a student participating only on a part-time basis, a district would be advised to seek legal counsel before providing public school services (i.e., single class or extra-curricular program) to a non-enrolled student. While a district usually has discretion under EC Section 35160, that discretion is limited by the Constitution where the district or charter school concludes that it would be providing a benefit to a private school.
    2. For attendance and accountability purposes, if the student is enrolled for at least the minimum day at the public school, the student is a student of the district and school. As such, the public school will be accountable for all attendance records, student testing, and grades. If the school and district agree to accept credits from a private school, there should be a mechanism for verifying that the instruction will help to prepare the student to attain proficiency in grade-level courses. Since the public school receives the ADA for the minimum day offered at that school, there is no additional ADA generated by taking a course at a private school.
    3. If the student is enrolled for at least the minimum day at the private school, then that student should be considered a private school student, and no public monies would be generated to support the education of that student.
    4. For high school students taking online courses outside the public school, the student always should check first with the high school principal to ensure that the online credits will be accepted by the high school and that the online course is comparable to other college preparatory courses offered at the high school. The UC Online Learning External link opens in new window or tab. provides information about the UC online policy, as well as about online courses, providers, and schools.
    5. If the concurrent enrollment in private courses does not in any way affect regular school enrollment, it is the family’s decision whether the student enrolls in the private school course(s) in addition to public school. All parties should be mindful of the effect of additional homework, time demands, or stress levels that might occur as a result of private after-school or weekend classes.

  2. Can students take both independent study and regular classroom-based courses at the same time?

    The option to take regular classes should be readily available to students in an independent study program in a comprehensive high school. Districts are encouraged to have policies and procedures in place that enable independent study students in other district schools to take courses in district comprehensive high schools. For example, students may need to take laboratory, performing arts, or other courses for graduation. Likewise, districts are encouraged to have procedures in place that enable classroom-based students to take one or more needed courses via independent study. No course included among the courses required for high school graduation under EC Section 51225.3 shall be offered exclusively through independent study. EC Section 51745(e)

  3. Can high school students choose the option of adult education independent study for credit recovery?

    High school students may enroll concurrently in adult education secondary classes to make up credits needed for graduation. However, the following restrictions apply:

    1. The adult education program shall not be used to supplant the regular high school curriculum for high school students enrolled in adult education classes. EC Section 52523
    2. “No course required by the school district for high school graduation or necessary for pupils to maintain satisfactory academic progress shall be offered exclusively through the adult education program.” EC Section 52523(a)
    3. Adult schools may receive apportionment credit for independent study only if the independent study students are seeking a high school diploma. EC Section 46300.4
    4. Certain documentation is required. See details on page 16 of the Adult Education Handbook for California 2005 Edition (PDF).
    5. See Adult Education for other questions about adult independent study.

  4. Can independent study high school students elect to concurrently enroll in community college courses?

    Concurrent enrollment in community college classes is one of the ways high school students can access courses their school does not offer. EC Section 48800 provides that local governing boards may authorize students who would benefit from “advanced scholastic or vocational work” to attend classes at a community college as “special part-time students.” Students also must have their principal’s recommendation and parent/guardian/caregiver consent. The school district and community college district governing boards determine the appropriate credit that these students receive for their community college classes. With the repeal of 5 CCR 1630, it is now possible for students to receive “dual credit”—both high school and community college credit—for community college courses.

    A student may not be enrolled as a full-time student in both the high school and the community college. Consequently, they only may take a maximum of the equivalent of 11 semester credits at the community college, since the equivalent of 12 semester credits constitutes full-time enrollment.

    A high school student who is concurrently enrolled in a community college or a state college or university has a compulsory education requirement of 180 instructional minutes (instead of 240 instructional minutes in the high school). However, if the student is enrolled for 180 instructional minutes, the student generates only .75 ADA for every day of attendance. The student would have to be enrolled and in attendance for 240 instructional minutes to generate a full day of attendance. Being enrolled for 180 instructional minutes generates no attendance credit unless the student is also enrolled in a public higher education institution.

    Early College High School External link opens in new window or tab. and Middle College High School External link opens in new window or tab. give details about their schools that offer concurrent enrollment in community college. Many of those schools offer their coursework through independent study.

