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Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently asked questions and answers pertaining to independent study.

Below are common questions and answers relating to independent study, as outlined in California Education Code (EC) sections 51745–51749.3 External link opens in new window or tab. and California Code of Regulations (CCR), Title 5 CCR sections 11700–11705.

Admission
Adults
Assigned Work
Attendance
Audits
Best Practices
Charter Schools
Classroom Sessions
Concurrent (Dual) Enrollment
Course (Academic) Credits
Data Management Systems
Emancipated Minors
Expelled or Suspended Students
Frequency of Required Meetings
Homeless Students
Instructional Minutes and Days
Online Courses
Participation in Graduation, Sports, or Other School Events
Physical Education
Policies & Procedures
Pregnant/Expectant & Parenting Students
Records/Recordkeeping
Resources
Right to Classroom Option
Short-term
Special Education
Summer Session
Teacher Qualifications
Transcripts
Truancy
University of California A–G Policy for Nonclassroom-Based Independent Study Schools
Waivers
Work Samples

Admission

  1. Are all students eligible to participate in independent study?
    1. Local Educational Agencies (LEAs), include school districts, charter schools and county offices of education, and are not required to provide independent study. As such, this alternative instructional strategy is not always available in a local school. EC Section 51745(a) If a district does not provide independent study, options may include:
      • An interdistrict transfer
      • Charter schools
      • A school in an adjacent county
      See How To Find Independent Study.
    2. The option to take courses via independent study must be continuously voluntary. EC Section 51747(c)(7); 5 CCR 11700(d)(2)(A)
    3. Independent study students must be enrolled in a local school as a condition of apportionment. EC Section 51748
    4. Special education students may not participate in independent study unless it is specified as an instructional method in their individualized education program (IEP). EC Section 51745(c)
    5. Charter schools that only offer non-classroom based instruction must enroll all students who meet the enrollment requirements set in their charter. EC Section 47605(d)(2)(A)
      • For a student who has an IEP and wants to participate in independent study, a determination as to whether independent study is appropriate must be made within 30 days and written into the IEP.
    6. Community day schools may not utilize independent study as a means of providing any part of the minimum instructional day. EC Section 48663(d)
    7. Not more than 10 percent of the students participating in a continuation high school or opportunity school are eligible for apportionment credit for independent study. Students who are pregnant or are the primary care-giving parent of a child are not counted toward the 10 percent limit. EC Section 51745(b)
    8. For Course Based Independent Study, if more than 10 percent of the total average daily attendance of a school district, charter school, or county office of education is claimed pursuant to this section, then the amount of average daily attendance for all pupils enrolled by that school district, charter school, or county office of education in courses authorized pursuant to this section that is in excess of 10 percent of the total average daily attendance for the school district, charter school, or county office of education shall be reduced by either (A) the statewide average rate of absence for elementary school districts for kindergarten and grades 1 to 8, inclusive, or (B) the statewide average rate of absence for high school districts for grades 9 to 12, inclusive, as applicable, as calculated by the department for the prior fiscal year, with the resultant figures and ranges rounded to the nearest 10th. EC Section 51749.5(b)(5)
    9. EC Section 48206.3 gives a student who is temporarily disabled the right to home and hospital instruction. EC Section 51745(d) states “No temporarily disabled student may receive individual instruction pursuant to EC 48206.3 through independent study.” Per EC Section 47610, this does not apply to charter schools. Charter schools cannot generate attendance for apportionment through home and hospital instruction.
    10. Students in independent study need to have the ability to work independently and schools typically assess an applicant’s likelihood of success in independent study. EC Section 51746(b)(1); 5 CCR 11700(d)(1)(B)
    11. A school may determine that independent study is not an appropriate educational option if a student is far behind in credits. However, a school may allow a student who is significantly behind in credits to participate in independent study if the school personnel believe that the student has the ability to be successful working independently. The student’s success may depend not only on the student's motivation, commitment, and academic abilities, but also on the school's ability to provide the program, supports, and interventions necessary for that success.
  2. Is independent study right for my student?
  3. How do I find an independent study program?
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Adults

For information about adult education and independent study, contact the California Department of Education (CDE) Adult Education Office by email at adulteducation@cde.ca.gov.

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Assigned Work

  1. What is the course content in independent study?
    1. Independent study is established by local governing boards as an alternative delivery method for providing instruction in the core curriculum. EC Section 51745(a)(1–5)
      • It is an instructional strategy for delivering California’s standards-based, grade-level content; not an alternative curriculum, and is expected to be equal in quality to classroom instruction. EC Section 51745(a)(3)
    2. The Independent Study Written Agreement (also known as the Master Agreement) outlines the course of study for each independent study student. EC Section 51747(c)
      • Additional details that will help the parent/guardian/caregiver and student understand the learning goals are provided on subsidiary agreements such as course contracts, assignment and work record forms, and curriculum guides.
    3. Course Based Independent Study provides that the governing board/body must annually certify Course Based Independent Study courses to be the same rigor and quality as equivalent classroom-based courses and shall be aligned to all relevant content standards. EC Section 51749.5
      • Course Based Independent Study courses are taught under the general supervision of certificated employees who hold the appropriate subject matter credential pursuant to ECSection 44300 or 44865, or subdivision (l) of Section 47605, and are employed by the school district, charter school, or county office of education at which the pupil is enrolled. EC Section 51479.5
  2. Are students permitted to study religious materials as a part of the independent study curriculum?

    The California Constitution, Article IX, Section 8 states:

    • No public money shall ever be appropriated for the support of any sectarian or denominational school, or any school not under the exclusive control of the officers of the public schools; nor shall any sectarian or denominational doctrine be taught, or instruction thereon be permitted, directly or indirectly, in any of the common schools of this State.
    • Therefore, no religious materials may be assigned as a part of independent study, and students cannot use religious materials to complete independent study assignments. Attendance cannot be taken and the LEAs cannot claim apportionment credit for work using religious materials, with the following exception:
    • Parents/guardians/caregivers may have their students read and use religious materials to supplement independent study assignments, as long as no apportionment credit is claimed.
  3. Do students need to do as much work in independent study as they would in traditional school?

