The California Department of Education’s Improving Teacher & Principal Quality provides detailed information about the federal teacher requirements. The main challenge for independent study has been the federal requirement that teachers must demonstrate subject matter competence in all the core academic subjects they teach, defined as:
- English/language arts/reading (including reading intervention and California High School Exit Exam [CAHSEE] English classes)
- Mathematics (including math intervention and CAHSEE-mathematics classes)
- Biological sciences
- Social science (history, government, economics, geography)
- Foreign languages (specific)
- Arts (includes drama/theater and dance)
California Education Code (EC) Section 44865 defines credentialing for alternative settings.
There are different options available for demonstrating subject matter competence depending on whether or not a teacher is "new" to the profession (credentialed on or after July 1, 2002), and whether a teacher teaches at the elementary level or the middle school/high school level. For teachers who were credentialed before July 1, 2002, many districts have used the High Objective Uniform State Standard or Evaluation (HOUSSE) process to verify the subject matter competence of experienced independent study teachers. The "new," "not new"," and HOUSSE provisions of federal law are explained in the November 2011 Elementary and Secondary Education Act Teacher Requirements Resource Guide (DOC).
At the secondary (middle and high school) level, many schools are restructuring the delivery of independent study so that teachers are more specialized and students see different teachers for different subjects. Many schools are also grouping students for direct instruction from subject matter experts in on-site classes and labs. Students also access courses not available at their school through online learning or at community colleges.
Highly Qualified Teachers in Independent Study provides examples of approaches that some districts and county offices of education are using to meet the requirement that all core subjects be taught by teachers who have demonstrated subject matter competence.