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Program Summary

Provides information on the purpose, services, outcomes, funding, and students served for independent study.


The legislation authorizing independent study was enacted in 1976, and originally was designed to serve child actors, aspiring Olympic athletes, and other students whose schedules precluded regular classroom attendance. Over the years, independent study has evolved to serve a wide range of students.

Independent study (California Education Code [EC] sections 51745–51749.3) is provided as an alternative instructional strategy, 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 graduation requirements, independent study offers flexibility to meet individual student needs, interests, and styles of learning.



General Fund apportionment based on a.d.a.

Students Served

Districts, county offices of education, and charter schools reported more than 128,140 students, kindergarten through grade twelve, who were enrolled as full-time independent study students in 2008–09.

An additional but unknown number of students use independent study on a part-time basis in conjunction with classroom-based instruction or on a short-term basis. An additional but unknown number of students also use independent study in adult education high school diploma programs.

Because students in independent study work closely with their teachers, in one-on-one meetings or small group instruction, independent study can be a highly personalized form of instruction. Independent study also offers a high degree of flexibility and individualization, so it can serve a wide range of students including:

Independent study is not for all students—especially at the high school level. Independent study requires basic academic skills and a level of commitment, motivation, organizational skills, and self-direction not unlike the level required by college students.

Questions: Dan Sackheim | | 916-445-5595 
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