    Yes. 5 CCR 11701.5 provides that independent study is to be substantially equivalent in quality and quantity to classroom instruction. EC Section 51745(a)(3) provides that independent study shall not be offered as an alternative curriculum. It is important to make sure that independent study students understand the commitment they are making when they sign the Independent Study Written Agreement. Parents/guardians/caregivers, teachers, and students shall understand that students are expected to spend at least as much time on independent study assignments as they would for courses in the comprehensive school. The flexibility of independent study allows students to complete courses at their own pace—either accelerated (for advanced students) or with additional support and practice, as necessary. Both EC Section 51747.5(b) and 5 CCR 11703(b)(4) provide that the time value of a student’s work is personally judged by a certificated teacher.

    For independent study students in K–12 classes, it is important to avoid references to a minimum day program. The Independent Study Written Agreement should not list the minimum hours per week needed to complete assignments. All students at grade level should be assigned a full day’s worth of work that is comparable to the core curriculum assignments in the school that they would attend. To do otherwise will put students at a disadvantage with regard to their readiness for future schooling and careers. High school students routinely given minimum day assignments cannot earn enough academic credit in four years to qualify for graduation.

  4. Are independent study students required to complete their assigned work?
    Yes. In order to earn credit and continue participating in independent study, a student must complete assignments within the guidelines established by the Board Policy and dates listed on the Independent Study Written Agreement. If a student does not complete an established number of assignments within the required time period, the student will be evaluated to determine if independent study is the correct option for the student. EC sections 51747(b) and 51747(c)(4)

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Attendance

  1. What is the minimum length of time for an Independent Study Written Agreement?

    EC Section 46300(e)(1) provides that districts can claim ADA credit for students participating in independent study for five or more consecutive school days. A credentialed teacher determines the time value of the completed student work. If a student has an Independent Study Written Agreement for five days, and participates in independent study for five days, but does only four days of work as determined by the supervising teacher, the district could only claim apportionment for four days. This EC section does not apply to charter schools as they do not have to follow the five or more consecutive school days requirement.

  2. Are schools required to maintain separate attendance records for independent study coursework?

    Yes. Schools must keep a separate listing of the pupils and adult education students by grade level, program and school, who have engaged in independent study, identifying units of the curriculum undertaken and units of the curriculum completed by each of those pupils in kindergarten and grades one to eight, inclusive, and identifying course credits attempted by and awarded to each of those pupils in grades nine to twelve, inclusive, and each of those students in adult education, as specified in their written agreements. 5 CCR 11703(b)(2)

    Attendance accounting varies depending on the student’s instructional program.

    • Non-charter students completing a minimum day through a classroom-based program and then taking additional courses via independent study are counted, for apportionment purposes, based on the classroom-based courses.
    • Non-charter students completing a minimum day through independent study and taking a few classroom-based courses are counted for apportionment purposes via independent study, which requires separate attendance records from the classroom attendance records.
    • If students take all of their courses via independent study, their attendance must be recorded separately from the students in classroom-based programs in the school. 5 CCR 11703(b)(4)
  3. How is independent study attendance determined and reported?

    LEAs are required to have attendance systems procedures that have been approved by the CDE and include independent study attendance tracking information. In California, attendance credit is reported by the LEA in ADA units or, for some programs, in hours, and generates an apportionment of revenue for that district or county office. Independent study attendance is based on a teacher's evaluation of the time value of a student's work.

    Teachers make assignments in increments consistent with the program that the student is enrolled in (i.e., “full days” for traditional K–12 and opportunity education, “hours” for continuation and adult education). Student work must be turned in as specified in the written agreement. Teachers evaluate completed assignments and award attendance credit based on their determination of the time value of the work.

    Completed assignments representing more attendance days for the assignment period may not be "banked" for future use or applied to earlier assignment periods. Late independent study work may not be credited against earlier assignment periods.

    Schools report attendance for students on independent study using the LEA’s attendance system as they would for students in classroom-based programs. However, there will be a delay in reporting independent study attendance since the attendance cannot be reported until the student submits the completed assignments and the teacher determines the time value of that work.

    Non-charter School Attendance Reporting:
    • Schools must use the time value method of attendance accounting. EC Section 51747.5(b)
    • A district can claim a full day’s attendance for completed independent study student work if a credentialed teacher determines the time value of that work is equal to at least a “minimum day.”
    • A minimum day varies depending on grade level. See Instructional Minutes and Days section.
    • For continuation education, independent study is assigned in hours, not minimum day values, and it is not necessary for a student to complete the full three hours for the district to claim apportionment. If the student is assigned 15 hours of work for a five-day week, and completes two-thirds of the work, the district can claim 10 hours.
    • Schools must keep a daily or hourly attendance credit register, as appropriate to the program in which the students are enrolled, separate from classroom attendance records, and maintained on a current basis as time values of student work products are personally judged by a certificated teacher, and reviewed by the supervising teacher if they are two different persons. 5 CCR 11703(b)(4).
    • Prior to reporting attendance for the second principal apportionment local educational agencies must perform independent study ratio calculations to determine if excess ADA needs to be deducted from reported ADA. For detailed information and instructions for performing independent study ratio calculations please refer to the Independent Study Ratio Calculations.
    Charter School Attendance Reporting:
    • Charter schools must use the time value method of attendance accounting. EC Section 51747.5(b)
    • There is no minimum day for charter schools, but charter schools must meet the requirements for annual instructional minutes as required by EC sections 46201 and 47612.5(a)(1)(A–D).
    • The minimum amount of work necessary to constitute a charter school day of nonclassroom-based independent study attendance is within the charter school's and teacher's discretion to determine. Nonetheless, whatever that minimum amount of work is, it must be done on the scheduled school day for which it is claimed as attendance for ADA purposes.
    • Charter schools must comply with independent study laws and regulations. EC Section 47612.5(b)
    • Charter schools must keep a daily attendance credit register, as appropriate to the program in which the pupils or adult education students are enrolled, separate from classroom attendance records, and maintained on a current basis as time values of pupil or adult education student work products are personally judged by a certificated teacher, and reviewed by the supervising teacher if they are two different persons. 5 CCR 11703(b)(4)
    • EC Section 47612.5(a)(2) states that charter schools must “Maintain written contemporaneous records that document all pupil attendance and make these records available for audit and inspection.” A “daily engagement log” (tracking each student’s daily engagement in educational activities for each day school is in session) is required by 5 CCR 11960.
    • Prior to reporting attendance for the second principal apportionment local educational agencies must perform independent study ratio calculations to determine if excess ADA needs to be deducted from reported ADA. For detailed information and instructions for  performing independent study ratio calculations please refer to the Independent Study Ratio Calculations web page.
  4. What is the difference between attendance credit and academic credit in independent study?

