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Frequently Asked Questions Part Two

Part two of frequently asked questions and answers pertaining to Independent Study.

Answers to Common Questions

Listed below are the topics and frequently asked questions about independent study. Also see Frequently Asked Questions Part One.

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 they 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?

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 (UC) A-G Policy for Non-Site-Based Independent Study Schools

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

Work Samples

  1. What are the rules about keeping samples of student work?
  2. What kinds of work should be kept as samples?

Online Independent Study

  1. Can an independent study student take online courses?

    Online courses provide an option for accessing classes that an independent study school or program cannot offer with existing staff.

    1. A number of districts are now offering online courses, and if a course is offered at another school within the district, an independent study student’s ability to access the course should be straightforward.
    2. It may also be possible, on a fee basis, for a student to take a course offered by an online provider outside the local school district. The district must pre-approve credit for the course and there should be a clear agreement on who is responsible to pay the fee. In some cases access to outside courses will need to be arranged with district-level agreements.
    3. In all cases, the principal at the student’s primary school should determine whether or not the student’s grade and credit for an outside course will be accepted to meet graduation requirements, and students should receive approval prior to beginning any outside course.

  2. Are there any program examples or resources for online education via independent study?

    Yes. Refer to the following resources:

    For information about online courses that satisfy the UC/California State University (CSU) entrance requirements, see Online Learning External link opens in new window or tab..

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?
    1. According to California law, 5 CCR 11701.5. Equitable Provision of Resources and Services:
      • (c) pupils or adult education students who choose to engage in independent study are to have equality of rights and privileges with the pupils or adult education students of the district or county office of education who choose to continue in the regular school program.
    2. District policy and practice may not prevent students from participating in a graduation ceremony or from participating in sports or any other social activities for the school in which they are enrolled simply because the students have taken or are taking their classes in independent study. Any denial of that right or privilege to independent study students is a prohibited form of discrimination. Whenever possible, it is recommended that districts make services and resources equally available to all district independent study students. 5 CCR 11701.5(b)
    3. The California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) Bylaws, Section 306 External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF), govern participation of independent study programs and schools:

      The CIF defines independent/home study programs under the jurisdiction of a CIF-member school or school district as those independent/home study programs in which the curriculum is approved, the program administered and the students evaluated by that school/school district’s governing body’s designees.
      1. A student enrolled in an Independent Study Program is eligible at the public school in whose attendance area his/her parent(s)/guardian(s)/caregiver(s) reside, or where the student most recently established his/her residential eligibility provided that:
        1. A student’s registration is accepted by the local school board; and
        2. The courses taken by the student meet the standards adopted by the local school board and Education Code Section 51745 et seq.; and
        3. The administrative responsibility for the student involved in athletics would rest with the principal of the school for which the student is competing; and
        4. The student meets all other eligibility requirements of the CIF and its member sections; and
        5. For the purposes of determining dues, legal and liability assessments, realignment issues and CIF State and Section divisional placement, the enrollment figures for non-CIF-member school/program students residing in the CIF-member school’s attendance area must be included in the CIF-member school’s California Basic Educational Data System (CBEDS) enrollment figures.

Physical Education

  1. Can a school offer physical education via independent study?

    Yes. Physical education offered via independent study should meet the statutory physical education requirements listed below:

    1. Students in grades one through six must be provided with at least 200 minutes of physical education instruction each 10 school days. EC Section 51210(g)
    2. Students in grades seven through twelve must be provided with at least 400 minutes of physical education instruction each 10 school days. EC Section 51222(b)
    3. Students in grades five, seven, and nine must take the statewide physical fitness test as required by EC Section 60800. See Physical Fitness Testing (PFT).
    4. For students in grades nine through twelve, EC sections 51220(d) and 33352(b)(7) together require that an LEA offer a course of study in physical education that includes instruction in eight areas, taught over the span of the physical education classes offered as part of the school’s course of study. The law does not specify that every class must include instruction in all eight areas, but that the course of study over grades nine through twelve includes all eight areas.

      5 CCR 10060 states:

      Each school district shall appraise the quality of the physical education program in each senior or four-year high school of the district by the following criteria:
      1. The course of study provides for instruction in a developmental sequence in each of the following areas:
        1. Effects of physical activity upon dynamic health
        2. Mechanics of body movement
        3. Aquatics
        4. Gymnastics and tumbling
        5. Individual and dual sports
        6. Rhythms and dance
        7. Team sports
        8. Combatives for boys
      One source of information for providing the course of study is the Physical Education Model Content Standards for California Public Schools (PDF; 2MB), High School Courses 1 and 2, which convey a course model that includes the topics listed above.
    5. For additional information, see Physical Education FAQs.
  1. How can a school meet the required number of minutes of instruction for physical education through independent study?