Data Management Systems

  1. Are there programs that help independent study staff keep track of attendance, grades, and other records?

    Yes. There are many programs that can track student growth and can be integrated with attendance accounting systems used by districts. For examples of data management programs used by successful independent study schools, contact one of the Exemplary Independent Study Recognition Award (EISRA) recipients (see the Award-Winning Exemplary Independent Study Schools), or attend one of the workshops offered by the CCIS. See CCIS External link opens in new window or tab. for conference information.

Credits

  1. Is it permissible to grant or accept partial credits?

    Schools must accept the partial credit of satisfactorily completed coursework. EC Section 48645.5 states:

    Each public school district and county office of education shall accept for credit full or partial coursework satisfactorily completed by a pupil while attending a public school, juvenile court school, or nonpublic, nonsectarian school or agency. The coursework shall be transferred by means of the standard state transcript. If a pupil completes the graduation requirements of his or her school district of residence while being detained, the school district of residence shall issue to the pupil a diploma from the school the pupil last attended before detention or in the alternative, the county superintendent of schools may issue the diploma.

    A 2007 letter Granting and Transferring of Partial Course Credit from former Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell, outlines this decision on the Partial Course Credit Letter.

  2. Is there any law that allows or disallows students to "test out" of courses and be awarded credit?

    It appears that EC Section 51225.3(b) allows districts to adopt alternative “means for pupils to complete the prescribed course of study which may include practical demonstration of skills and competencies,” which might include testing.

Emancipated Minors

  1. Do legally emancipated minors need parent/guardian signatures on the Independent Study Written Agreement?

    No. The signature of a parent/guardian/caregiver is not required for adults or legally emancipated minors. The Independent Study Written Agreement should clearly indicate that the signature is absent for this reason.

Expelled or Suspended Students

  1. Can expelled or suspended students be served via independent study?

    EC Section 48916.1(a) states, “At the time an expulsion of a pupil is ordered, the governing board of the school district shall ensure that an educational program is provided to the pupil who is subject to the expulsion order for the period of the expulsion.”

    Districts should be aware of the following:

    • The district is responsible for providing the educational program.
    • The district may refer students to educational services provided by county office of education program.
    • The mandated education program should be responsive to the abilities and needs of the student. For independent study to meet this criterion, the student should be considered capable of learning independently. Also, the student’s instructional program should be able to address needs for learning related to the behavioral issues that led to the expulsion.
    Suspended Students

    Suspended students may take courses via independent study only if the student is offered the alternative of classroom instruction [EC Section 51747(c)(7)]. Since independent study must be continuously voluntary [EC Section 51747(c)(7); 5 CCR Section 11700(d)(2)], schools may not assign suspended students to take courses via independent study.

    Instead, students can be assigned to a supervised suspension classroom, also known as “in-school suspension.” Students in supervised suspension classrooms are enrolled in their regular schools, just as all suspended students are enrolled in their regular schools, if they pose no imminent danger or threat to the campus, students, or staff, or if an action to expel the student has not been initiated.

    The supervised suspension classroom is similar to independent study in that the teacher promotes the independent completion of work and tests missed by the student because the student is not in a regular classroom. Students in supervised suspension classrooms must have access to appropriate counseling services. Districts can claim ADA credit for students in supervised suspension classrooms. The law for supervised suspension classrooms is EC Section 48911.1.

    Suspended Expulsions

    If the district suspends the enforcement of an expulsion order [EC Section 48917], the district may enroll the student in independent study if the student has the option of classroom instruction. If the parent/guardian/caregiver insists on classroom instruction, the district must provide it.

    The option for classroom instruction must be noted in the Independent Study Written Agreement. Independent study may be deemed appropriate for the rehabilitation of the student, and the parent's/guardian’s/caregiver’s involvement in the rehabilitation program may be specified in the student's rehabilitation program. If the parent/guardian/caregiver insists on classroom instruction for a student whose expulsion order has been suspended, the district must provide it. The law regarding suspended orders of expulsion is EC Section 48917.

    Students who were not expelled for offenses listed in EC Section 48915 may be served via independent study.

    Other expelled students whose expulsions are suspended and who continue to be enrolled by the district may be enrolled in other types of schools that may legally provide instruction through independent study.

    Fully Expelled Students

    Students who are fully expelled from a district may not earn apportionment for any district program, including independent study. [EC Section 48925(b)]

    A full expulsion is defined in EC Section 48925(b) as “removal of a pupil from (1) the immediate supervision and control, or (2) the general supervision, of school personnel, as those terms are used in Section 46300.” EC Section 46300 defines the method of computing ADA and specifically prohibits districts from collecting apportionment for fully expelled pupils in independent study. Districts may refer such students to county programs for expelled students if programs are available. 

