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.
Provides information on the purpose, services, outcomes, funding, and students served for independent study.
Resources & Publications
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Quick Guide to Independent Study
An overview of independent study describing the types of programs, key legal requirements, written or master agreements, local board policy, funding, and attendance.
- Guide to Evaluating Your Independent Study Practices (DOC)
Assists in the evaluation of the quality and effectiveness of independent study practices.
- Independent Study Operations Manual
A resource for educators and parents/guardians/caregivers that provides critical information about independent study in California schools.
- Additional Resources
Links to additional information about independent study.
- Federal Teacher Requirements
Information on meeting federal requirements for highly qualified teachers in independent study.
- 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.
- Sample Independent Study Written Agreement (DOC)
Provides an example of a legally compliant independent study agreement, including legal citations for all required elements.
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.
- Elements of Exemplary Independent Study
Outlines fundamental elements and indicators of the characteristics of exemplary independent study practice.
- Award-Winning Exemplary Independent Study Schools
Schools that have been recognized for their excellence in educational practices where independent study is the primary mode of instruction.