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Independent Study

Provides key information and resources on independent study programs, including frequently asked questions and guidance for the provision of services.

Independent study is an alternative to classroom instruction consistent with a local educational agency’s (LEA) course of study and is not an alternative curriculum. Independent study is governed by the California Education Code (EC) sections 51745–51749.6 External link opens in new window or tab..

The legislation authorizing independent study was enacted in 1976. While originally designed to serve pupils whose schedules precluded regular classroom attendance (such as child actors and aspiring athletes), independent study has evolved to serve a wide range of pupils and families.

Assembly Bill (AB) 130 (Chapter 44, Statutes of 2021) was approved on July 9, 2021 and, for the 2021–22 school year only, requires school districts and county offices of education to offer independent study as an educational option (EC Section 51745).

  • The independent study Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) have been updated to support LEAs in the development and implementation of the changes to independent study.

Additional FAQs and other instructional time and attendance accounting resources are available on the California Department of Education’s (CDE’s) Instructional Time and Attendance Accounting web page.

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

Participating in Independent Study

Independent study is available to pupils from transitional kindergarten through high school, and is designed to respond to the pupil’s unique educational needs, interests, aptitudes, and abilities within the confines of legal authority and school board policy. Pupils who participate in independent study have the same course requirements as pupils in regular classes.

Participation in independent study must always be the choice of the pupil, parent, guardian, or caregiver. LEAs shall not require or otherwise obligate the pupil’s participation in an independent study program. To learn more about independent study options, contact your local school district or county office of education.

Resources

  • Independent Study Listserv
    Join the independent study listserv to receive program information, including legislative updates, technical assistance and guidance opportunities, resources, and other pertinent materials.
  • AB 130 Letter on Changes to Independent Study
    AB 130 makes significant changes to independent study and, for the 2021–22 school year only, requires school districts and county offices of education to offer independent study as an educational option (EC Section 51745). This preliminary information and guidance is provided to support local educational agencies in the development and implementation of the changes to independent study.
  • Quick Guide to Independent Study
    An overview of independent study describing the types of programs, key legal requirements, written or learning agreements, local board policy, funding, and attendance.
  • Ratio Calculations Instructions
    Complete guidelines on how to calculate teacher-to-average daily attendance ratios for independent study, with examples.
  • Independent Study—CalEdFacts
    Provides a more detailed overview of independent study.
  • Additional Resources
    Links to additional independent study information.

Exemplary Independent Study

For many pupils, 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 pupil needs, interests, and styles of learning. Independent study is not an alternative curriculum and independent study pupils are expected to meet the same educational objectives as all other pupils. 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: Thursday, August 26, 2021
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