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Independent Study

Independent study is an alternative to classroom instruction consistent with a school district’s course of study and is not an alternative curriculum. Independent study is voluntary, many school districts offer this type of education, but some do not.

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 and/or 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 parents.

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

Assemby Bill (AB) 130, Statutes of 2021 Changes to Independent Study
AB 130 makes significant changes to independent study (IS) and, for the 2021–22 school year only, requires school districts and county offices of education to offer independent study as an educational option (California Education Code Section 51745). This preliminary information and guidance is provided to support local educational agencies in the development and implementation of the changes to IS.

Participating in Independent Study

Independent study is available to students from kindergarten through high school, designed to respond to the student’s specific educational needs, interests, aptitudes, and abilities within the confines of the school board policy. Students who participate in independent study take the same courses as students in regular classes.

Enrolling Students into Independent Study

  • Contact your local school and/or school district
  • Must be the choice of the student, parent, guardian, or caregiver
  • School districts cannot force students into independent study programs

Resources & Publications

Requirements

  • Teacher Requirements
    Possession of a valid California teaching credential or an emergency credential or an emergency credential pursuant to California Education Code Section 44300, as required by law.
  • Legal Requirements 
    A comprehensive list of basic requirements for operating a legally compliant independent study program.
  • Ratio Calculations Instructions
    Complete guidelines on how to calculate teacher-to-average daily attendance ratios for independent study, with examples.

Exemplary Independent Study

For many students, independent study is the educational option that enables them to most fully realize their potential. This alternative instructional strategy offers the flexibility to meet individual student needs, interests, and styles of learning. Independent study, however, is not an alternative curriculum and independent study students are expected to meet the same educational objectives as all other students. By law, independent study education is to be equal in quality and quantity to classroom instruction.

Questions:   Independent Study Staff | INDEPENDENTSTUDY@cde.ca.gov
Last Reviewed: Monday, July 19, 2021
Recently Posted in Educational Options
  • Independent Study Notice Pertaining to AB 130 (added 21-Jul-2021)
    Independent Study Notice Pertaining to Assembly Bill 130 and Alternative Schools and Programs of Choice.
  • Independent Study Listserv (added 13-Jul-2021)
    Join the Independent Study listserv to receive program information, including legislative updates, technical assistance and guidance opportunities, resources, and other pertinent materials.
  • Magnet Programs and Schools Listserv (added 13-Jul-2021)
    Join the Magnet Programs and Schools listserv to receive information, resources, and other relevant materials.
  • DOC Frequently Asked Questions (added 25-Jun-2021)
    Answers to frequently asked questions about the District of Choice (DOC) program.