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Independent Study

Independent study is a different way of learning. In independent study, a student is guided by a teacher but usually does not take classes with other students every day. The student works independently.

Independent study is available to children and adults. Many school districts offer this type of education, but some do not. Students who participate in independent study take the same courses as students in regular classes.

School districts cannot force students into independent study programs; students and parents choose this type of study on their own. Independent study programs are designed to help students who have health problems, are parents, are gifted, are working, or who find that regular classroom settings do not meet their needs.

The California Department of Education works to improve independent study programs in school districts.

  • For more information about independent study in your area, contact your local school district.
  • The Independent Study - CalEdFacts page provides a more detailed overview of independent study.
  • The links and information below were developed for educators and others who operate independent study programs.

Program Information

The following provide helpful information about independent study rules, regulations, and effective practices.

Independent Study Summary
Information on the purpose, services, funding, and students served.

Quick Guide to Independent Study
Essential elements of independent study including the types of programs, key legal requirements, written or master agreements, local board policy, funding, attendance, etc.

Frequently Asked Questions About Independent Study

Independent Study Operations Manual
A resource for educators and parents/guardians/caregivers that provides critical information about independent study in California schools.

Legal Requirements for Independent Study 
A comprehensive list of basic requirements for operating a legally compliant independent study program.

Sample Independent Study Written Agreement (DOC; Revised 24-Sep-2012)
Provides an example of a legally compliant independent study agreement, including legal citations for all required elements.

Federal Teacher Requirements for Independent Study
Information on meeting federal requirements for highly qualified teachers in independent study.

Ratio Calculations Instructions
Complete guidelines on how to calculate teacher-to-average daily attendance ratios for independent study, with examples.

Guide to Evaluating Your Independent Study Practices (DOC; Revised 04-Oct-2012)

Exemplary Independent Study

Resources
Links to offices, documents, and programs related to independent study.

Questions: Dan Sackheim | dsackhei@cde.ca.gov | 916-445-5595 
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