    Attendance credit generates funding for the district based on the ADA of all students in district schools. Attendance credit is based on the teacher’s determination of the time value of a student’s work. A student receives full attendance credit as long as he or she completes the time value of a minimum day. See Instructional Minutes and Days section.

    Academic credit is based on the teacher’s determination of the student’s mastery of course content and leads to a record of progress or promotion toward high school graduation requirements. Completed assignments representing more attendance days for the assignment period may receive academic credit. It is possible for a student to lose attendance credit due to missed work and still receive full academic credit at the end of the semester once the course content is successfully mastered, either through make-up work or some other acceleration to meet course learning goals.

    NOTE: Attainment of full attendance credit based on a minimum day will not prepare a student to graduate from high school. For students in grades nine through twelve, the minimum day for attendance credit is equivalent to four hours of classroom instruction. However, for academic credit, a high school student must be assigned work equivalent to the work that classroom-based students are assigned—a full day’s worth of work or the equivalent of six hours of classroom instruction.

  5. How do schools keep attendance records for online courses?
  6. May someone other than the supervising teacher enroll a new student and assign work for the first assignment period?

    (For example, can the school counselor or administrator enroll a student on Day X and give the “first week” assignment, and then, when the student arrives with all work completed a week later, can the supervising teacher claim five days of attendance credit after reviewing the work?)

    No. The following codes and regulations guide schools in claiming attendance credit:

    • Each written agreement shall be signed, prior to the commencement of independent study, by the pupil, the pupil's parent/guardian/caregiver, if the pupil is less than eighteen years of age, the certificated employee who has been designated as having responsibility for the general supervision of independent study, and all persons who have direct responsibility for providing assistance to the pupil. For purposes of this paragraph "caregiver" means a person who has met the requirements of Part 1.5 (commencing with Section 6550) of the Family Code. EC Section 51747(c)(8)
    • The independent study by each pupil or student shall be coordinated, evaluated, and, notwithstanding subdivision (a) of Section 46300, shall be under the general supervision of an employee of the school district or county office of education who possesses a valid certification document pursuant to Section 44865 or an emergency credential pursuant to Section 44300, registered as required by law. EC Section 51747.5(a)
      • “General supervision” means the supervising teacher’s:
        • Continuing oversight of the study design, implementation plan, allocation of resources, and evaluation of pupil or adult education student progress for any pupil's or adult education student's independent study; and
        • Personal determination or personal review of the determination made by another certificated teacher of the time values for apportionment purposes of each pupil's or adult education student's work products. 5 CCR 11700(b)

    In the example given, the first week of work is not assigned by the supervising teacher.

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Audits

  1. What does an independent study school or program need to do to prepare for an audit?

    The best way to prepare is to follow all the laws and regulations concerning a legally compliant independent study program or school. Several resources are available:


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Best Practices

  1. Are there any examples of best practices in independent study?

    See Elements of Exemplary Independent Study. Examples of best practices are under construction and will be provided as soon as available.

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Charter Schools

  1. Are the rules and regulations for charter school independent study the same as for regular public schools?

    There are many EC sections that are different for charter school operations. Also see Charter Schools.

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Classroom Sessions

  1. Are independent study students required to attend labs, classes, and other onsite classroom sessions?

    Independent study students may be scheduled and required to come to group sessions or labs that are specified in the written agreement. Independent study attendance is never based on student presence at “seat-based” sessions. It is based only on the time value of student work per EC Section 51747.5(b).

    If a student fails to attend required group sessions or labs, the student cannot be reported truant since independent study attendance is based only on student work. According to EC Section 51747(b), a student who misses a specified number of assignments must be evaluated to determine whether the student should remain in independent study or return to a classroom-based school program.

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Concurrent (Dual) Enrollment

  1. Is a public school student allowed to have concurrent enrollment in a private school?

    For non-charter schools, this is a local decision that should be established in Administrative Regulations or policies. There are a number of attendance and accountability considerations.

    1. Article IX, section 8, of the California Constitution prohibits public money from being appropriated for the support of “... any sectarian or denomination school, or any school not under the exclusive control of the officers of the public schools…” Since public schools cannot collect revenue for a student participating only on a part-time basis, a district would be advised to seek legal counsel before providing public school services (i.e., single class or extra-curricular program) to a non-enrolled student. While a district usually has discretion under EC Section 35160, that discretion is limited by the Constitution where the district or charter school concludes that it would be providing a benefit to a private school.
    2. For attendance and accountability purposes, if the student is enrolled for at least the minimum day at the public school, the student is a student of the district and school. As such, the public school will be accountable for all attendance records, student testing, and grades. If the school and district agree to accept credits from a private school, there should be a mechanism for verifying that the instruction will help to prepare the student to attain proficiency in grade-level courses. Since the public school receives the ADA for the minimum day offered at that school, there is no additional ADA generated by taking a course at a private school.
    3. If the student is enrolled for at least the minimum day at the private school, then that student should be considered a private school student, and no public monies would be generated to support the education of that student.
    4. For high school students taking online courses outside the public school, the student always should check first with the high school administration to ensure that the online credits will be accepted by the high school and that the online course is comparable to other college preparatory courses offered at the high school.
    5. If the concurrent enrollment in private courses does not in any way affect regular school enrollment, it is the family’s decision whether the student enrolls in the private school course(s) in addition to public school. All parties should be mindful of the effect of additional homework, time demands, or stress levels that might occur as a result of private after-school or weekend classes.
  2. May students take both independent study and regular classroom-based courses at the same time?