    1. The accounting for the minutes of instruction (see question 38) can be met in the usual independent study way, as provided by EC Section 51747.5(a), under the general supervision of a credentialed teacher. This teacher determines the time value of the student's work product, as provided in 5 CCR 11700(b)(2).
    2. Both “book work” (the concepts, principals, and strategies of physical education) and physical activity are recommended in the Physical Education Model Content Standards for California Public Schools (PDF; 2MB) and the Physical Education Framework for California Public Schools (PDF; 4MB), and count toward the required minutes of physical education instructional time.

      • For the “book work” part of physical education via independent study, the teacher would assign grade-level work comparable to assignments given to students at that grade level in other district schools.
      • For the physical activity part, the teacher would assign the physical activity (such as participating in 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity a minimum of four days each week). The student (and/or the student’s parent[s]/guardian[s]/caregiver[s], depending on the student's age) would keep a physical education activity log(s). This log would be signed by the parent/guardian/caregiver (in elementary school) or responsible adult involved with the physical activity, such as a parks and recreation director or team coach. Any such log is for the teacher’s use and record and is not for apportionment or the audit file. The independent study teacher can require substantiation of the physical activity. For example, a student could record his or her heart rate while using a heart monitor, or could calculate calories burned while using a pedometer. In addition, students could keep a record of striking an object consistently so that the object travels in the intended direction at the desired height

  2. What is the valid teaching credential for physical education instruction via independent study?

    EC
    Section 44865 states:

    A valid teaching credential issued by the State Board or the Commission on Teacher Credentialing, based on a bachelor's degree, student teaching, and special fitness to perform, shall be deemed qualifying for assignment as a teacher in the following assignments, provided that the assignment of a teacher to a position for which qualifications are prescribed by this section shall be made only with the consent of the teacher: … (k) Independent study.

    This allows independent study teachers to teach any subject with any credential, including physical education. It should be noted that the CDE encourages schools to have teachers with a physical education credential teach or provide general supervision for physical education via independent study whenever possible.

  3. 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?

    Each district should define a process for approving courses for which credit can be awarded. A district-approved physical education course should be valid for independent study students, as long as it meets the usual conditions of apportionment for independent study (covered by a written agreement, assignments completed by due dates, and supervising teacher determination of the time value of completed work).

    District-approved physical education courses provided via independent study may generate both academic and apportionment credit.

Policies and Procedures

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

    The following resources will help in ensuring that the independent study option meets all of the California laws and regulations:

    1. Refer to the Standards and Procedures for Audits of California K–12 Local Education Agencies, which is available from the Education Audit Appeals Panel External link opens in new window or tab. .
      • Provisions related to independent study are in Section 19819.
      • Provisions for charter schools using nonclassroom-based instruction (independent study) are in Sections 19850, 19852, and 19853.
    2. Review the Independent Study Operations Manual for guidelines, sample agreements, and an overview of how to provide independent study.
    3. Review the Legal Requirements in Independent Study (coming soon) for a complete listing of statutes and regulations relating to independent study.
    4. Access more information at legal compliance workshops and CCIS External link opens in new window or tab. conferences.

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 the students are dealing with a newborn?

    Teen parents may need additional flexibility in the months following the birth of a child. Students may elect to carry a minimum course load during this time, as long as they meet minimum day requirements. If possible, the school can schedule additional tutoring or support. Many independent study programs partner with child care centers so that parenting teens can drop their children nearby in order to have the time for meetings with teachers and to attend labs and tutorials. Some schools offer child development classes that will assist the new parents while helping them achieve high school credits.

    The rules for attendance accounting apply to parenting teens. For more information, see Expectant & Parenting Students.

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Program Improvement

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

    Schools/districts in PI must follow the state and federal requirements. See Program Improvement School Requirements. However, schools that offer independent study must continue to comply with the laws and regulations regarding independent study.

Records (Record-keeping)

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

    For a detailed answer to this question, see Audits in Independent Study (coming soon).

Resources for Independent Study

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

    The following resources will help in establishing and maintaining a high quality independent study option for students:

Right to Classroom Option

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

    Districts may not refuse independent study students the right to return to a classroom setting. By law, independent study must be continuously voluntary, and this is a condition of apportionment. As a result, the district could lose state funding by refusing a student reentry to a classroom-based option. EC Section 51747(c)(7); 5 CCR 11700(d)(2)(A)

    Auditors are specifically directed on this issue. The Standards and Procedures for Audits of California K–12 Local Education Agencies, available from the Education Audit Appeals Panel External link opens in new window or tab. .
    • Provisions related to independent study are in Section 19819.
    • Provisions for charter schools using nonclassroom-based instruction (independent study) are in sections 19850, 19852, and 19853.
    The “Audit Guide” contains the following language:
    • (5) Interview administrative personnel and school counselors of the local education agency to determine if the local education agency had policies and procedures to ensure that any pupil terminating an independent study agreement was permitted to immediately recommence classroom study.

