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Award-Winning Exemplary Independent Study Schools

Schools that have been recognized for their excellent educational practices where independent study is the primary mode of instruction.

The Exemplary Independent Study Recognition Award (EISRA) Program, a joint project of the California Department of Education and the California Consortium of Independent Study (CCIS), recognizes excellent educational practices in schools where independent study is the primary mode of instruction. The intent of the award program is to create a resource list of quality programs for school visits.

Eligible applicants must have 75 percent or more of the school's students enrolled in independent study, a statewide Academic Performance Index (API) rank of six or above, and may not be in Program Improvement. Schools also must demonstrate compliance with all legal requirements for independent study. (The API is the state's accountability model. Program Improvement is a federal plan to help schools improve academically.)

As part of the EISRA application, staff, parents/guardians, and students provide narrative supporting statements and applicants provide information on seven independent study elements. The elements include local educational agency support, teacher quality, standards-aligned curriculum and materials, assessment of student academic achievement, among other elements. Schools receive the EISRA designation for three years, and the recipient schools must submit an annual assurance in order to maintain the title.

2010–11 EISRA Recipient

Award Period: 2012–2015

  • River Valley Charter School (Charter, 7–12) External link opens in new window or tab.
    Lakeside Union Elementary, San Diego County
    2010–11 Enrollment: 252

    River Valley Charter School runs a rigorous, college preparatory “blended” independent study program which is structured much like a typical college or university. Students attend classes two days per week from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The mandatory 75-minute classes are in four core areas: English, mathematics, science, and social science. Students are assigned “lesson extensions,” including homework, project-based learning, and research and writing assignments to complete during the other three days of the week. Many electives are offered before or after school, or via independent study. Tutoring is available four days per week after school and is mandatory for some students based on Student Study Team recommendations.

2009–10 EISRA Recipients

Award Period: 2011–2014

  • February 14, 2011 News Release

  • The Classical Academy High School (Charter, 9–12) External link opens in new window or tab.
    Escondido Union School District, San Diego County
    2009–10 Enrollment: 257

    The Classical Academy High School is a direct-funded charter school authorized by the Escondido Union School District. The school’s API score rose 27 points over the past year to 837. This school offers students a choice of program designs. Students who choose the studio program meet face-to-face with their teacher four days per week in addition to working independently at home or taking advantage of Learning Labs for tutoring. Students participating in the full-time independent study option meet weekly with the teachers and complete assignments at home. Students receive support in attaining grade-level standards and above through a strong cohort system, required community service, parent education and involvement, tutoring, and a low teacher-student ratio (18 to 1). All teachers participate in weekly collaborative conversations focused on assessment design and careful analysis of student achievement. The school features project-based assignments, arts integration, college and career preparation, and extracurricular engagement.

  • El Camino High School at Ventura College (Grades 9–12) External link opens in new window or tab.
    Ventura Unified, Ventura County
    2009–10 Enrollment: 285

    El Camino High School at Ventura College is a Middle College Academy in the Ventura Unified School District. The school’s API rose 38 points in the last year to 821, in addition to attaining a 100 percent participation rate in testing and yearly increases in California Standards Test scores. In concert with the school’s focus on college preparation, students at El Camino High School are required to take at least one class per semester concurrently at Ventura Community College. The school has a thriving Renaissance Program—part of the nationally recognized academic awards and incentive program. The school boasts a thriving culture, high graduation rates, and strong student leadership program. There is also a well-established system for academic support, starting with a Fundamentals Class that is required for all new students and teaches them time-management and study skills. In addition, all students receive calendars and pacing guides to help them keep up with their assignments. Teachers participate in weekly meetings to discuss student progress and plan interventions as needed.

  • Lincoln Street Independent (K–8) External link opens in new window or tab.
    Tehama County Office of Education, Tehama County
    2009–10 Enrollment: 46

    Lincoln Street Independent School is a small school that is housed at the Tehama County Office of Education. With only three full-time teachers, the school receives enthusiastic support from parents, students, and the county office of education, which houses the school. Due to the small student population, the school experiences yearly changes in its API, and in fact, lost 24 points in the last year, moving from 870 to 846. In spite of that, the school boasts high achievement for its students, 53 percent of whom are on free or reduced-price lunches, indicating they have come from a low-socioeconomic background. To maintain the high student achievement, the school offers a strong parent education program, both on the Web, where lessons and curriculum support are available, and via parent resource booklets that map the California Standards for each grade and course. Members of the school staff are active in a Small Schools Consortium, which aids in providing many resources (for students and for teacher professional development) that would otherwise be unaffordable. A strong focus on the California Standards and use of regular embedded assessments help teachers to keep their students on track for achieving grade-level proficiency.

2008–09 EISRA Recipients

Award Period: 2009–2012

  • La Entrada High School (Grades 9–12)
    Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District, Orange County
    2008–09 Enrollment: 94

    La Entrada High School serves a highly mobile population and provides continuity through weekly meetings with supervising teachers. The school also provides subject matter expertise though weekly meetings with single subject credentialed teachers in core academic areas.

  • Tamiscal High School (Grades 9–12) External link opens in new window or tab.
    Tamalpais Union High School District, Marin County
    2008–09 Enrollment: 110

    Tamiscal High School, also a California Distinguished High School, provides individualized instruction in one-on-one meetings that are described as "a weekly oral defense of the knowledge that the student has acquired that week," as well as required small group mathematics and science laboratories and individual tutoring as needed. A "Distinguished School" designation means a school has demonstrated educational excellence for all students and progress in narrowing the achievement gap that exists between higher- and lower-performing students.

2007–08 EISRA Recipients

Award Period: 2008–2011

Questions: Dan Sackheim | | 916-445-5595 
Last Reviewed: Wednesday, December 12, 2018