    The option to take regular classes should be readily available to students in an independent study program in a comprehensive high school. Districts are encouraged to have policies and procedures in place that enable independent study students in other district schools to take courses in district comprehensive high schools. For example, students may need to take laboratory, performing arts, or other courses for graduation. Likewise, districts are encouraged to have procedures in place that enable classroom-based students to take one or more needed courses via independent study. No course included among the courses required for high school graduation under EC Section 51225.3 shall be offered exclusively through independent study. EC Section 51745(e).

  3. Are high school students allowed to choose the option of adult education independent study for credit recovery?

    High school students may enroll concurrently in adult education secondary classes to make up credits needed for graduation. However, the following restrictions apply:

    1. The adult education program shall not be used to supplant the regular high school curriculum for high school students enrolled in adult education classes. EC Section 52523
    2. “No course required by the school district for high school graduation or necessary for pupils to maintain satisfactory academic progress shall be offered exclusively through the adult education program.” EC Section 52523(a)
    3. Adult schools may receive apportionment credit for independent study only if the independent study students are seeking a high school diploma. EC Section 46300.4
    4. See Adult Education for other questions about adult independent study.
  4. Are independent study high school students allowed to concurrently enroll in community college courses?

    Concurrent enrollment in community college classes is one of the ways high school students can access courses their school does not offer. EC Section 48800 provides that local governing boards may authorize students who would benefit from “advanced scholastic or vocational work” to attend classes at a community college as “special part-time students.” Students also must have their principal’s recommendation and parent/guardian/caregiver consent. The school district and community college district governing boards determine the appropriate credit that these students receive for their community college classes. With the repeal of 5 CCR 1630, it is now possible for students to receive “dual credit”—both high school and community college credit—for community college courses.

    A high school student who is concurrently enrolled in a community college or a state college or university has a compulsory education requirement of 180 instructional minutes (instead of 240 instructional minutes in the high school). However, if the student is enrolled for 180 instructional minutes, the student generates only .75 ADA for every day of attendance. The student would have to be enrolled and in attendance for 240 instructional minutes to generate a full day of attendance. Being enrolled for 180 instructional minutes generates no attendance credit unless the student is also enrolled in a public higher education institution.

    Similarly, a student attending an Early College High School or a Middle College High School who is concurrently enrolled in a community college or a state college or university has a minimum day requirement of 180 minutes per day. Early College High School and Middle College High School students enrolled and in attendance for at least 180 minutes per day generate a full day of attendance. Being enrolled in 180 instructional minutes at an Early College High School or a Middle College High School generates no attendance credit unless the student is also enrolled in a public higher education institution. For more detailed information about Early College High School and Middle College school instructional minute requirements contact the High School Innovations and Initiatives Office at 916-319-0893 or visit the High School web page.

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Course (Academic) Credits

  1. Is it permissible to grant or accept partial credits?

    Schools must accept the partial course credit of satisfactorily completed coursework. EC Section 48645.5 states:

    Each public school district and county office of education shall accept for course credit full or partial coursework satisfactorily completed by a pupil while attending a public school, juvenile court school, or nonpublic, nonsectarian school or agency. The coursework shall be transferred by means of the standard state transcript. If a pupil completes the graduation requirements of his or her school district of residence while being detained, the school district of residence shall issue to the pupil a diploma from the school the pupil last attended before detention or in the alternative, the county superintendent of schools may issue the diploma.
  2. Is there any law that allows or disallows students to "test out" of courses and be awarded credit?

    EC Section 51225.3(b) allows districts to adopt alternative “means for pupils to complete the prescribed course of study which may include practical demonstration of skills and competencies…”, which may include testing. This section further states that graduation requirements, as well as any other alternative modes for completing the course of study “shall be made available to pupils, parents, and the public.”

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Data Management Systems

  1. Are there programs that help independent study staff keep track of attendance, grades, and other records?

    Yes. There are many programs that can track student growth and can be integrated with attendance accounting systems used by local educational agencies. The CDE does not promote attendance accounting programs by outside vendors and recommends reaching out to other independent study local educational agencies for data management programs, or attend related workshops offered by the California Consortium for Independent Study External link opens in new window or tab..

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Emancipated Minors

  1. Do legally emancipated minors need parent/guardian signatures on the Independent Study Written Agreement?

    No. The signature of a parent/guardian/caregiver is not required for adults or legally emancipated minors. The Independent Study Written Agreement should clearly indicate that the signature is absent for this reason.

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Expelled or Suspended Students

  1. Are expelled or suspended students allowed to be served via independent study?

    EC Section 48916.1(a) states, “At the time an expulsion of a pupil is ordered, the governing board of the school district shall ensure that an educational program is provided to the pupil who is subject to the expulsion order for the period of the expulsion.”

    Districts should be aware of the following:

    • The district is responsible for providing the educational program.
    • The district may refer students to educational services provided by the county office of education program.
    • The mandated education program should be responsive to the abilities and needs of the student. For independent study to meet this criterion, the student should be considered capable of learning independently. Also, the student’s instructional program should be able to address needs for learning related to the behavioral issues that led to the expulsion.
    • The student shall not be required to participate in independent study, rather is required to agree to participate in this instruction modality.
    Suspended Students:

    Suspended students may take courses via independent study only if the student is offered the alternative of classroom instruction (EC Section 51747[c][7]). Since independent study must be continuously voluntary (EC Section 51747[c][7]; 5 CCR Section 11700[d][2]), schools may not assign suspended students to take courses via independent study.

    Students may be assigned to a supervised suspension classroom, also known as “in-school suspension.” Students in supervised suspension classrooms are enrolled in their regular schools, just as all suspended students are enrolled in their regular schools, if they pose no imminent danger or threat to the campus, students, or staff, or if an action to expel the student has not been initiated.