Short-term Independent Study

  1. Is there a limit on how many days an independent study agreement can be in effect?

    EC Section 46300(e)(1) allows districts to claim apportionment for students "participating in independent study" for five or more consecutive school days. Note that this EC section does not apply to charter schools. However, this does not apply to charter schools, per EC Section 46170.

    There is no distinction in law between short-term and long-term independent study— the same legal requirements must be met in either case. The phrase "short-term independent study" refers to independent study provided to a classroom-based student who needs to be away from school and on independent study for a short period of time (usually a matter of days or weeks) but who will return to the classroom. In these cases, the student’s classroom teacher often serves as the independent study supervising teacher and provides the independent study assignments (coursework the student would have covered had he or she remained in the classroom during this period).

Special Education

  1. Can special education students participate in independent study?

    Special education students may not participate in independent study unless it is specified as an instructional method in their IEP. EC Section 51745(c)

    For additional information about special education:

Summer Independent Study

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

    1. All of the supplemental instruction programs, including summer school, have been changed from being a “categorical” program to being part of the “flexed” funding (allowing districts flexibility in the use of funds) until the 2014–15 school year. Districts receive their apportionment for supplemental instruction based on the apportionment that the district received in the base year of 2007–08. Districts do not report their hours of supplemental instruction to the CDE during the years that the categorical program funding is flexed.
    2. EC Section 51745(e) states: “No course included among the courses required for high school graduation under Section 51225.3 shall be offered exclusively through independent study.” However, if a course required for high school graduation is offered through independent study summer school, it does not have to be offered in the classroom setting during summer school if the course is offered in the classroom setting during the regular school year.
    3. If a district chooses to offer supplemental instruction via independent study during the summer, the time value of the student’s work may be reported only for the days and times established by the local governing board’s calendar and schedule for summer school, as if the student were attending summer school seat-time classes. Note that all supplemental instruction attendance is reported in hours.

Travel

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

    1. Yes. State law allows the use of independent study to serve a student who is traveling. The EC for independent study envisions “continuing and special study during travel” as one of the educational opportunities to be offered through independent study. EC Section 51745(a)(4)
    2. The requirements for independent study for students who are traveling are the same as for independent study in other situations, including written agreements. There is no distinction in law between independent study for traveling students and other independent study students; the same legal requirements must be met in either case.
    3. Traveling out of state does not pose any special barriers. Students may return completed work by fax, e-mail, or other agreed-upon electronic method. Students also may turn work in upon their return, as long as the student meets the due date requirements established in the written agreement.

Teacher Qualifications in Independent Study

  1. What are the credentials required for teachers providing instruction via independent study?

    EC Section 44865 states:

    A valid teaching credential issued by the State Board or the Commission on Teacher Credentialing, based on a bachelor's degree, student teaching, and special fitness to perform, shall be deemed qualifying for assignment as a teacher in the following assignments, provided that the assignment of a teacher to a position for which qualifications are prescribed by this section shall be made only with the consent of the teacher: … (k) Independent study.

  2. Do the federal requirements for highly qualified teachers apply to those teaching via independent study?

    Yes. All California teachers must meet the federal requirements to be highly qualified. In order to ensure compliance with federal requirements for highly qualified teachers in independent study:

Transcripts

  1. Should “independent study” be designated on student transcripts?

    No. To designate "independent study" on the transcript suggests that it is an alternative curriculum, which is prohibited by EC Section 51745(3), which states that “Independent study shall not be provided as an alternative curriculum.” Furthermore, 5 CCR 11701.5(a) states that “the independent study option is to be substantially equivalent in quality and in quantity to classroom instruction...” Both these sections make it clear that students who take courses via independent study are not to be viewed as having had a different or inferior course of study.

Truancy in Independent Study

  1. Do truancy laws apply to students in independent study?
    1. Students in K–12 independent study are not subject to truancy laws. Instead, EC Section 51747(b) calls for an evaluation to determine whether or not the student should remain in independent study:

      (b) The number of missed assignments that will be allowed before an evaluation is conducted to determine whether it is in the best interests of the pupil to remain in independent study, or whether he or she should return to the regular school program. A written record of the findings of any evaluation made pursuant to this subdivision shall be treated as a mandatory interim pupil record. The record shall be maintained for a period of three years from the date of the evaluation and, if the pupil transfers to another California public school, the record shall be forwarded to that school.
    2. Most schools have instituted a system of progressive interventions, starting when a student misses a single assignment, so that the problems that are preventing the student from completing assignments can be addressed. In the extreme case, if a student never turns in work and never comes to appointments, that student would rapidly accumulate missed assignments. Once the specified number of missed assignments is reached, the student’s continuance in independent study must be evaluated and his or her return to the regular classroom or another appropriate educational option considered.
    3. If the student is referred back to the regular classroom program and fails to attend, truancy laws would come into play. As soon as the pupil has accumulated three unexcused absences of more than 30 minutes in the regular program, the student should be deemed a truant pursuant to EC Section 48260, and the school attendance review board (SARB) process should begin with the parental notice of truancy (EC Section 48260.5).

