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Independent Study

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.

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

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: Yvonne Evans | | 916-323-2562 
Last Reviewed: Friday, December 13, 2019