    The supervised suspension classroom is similar to independent study in that the teacher promotes the independent completion of work and tests missed by the student because the student is not in a regular classroom. Students in supervised suspension classrooms must have access to appropriate counseling services. Districts can claim ADA credit for students in supervised suspension classrooms, as provided in EC Section 48911.1.

    Suspended Expulsions:

    If the district suspends the enforcement of an expulsion order (EC Section 48917), the district may enroll the student in independent study if the student has the option of classroom instruction. If the parent/guardian/caregiver insists on classroom instruction, the district must provide it.

    The option for classroom instruction must be noted in the Independent Study Written Agreement. Independent study may be deemed appropriate for the rehabilitation of the student, and the parent's/guardian’s/caregiver’s involvement in the rehabilitation program may be specified in the student's rehabilitation program. If the parent/guardian/caregiver insists on classroom instruction for a student whose expulsion order has been suspended, the district must provide it. The law regarding suspended orders of expulsion is EC Section 48917.

    Students who were not expelled for offenses listed in EC Section 48915 may be served via independent study.

    Other expelled students whose expulsions are suspended and who continue to be enrolled by the district may be enrolled in other types of schools that may legally provide instruction through independent study.

    Fully Expelled Students:

    Students who are fully expelled from a district may not generate ADA for any district program, including independent study. (EC Section 48925[b])

    A full expulsion is defined in EC Section 48925(b) as “removal of a pupil from (1) the immediate supervision and control, or (2) the general supervision, of school personnel, as those terms are used in Section 46300.” EC Section 46300 defines the method of computing ADA and specifically prohibits districts from collecting apportionment for fully expelled pupils in independent study. Districts may refer such students to county programs for expelled students if programs are available.

    Independent study may not be used in a community day school per EC Section 48663(d). Students who were fully expelled for violations per EC Section 48915(a) or (c) are limited to community day school enrollment within a school district and cannot participate in independent study.

    Students who were not expelled for offenses listed in EC Section 48915 may be served via independent study.

    Students expelled for any reason who are enrolled in a county community school may be provided instruction through independent study, so long as it is voluntary.

    For charter schools, the procedures for suspending or expelling students must be described in a charter petition per EC Section 47605(b)(5)(J).

    For more information about expulsions and suspensions, please contact David Kopperud, Education Programs Consultant, by email at dkopperud@cde.ca.gov.

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Frequency of Required Meetings

  1. Is there a requirement for how often students and teachers should meet face-to-face (or online) in independent study?
    1. EC Section 51747(a) states that adopted Board Policy must stipulate the maximum length of time between the date the assignment is given and when it is due, by grade level and type of program. This typically translates into a written agreement that identifies the classes the student must complete, and when and how to turn in assignments to teachers. However, the law is silent about “meetings.”
    2. The timing/frequency of student-teacher interactions should be determined by the teacher, based on student need.
    3. There is, however, an issue of what auditors consider a “reasonable” amount of time between student work completed and teachers verifying the work—an issue that is reinforced by the educational need for frequent, formative assessments to ensure that students are making adequate progress.

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Homeless Students

  1. Can homeless students take classes via independent study?

    Yes. Homeless students have the right to enroll in and attend school. As such, homeless students have the same rights as all other students to choose independent study as an alternative to classroom-based instruction. In addition, they have different criteria to meet for evidence of residency in the district.

    For more information about education for homeless students, see Homeless Children & Youth Education.

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Instructional Minutes and Days

  1. What are the required instructional minutes and required length of the school year for independent study?

    Independent study is not an alternative curriculum; students must meet the same required number of instructional minutes as their peers in any school. To claim apportionment, schools must offer at least a “minimum day.” In independent study, a “minimum day” is based on the teacher’s determination of the time value of that work. Schools are to offer the following numbers of minutes per grade level:

    • Transitional Kindergarten/Kindergarten: 180 minutes (EC Section 46117)
    • Grades one through three: 230 minutes (EC Section 46112)
    • Grades four through eight: 240 minutes (EC Section 46113)
    • High school: 240 minutes (EC Section 46141)
    • Adult education: 180 minutes (EC Section 46190)
    • Opportunity education: 180 minutes (EC Section 46180)

    Continuation education is assigned in hours, not by minimum day. “… a day of attendance is 180 minutes of attendance but no pupil shall be credited with more than 15 hours of attendance per school week, proportionately reduced for those school weeks having weekday holidays on which classes are not held.” EC Section 46170

    Charter schools must meet annual instructional minute requirements. EC Section 47612.5(a)(1)

    Schools are to offer the following number of physical education minutes per grade level:

    • Students in grades one through six must be provided with at least 200 minutes of physical education instruction each 10 school days. EC Section 33352(b)(1)
    • Students in grades seven through twelve must be provided with at least 400 minutes of physical education instruction each 10 school days. EC Section 33352(b)(2)

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Online Courses

  1. May an independent study student take online courses?

    Online courses provide an option for accessing classes that an independent study school or program cannot offer with existing staff.

    • A number of districts are now offering online courses, and if a course is offered at another school within the district, an independent study student’s ability to access the course should be straightforward.
    • The principal at the student’s primary school should determine whether or not the student’s grade and credit for an outside course will be accepted to meet graduation requirements, and students should receive approval prior to beginning any outside course.