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

  2. How can schools ensure that independent study students are not picked up by local police for loitering or truancy?

    1. Many schools have worked with local law enforcement to provide students with an accepted, semester-by-semester student identification card that verifies the student’s participation in independent study. Typically these schools also educate both families and students about the importance of loitering laws and respectful ways to interact with the police.
    2. Many city councils have adopted ordinances in their municipal codes pertaining to truancy. Most of these ordinances state that they are not intended to interfere with the rights of parents or legal guardians to arrange for the independent study of their children as provided for in EC. In addition, most local statutes note that in enforcing the provisions of the ordinance, local law enforcement professionals are to work in cooperation with the SARB established by the school district. The purpose of the ordinances is to promote and protect public safety, health, and welfare by reducing juvenile criminal activity during the daytime hours by providing local law enforcement with remedies to decrease unexcused absenteeism in schools within a city.
    3. Most of the ordinances do not consider a student in violation if the student: (1) has in his/her possession a written excuse from the student's parent/guardian/caregiver or other adult having the legal care or custody of the minor which provides a reasonable explanation for the student's absence from a school; or (2) has in his/her possession identification showing he or she is exempt from attendance at a public or private full-time day school as set forth in the EC. Failure to have either a written excuse or appropriate identification may make the student subject to local ordinances prohibiting 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?

    1. The UC has adopted a policy for submission of independent study courses for approval under the UC a-g subject requirements (courses required for UC/CSU admissions). The policy applies to “schools in which at least half of the students receive 80 percent of their instruction off campus (i.e., students receive less than 6 hours of instruction on campus each week).”
    2. See the UC A-G Guide External link opens in new window or tab. for information about online and nonclassroom-based policies, courses, and schools.
    3. For purposes of meeting UC/CSU entrance requirements, UC honors non-UC approved online courses through the principal certification process. For more information, see the UC Online Courses Policy External link opens in new window or tab..

Waivers

  1. Can a local educational agency apply for waivers of independent study rules and regulations?
    1. Schools may apply for a general waiver to the State Board of Education. See the following CDE Web pages for more information:
    2. Schools that were established as Alternative Schools of Choice under EC Section 58500 may apply for State Superintendent of Public Instruction waivers under EC Section 58510. See the Instructions for Preparing a Waiver Request.

Work Samples

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

    1. According to 5 CCR 11703(b)(3), records shall include …

      A file of all agreements, including representative samples of each pupil’s or adult education student’s work products bearing signed or initialed and dated notations by the supervising teacher indicating that he or she has personally evaluated the work, or that he or she has personally reviewed the evaluations made by another certificated teacher.
    2. According to 5 CCR 11700(l): “‘Work product’ means that which results from a pupil’s or adult education student’s efforts and actions to complete or perform the assignments given and which is subsequently evaluated by a certificated teacher.”
    3. According to 5 CCR 11703(b)(3), the samples must be “representative,” but leaves it to the district to determine what is representative. Work sample practices should be consistent among teachers within the district.
      • Independent study supervising teachers select samples of student work to be kept in the audit file as required. Local authorities should set rules for work sample selection related to frequency and the number of samples by subject or unit of work.
    4. Representative samples of student work are required for the audit trail.
    5. The Standards and Procedures for Audits of California K–12 Local Education Agencies (available from the Education Audit Appeals Panel External link opens in new window or tab.) is silent on the number of work samples that must be kept for independent study, and auditors would not be expected to second guess a district's determination on the number of samples that is appropriate as long as the case can be made that what is kept is a representative sample.

      In Section 19819(b)(10), auditors are directed to, “Verify that the pupil/adult education student work product samples are related to the assignment pursuant to which the work was undertaken and reflect the curriculum adopted by the local governing board and not an alternative curriculum.”
    6. Independent study law and regulations do not specify whether or not work samples must be “original.” However, audit guidelines have established the standard that work samples be “originals.”
    7. Most administrators recommend that teachers collect at least some samples early in the semester so that they will have samples for each student, in the event that some students leave before the end of the semester (and thus possibly before work samples have been collected for them).

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