    Independent study may not be used in a community day school per EC Section 48663(d). Students who were fully expelled for violations per EC Section 48915(a) or (c) are limited to community day school enrollment within a school district, and therefore cannot participate in independent study.

    Students who were not expelled for offenses listed in EC Section 48915 may be served via independent study.

    Students expelled for any reason who are enrolled in a county community school may be provided instruction through independent study, so long as it is voluntary.

    For charter schools, the procedures for suspending or expelling students must be described in a charter petition per EC Section 47605(b)(5)(J).

    For more information about expulsions and suspensions, please contact David Kopperud, Education Programs Consultant, by phone at 916-323-1028 or by e-mail at dkopperud@cde.ca.gov.

Frequency of Required Meetings

  1. Is there a requirement for how often students and teachers should meet face-to-face (or online) in independent study?

    1. EC Section 51747(a) states that adopted Board Policy must stipulate the maximum length of time between the date the assignment is given and when it is due, by grade level and type of program. This typically translates into a written agreement that identifies the classes the student must complete, and when and how to turn in assignments to teachers. However, the law is silent about “meetings.”
    2. The timing/frequency of student-teacher interactions should be determined by the teacher, based on student need.
    3. There is, however, an issue of what auditors consider a “reasonable” amount of time between student work completed and teachers verifying the work—an issue that is reinforced by the educational need for frequent, formative assessments to ensure that students are making adequate progress.

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Homeless Students

  1. Can homeless students take classes via independent study?

    Yes. Homeless students have the right to enroll in and attend school. As such, homeless students have the same rights as all other students to choose independent study as an alternative to classroom-based instruction. In addition, they have different criteria to meet for evidence of residency in the district.

    For more information about education for homeless students, see Homeless Children & Youth Education.

Independent Study Written Agreements (Also Known as Master Agreements)

  1. What are the required components of an Independent Study Written Agreement?

    1. The Independent Study Written Agreement (also known as Master Agreement) covers up to one semester or one-half year in a year-round school. (Short-term agreements are discussed below.)
    2. The EC requires that Independent Study Written Agreements contain all of the following elements:
      1. General student data including the name, address, grade level, school of enrollment, and program placement. (The birth date and statewide student identifier [SSID] number of student should be added, but are not required). EC sections 51748, 51747.3(b), and 46300.1
      2. List of the number of course credits or other measures of academic accomplishment to be earned by the student upon completion. EC Section 51747(c)(6); 5 CCR 11703(b)(2)
      3. The learning objectives for the course(s). EC Section 51747(c)(2); 5 CCR 11702(b)
      4. Methods of study. EC Section 51747(c)(2); 5 CCR 11700(f) and 11702(b)
      5. Specific resources, including instructional materials and personnel, which will be made available to the student. EC sections 51746 and 51747(c)(3); 5 CCR 11700(i) and 11701.5
      6. Methods of evaluation that will be used to determine if the student met the learning objective(s). EC Section 51747(c)(2); 5 CCR 11700(e); see also the ISOM Chapter 7 page 7-6; and Chapter 11 page 11-8
      7. Manner of reporting, how and when the student will present his or her work product to the supervising teacher, including:
        1. Time
        2. Frequency
        3. Location (may be a combination of labs, classrooms, face-to-face, and/or online) EC Section 51747(c)(1)
      8. Beginning and end dates of the agreement. EC Section 51747(c)(5)
      9. Duration, or maximum length, of the agreement. EC Section 51747(c)(5)
      10. Dated signatures. EC sections 51747(c)(8) and 46300.7; 5 CCR 11702(a)
        1. Student
        2. Parent/guardian/caregiver
        3. Supervising certificated teacher
        4. All other persons with a direct responsibility for providing assistance to the student
      11. Number of missed assignments that will lead to an evaluation to determine if independent study is appropriate for the student. EC sections 51747(b) and 51747(c)(4)
      12. Maximum length of time between the date of the assignment and when it is due, by grade level and type of program (pursuant to Board Policy). EC Section 51747(a)
      13. Statement that independent study is a continuously optional educational alternative in which no student is required to participate. EC Section 51747(c)(7); 5 CCR 11700(d)(2)(A)
      14. Statement that instruction may be provided for a Section 48915 (expulsion) or 48917 (suspended expulsion) student through independent study only if the student has the continuous choice of classroom instruction. EC Section 51747(c)(7); 5 CCR 11700(d)(2)(B)
    3. Refer to the Sample Independent Study Written Agreement (DOC) or an example of a legally compliant written agreement.
    4. The CCIS offers Compliance Workshops and copies of the CCIS Self-Assessment Compliance Guide. The guide includes a model Independent Study Written Agreement.
  2. What are subsidiary/supplemental agreements and independent study assignment work records?