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Participation in Graduation, Sports, or Other School Events

  1. Do students in independent study have the right to participate in school events, particularly graduation ceremonies?
    • According to California law, 5 CCR 11701.5. Equitable Provision of Resources and Services:
      • (c) pupils or adult education students who choose to engage in independent study are to have equality of rights and privileges with the pupils or adult education students of the district or county office of education who choose to continue in the regular school program.
    • District policy and practice may not prevent students from participating in a graduation ceremony or from participating in sports or any other social activities for the school in which they are enrolled simply because the students have taken or are taking their classes in independent study. Any denial of that right or privilege to independent study students is a prohibited form of discrimination. Whenever possible, it is recommended that districts make services and resources equally available to all district independent study students. 5 CCR 11701.5(b).
    • The California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) Bylaws External link opens in new window or tab., Section 306 governs participation of independent study programs and schools:
      • The CIF defines independent/home study programs under the jurisdiction of a CIF-member school or school district as those independent/home study programs in which the curriculum is approved, the program administered and the students evaluated by that school/school district’s governing body’s designees.
        • A student enrolled in an independent study program is eligible at the public school in whose attendance area his/her parent(s)/guardian(s)/caregiver(s) reside, or where the student most recently established his/her residential eligibility provided that:
          • A student’s registration is accepted by the local school board; and
          • The courses taken by the student meet the standards adopted by the local school board and Education Code Section 51745 et seq.; and
          • The administrative responsibility for the student involved in athletics would rest with the principal of the school for which the student is competing; and
          • The student meets all other eligibility requirements of the CIF and its member sections; and
          • For the purposes of determining dues, legal and liability assessments, realignment issues and CIF State and Section divisional placement, the enrollment figures for non-CIF-member school/program students residing in the CIF-member school's attendance area must be included in the CIF-member school’s California Basic Educational Data System enrollment figures.

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Physical Education

  1. May a school offer physical education via independent study?

    Yes, Physical education offered via independent study should meet the statutory physical education requirements listed below:

    1. Students in grades one through six must be provided with at least 200 minutes of physical education instruction each 10 school days. EC Section 51210(g)
    2. Students in grades seven through twelve must be provided with at least 400 minutes of physical education instruction each 10 school days. EC Section 51222(b)
    3. Students in grades five, seven, and nine must take the statewide physical fitness test as required by EC Section 60800. See Physical Fitness Testing.
    4. For students in grades nine through twelve, EC sections 51220(d) and 33352(b)(7) together require that an LEA offer a course of study in physical education that includes instruction in eight areas, taught over the span of the physical education classes offered as part of the school’s course of study. The law does not specify that every class must include instruction in all eight areas, but that the course of study over grades nine through twelve includes all eight areas.

      5 CCR 10060 states:

      Each school district shall appraise the quality of the physical education program in each senior or four-year high school of the district by the following criteria:

      1. The course of study provides for instruction in a developmental sequence in each of the following areas:
        1. Effects of physical activity upon dynamic health
        2. Mechanics of body movement
        3. Aquatics
        4. Gymnastics and tumbling
        5. Individual and dual sports
        6. Rhythms and dance
        7. Team sports
        8. Combatives for boys

      One source of information for providing the course of study is the Physical Education Model Content Standards for California Public Schools (PDF; 2MB), High School Courses 1 and 2, which convey a course model that includes the topics listed above.

    5. For additional information, see Physical Education FAQs.
  2. How can a school meet the required number of minutes of instruction for physical education through independent study?
    1. The accounting for the minutes of instruction (see Instructional Minutes and Days section) shall be met as provided by EC Section 51747.5(a), under the general supervision of a credentialed teacher. The supervising teacher determines the time value of the student's work product, as provided in 5 CCR 11700(b)(2).
    2. Both the knowledge and performance of concepts, principals, and strategies of physical education are recommended in the Physical Education Model Content Standards for California Public Schools (PDF; 2MB) and the Physical Education Framework for California Public Schools (PDF; 4MB), and count toward the required minutes of physical education instructional time.
      • Subject matter knowledge: the teacher would assign grade-level work comparable to assignments given to students at that grade level in other district schools.
      • Subject matter performance: the teacher would assign the physical activity (such as participating in 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity a minimum of four days each week). The student (and/or the student’s parent[s]/guardian[s]/caregiver[s], depending on the student's age) would keep a physical education activity log(s). This log would be signed by the parent/guardian/caregiver (in elementary school) or responsible adult involved with the physical activity, such as a parks and recreation director or team coach. Any such log is for the teacher’s use and record and is not for apportionment or the audit file. The independent study teacher can require substantiation of the physical activity. For example, a student could record his or her heart rate while using a heart monitor, or could calculate calories burned while using a pedometer. In addition, students could keep a record of striking an object consistently so that the object travels in the intended direction at the desired height.
  3. What is the valid teaching credential for physical education instruction via independent study?

    EC Section 44865 states:

    A valid teaching credential issued by the State Board or the Commission on Teacher Credentialing, based on a bachelor's degree, student teaching, and special fitness to perform, shall be deemed qualifying for assignment as a teacher in the following assignments, provided that the assignment of a teacher to a position for which qualifications are prescribed by this section shall be made only with the consent of the teacher: … (k) Independent study.

    This allows traditional independent study (time valued assignments) teachers to teach any subject with any credential, including physical education. It should be noted that the CDE encourages schools to have teachers with a physical education credential teach or provide general supervision for physical education via independent study whenever possible.

    Course Based Independent Study courses are taught under the general supervision of certificated employees who hold the appropriate subject matter credential pursuant to EC Section 44300 or 44865, or subdivision (l) of EC Section 47605, and are employed by the school district, charter school, or county office of education at which the pupil is enrolled … (EC Section 51749.5).

  4. For apportionment purposes, what are valid courses for physical education via independent study? For example, can a school collect apportionment for a yoga class taught on campus by a credentialed teacher for independent study students?

    Each district should define a process for approving independent study courses for which academic credit can be awarded. Time spent participating in district-approved physical education courses provided via independent study may generate both academic credit and time value towards attendance credit for the purpose of generating apportionment. For apportionment purposes, a district-approved physical education course should be valid for independent study students, as long as it meets the usual conditions of apportionment for independent study (covered by a written agreement, assignments completed by due dates, and supervising teacher determination of the time value of completed work). Traditional independent study attendance credit is based on the time value of a work product and a day of attendance is predicated on the time value of that work product being equivalent to a day of instruction in the classroom, not on one individual course.

