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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.

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


  • 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 |
Last Reviewed: Thursday, October 08, 2020