    Since the Independent Study Written Agreement is like a curriculum plan, any required elements not in the written agreement should be in one or more documents that are referenced in the written agreement as “subsidiary agreements” and become part of the agreement. These subsidiary documents help the student and family to understand the course of study, and commonly include assignment and work records, but may also take different forms such as course outlines and curriculum guides. Such subsidiary agreements would provide a more detailed description of the learning objectives, resources, methods of study, and evaluation methods. The ISOM has sample Assignment and Work Record forms in Chapter 8 (see pages 8-23, 8-24, and 8-29).

  3. Whose signatures are required on an Independent Study Written Agreement?

    1. EC Section 51747(c)(8) and 5 CCR 11702(a) require that each Independent Study Written Agreement must be signed, prior to the commencement of independent study, by the student, parent/guardian/caregiver, supervising teacher, and all persons who have direct responsibility for providing assistance to the student.
    2. To meet federal highly qualified teacher requirements at the high school level, an independent study student may have several subject matter expert (highly qualified) teachers in addition to his or her supervising teacher. Usually these other teachers sign the written agreement as “other” or sign a course contract that is incorporated by written reference into the Independent Study Written Agreement. If not all of the subject matter expert teachers have signed the written agreement, the student may still begin work on the subjects for which the teacher(s) have signed.

  4. Is it permissible for some of the required signatures to be provided by fax?

    Faxed signatures are routinely used for business and legal documents—in court documents and settlement agreements, for instance. In light of this practice, there is no known prohibition to using faxed signatures for the signatures on Independent Study Written Agreements required by EC Section 51747(c)(8). In some instances, such as in online courses, it may be necessary to have different parties signing different copies. All copies are then faxed to the school and attached to the student’s main written agreement, which is retained in the student records.

  5. If a teacher leaves during the middle of a semester, how is the Independent Study Written Agreement amended to reflect the new teacher?

    There is no law or regulation on this issue. When such situations do occur, it is suggested that the school retain a written record of the change in the file with the written agreement and have a written record to make it clear for the auditor what was done and why. For example, having Teacher B sign as Supervising Teacher on the existing agreement with a new date and a simple note of explanation such as “replacing Teacher A who is on leave” should suffice.

Instructional Minutes, Days

  1. What are the required instructional minutes and required length of the school year for independent study?

    Independent study is not an alternative curriculum; students must meet the same required number of instructional minutes as their peers in any school. To claim apportionment, schools must offer at least a “minimum day.” In independent study, a “minimum day” is based on the teacher’s determination of the time value of that work. Schools are to offer the following numbers of minutes per grade level:

    • Kindergarten: 180 minutes (EC Section 46117)
    • Grades one through three: 230 minutes (EC Section 46112)
    • Grades four through eight: 240 minutes (EC Section 46113)
    • High school: 240 minutes (EC Section 46141)
    • Adult education: 180 minutes (EC Section 46190)
    • Opportunity education: 180 minutes (EC Section 46180)

    Continuation education is assigned in hours, not by minimum day. “… a day of attendance is 180 minutes of attendance but no pupil shall be credited with more than 15 hours of attendance per school week, proportionately reduced for those school weeks having weekday holidays on which classes are not held.” EC Section 46170

    Charter schools must meet annual instructional minutes requirements. EC Section 47612.5(a)(1)

    Schools are to offer the following number of physical education minutes per grade level:
    • Students in grades one through six must be provided with at least 200 minutes of physical education instruction each 10 school days. EC Section 33352(b)(1)
    • Students in grades seven through twelve must be provided with at least 400 minutes of physical education instruction each 10 school days. EC Section 33352(b)(2)

    Schools also must offer 175 days of instruction through the 2012–13 school year; then it becomes 180 school days.

Continued on Frequently Asked Questions Part Two.

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Questions: Chiem-Seng Yaangh | CYaangh@cde.ca.gov | 916-319-0943 
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