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Policies & Procedures

  1. What policies and procedures are required for compliance in offering independent study?

    The following resources will help in ensuring that the independent study option meets applicable California laws and regulations:

    1. Refer to the 2020–21 Guide for Annual Audits of K–12 Local Education Agencies and State Compliance Reporting is available from the Education Audit Appeals Panel External link opens in new window or tab..
      • Provisions related to independent study are in Section D.
      • Provisions for charter schools using nonclassroom-based instruction (independent study) are in Section CC.
    2. Review the Legal Requirements for Independent Study for a complete listing of statutes and regulations relating to independent study.
    3. Access more information at legal compliance workshops and CCIS External link opens in new window or tab. conferences.


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Pregnant/Expectant & Parenting Students

  1. How should independent study teachers give assignments and track attendance for pregnant students, particularly when the students are in the hospital giving birth, or when the students are dealing with a newborn?

    Student parents may need additional flexibility in the months following the birth of a child. Students may elect to carry a minimum course load during this time, as long as they meet minimum day requirements. If possible, the school can schedule additional tutoring or support. Many independent study programs partner with child care centers so that parenting teens can drop their children nearby in order to have the time for meetings with teachers and to attend labs and tutorials. Some schools offer child development classes that will assist the new parents while helping them achieve high school credits.

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Records/Recordkeeping

  1. How long must students' independent study records be kept?

    LEAs shall follow the same guidelines for independent study record retention as with all other student records. Unless otherwise specified, all Class 3—Disposable records shall be destroyed during the third school year after the school year in which they originated (e.g., 1976–77 records may be destroyed after July 1, 1980), with the exception of mandatory permanent pupil records (e.g. transcripts), which must be kept indefinitely. A continuing record shall not be destroyed until the fourth year after it has been classified as Class 3—Disposable. Check district and county policy manuals for specific guidelines, and see CCR, Title 5, sections 432, 437, 16023, 16026, 16027.

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Resources

  1. What resources are available to help understand and/or establish independent study options?

    The following resources will help in providing additional information for establishing and maintaining a high quality independent study option for students:


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Right to Classroom Option

  1. Is there a requirement for students to have a right to return to their regular classroom program?

    Districts may not refuse independent study students the right to return to a classroom setting. By law, independent study must be continuously voluntary, and this is a condition of apportionment. The district could lose state funding by refusing a student reentry to a classroom-based option. EC Section 51747(c)(7); 5 CCR 11700(d)(2)(A)

    Auditors are specifically directed on this issue. The Guide for Annual Audits of K–12 Local Education Agencies and State Compliance Reporting, available from the Education Audit Appeals Panel External link opens in new window or tab..

    • Provisions related to independent study are in Section D.
    • Provisions for charter schools using nonclassroom-based instruction (independent study) are in section CC.

    The “Audit Guide” contains the following language:

    • (5) Interview administrative personnel and school counselors of the local education agency to determine if the local education agency had policies and procedures to ensure that any pupil terminating an independent study agreement was permitted to immediately recommence classroom study.

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Short-term

  1. Is there a limit on how many days an independent study agreement can be in effect?

    EC Section 46300(e)(1) allows districts to claim apportionment for students "participating in independent study" for five or more consecutive school days. Note that this EC section does not apply to charter schools, per EC Section 46170.

    There is no distinction in law between short-term and long-term independent study—the same legal requirements must be met in either case. The phrase "short-term independent study" refers to independent study provided to a classroom-based student who needs to be away from school and on independent study for a short period of time (usually not more than 30 days), but who will return to the classroom. In these cases, the student’s classroom teacher often serves as the independent study supervising teacher and provides the independent study assignments (coursework the student would have covered had he or she remained in the classroom during this period).

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Special Education

  1. Are special education students participate in independent study?

    Special education students may not participate in independent study unless it is specified as an instructional method in their IEP. EC Section 51745(c)

    For additional information about special education:


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Summer Session

  1. Are there rules for establishing independent study for summer sessions?
    1. Under the Local Control Funding Formula LEAs do not generate separate funding for supplemental instruction offered in summer school programs.
    2. If a district chooses to offer supplemental instruction via independent study during the summer session, the time value of the student’s work may be reported for academic credit only for the days and times established by the local governing board’s calendar and schedule for summer session, as if the student were attending summer session seat-time classes. EC Section 51745(e) states: “No course included among the courses required for high school graduation under Section 51225.3 shall be offered exclusively through independent study.” However, if a course required for high school graduation is offered through independent study summer school, it does not have to be offered in the classroom setting during summer school if the course is offered in the classroom setting during the regular school year.
  2. May students participate in independent study to complete work during travel?
    1. Yes. State law allows the use of independent study to serve a student who is traveling. The EC for independent study envisions “continuing and special study during travel” as one of the educational opportunities to be offered through independent study. EC Section 51745(a)(4)
    2. The requirements for independent study for students who are traveling are the same as for independent study in other situations, including written agreements. There is no distinction in law between independent study for traveling students and other independent study students; the same legal requirements must be met in either case.
    3. Traveling out of state does not pose any special barriers. Students may return completed work agreed-upon electronic method. Students also may turn work in upon their return, as long as the student meets the due date requirements established in the written agreement.

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Teacher Qualifications

  1. What are the credentials required for teachers providing independent study instruction?

    EC Section 44865 states: A valid teaching credential issued by the State Board or the Commission on Teacher Credentialing, based on a bachelor's degree, student teaching, and special fitness to perform, shall be deemed qualifying for assignment as a teacher in the following assignments, provided that the assignment of a teacher to a position for which qualifications are prescribed by this section shall be made only with the consent of the teacher: … (k) Independent study.

    Further, EC Section 51747.5 states: (a)The independent study by each pupil shall be coordinated, evaluated, and, notwithstanding subdivision (a) of EC Section 46300, shall be under the general supervision of an employee of the school district, charter school, or county office of education who possesses a valid certification document pursuant to EC Section 44865 or an emergency credential pursuant to EC Section 44300.

    Teachers providing instruction for Course Based Independent Study are required to hold the appropriate subject matter credential and shall be employed by the school district, charter school, or county office of education at which the pupil is enrolled, per EC Section 51749.5.

  2. Do the federal requirements for highly qualified teachers apply to those teaching via independent study?

    No. Under the Every Student Succeeds Act, the No Child Left Behind highly qualified teacher requirements were eliminated and replaced with applicable State certification and licensure requirements. Thus, teachers must meet applicable State certification and licensure requirements, including any requirements for certification obtained through alternative routes to certification, or, with regard to special education teachers, the qualifications described in section 612(a)(14)(C) of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. (20U.S.C. 1412[a][14][C]).

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Transcripts

  1. Should “independent study” be designated on student transcripts?

    No. To designate "independent study" on the transcript suggests that it is an alternative curriculum, which is prohibited by EC Section 51745(3), which states that “Independent study shall not be provided as an alternative curriculum.” Furthermore, 5 CCR 11701.5(a) states that “the independent study option is to be substantially equivalent in quality and in quantity to classroom instruction...” Both these sections make it clear that students who take courses via independent study are not to be viewed as having had a different or inferior course of study.

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Truancy

  1. Do truancy laws apply to students in independent study?
    1. Students in K–12 independent study are not subject to truancy laws. Instead, EC Section 51747(b) calls for an evaluation to determine whether or not the student should remain in independent study:
    2. (b) The number of missed assignments that will be allowed before an evaluation is conducted to determine whether it is in the best interests of the pupil to remain in independent study, or whether he or she should return to the regular school program. A written record of the findings of any evaluation made pursuant to this subdivision shall be treated as a mandatory interim pupil record. The record shall be maintained for a period of three years from the date of the evaluation and, if the pupil transfers to another California public school, the record shall be forwarded to that school.
    3. Most schools have instituted a system of progressive interventions, starting when a student misses a single assignment, so that the problems that are preventing the student from completing assignments can be addressed. In the extreme case, if a student never turns in work and never comes to appointments, that student would rapidly accumulate missed assignments. Once the specified number of missed assignments is reached, the student’s continuance in independent study must be evaluated and his or her return to the regular classroom or another appropriate educational option considered.
    4. If the student is referred back to the regular classroom program and fails to attend, truancy laws would come into play. As soon as the pupil has accumulated three unexcused absences of more than 30 minutes in the regular program, the student should be deemed a truant pursuant to EC Section 48260, and the school attendance review board process should begin with the parental notice of truancy. EC Section 48260.5
    5. For more information about truancy laws, please contact David Kopperud, Education Programs Consultant, by email at dkopperud@cde.ca.gov.
  2. How can schools ensure that independent study students are not picked up by local police for loitering or truancy?
    1. Many schools have worked with local law enforcement to provide students with an accepted, semester-by-semester student identification card that verifies the student’s participation in independent study. Typically these schools also educate both families and students about the importance of loitering laws and respectful ways to interact with the police.
    2. Many city councils have adopted ordinances in their municipal codes pertaining to truancy. Most of these ordinances state that they are not intended to interfere with the rights of parents or legal guardians to arrange for the independent study of their children as provided for in EC. In addition, most local statutes note that in enforcing the provisions of the ordinance, local law enforcement professionals are to work in cooperation with the school attendance review board established by the school district. The purpose of the ordinances is to promote and protect public safety, health, and welfare by reducing juvenile criminal activity during the daytime hours by providing local law enforcement with remedies to decrease unexcused absenteeism in schools within a city.
    3. Most of the ordinances do not consider a student in violation if the student: (1) has in his/her possession a written excuse from the student's parent/guardian/caregiver or other adult having the legal care or custody of the minor which provides a reasonable explanation for the student's absence from a school; or (2) has in his/her possession identification showing he or she is exempt from attendance at a public or private full-time day school as set forth in the EC. Failure to have either a written excuse or appropriate identification may make the student subject to local ordinances prohibiting truancy.

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University of California A–G Policy for Nonclassroom-Based Independent Study Schools

  1. Can schools offer University of California-approved courses to high school students via independent study?
    1. The University of California (UC) has adopted a policy for submission of independent study courses for approval under the UC a–g subject requirements (courses required for UC/California State University [CSU] admissions). The policy applies to “schools in which at least half of the students receive 80 percent of their instruction off campus (i.e., students receive less than 6 hours of instruction on campus each week).”
    2. For purposes of meeting UC/CSU entrance requirements, UC honors non-UC approved online courses through the principal certification process. For more information, refer to the CDE Graduation Requirements.

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Waivers

  1. May a local educational agency apply for waivers of independent study rules and regulations?
    1. Schools may apply for a general waiver to the State Board of Education. See the following for more information:
    2. Schools that were established as Alternative Schools of Choice under EC Section 58500 may apply for State Superintendent of Public Instruction waivers under EC Section 58510. See the Instructions for Preparing a Waiver Request.
    3. There are EC sections that cannot be waived. Reference EC Section 33050 for the State Board of Education general waiver authority.

     

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Work Samples

  1. What are the rules about keeping samples of student work?
    1. According to 5 CCR 11703(b)(3), records shall include … A file of all agreements, including representative samples of each pupil’s or adult education student’s work products bearing signed or initialed and dated notations by the supervising teacher indicating that he or she has personally evaluated the work, or that he or she has personally reviewed the evaluations made by another certificated teacher.
    2. According to 5 CCR 11700(l): “‘Work product’ means that which results from a pupil’s or adult education student’s efforts and actions to complete or perform the assignments given and which is subsequently evaluated by a certificated teacher.”
    3. According to 5 CCR 11703(b)(3), the samples must be “representative,” but leaves it to the district to determine what is representative. Work sample practices should be consistent among teachers within the district.
      • Independent study supervising teachers select samples of student work to be kept in the audit file as required.
      • Local authorities should set rules for work sample selection related to frequency and the number of samples by subject or unit of work.
      • Representative samples of student work are required for the audit trail.
    4. The Guide for Annual Audits of K–12 Local Education Agencies and State Compliance Reporting (available from the Education Audit Appeals Panel) is silent on the number of work samples that must be kept for independent study, and auditors would not be expected to second guess a district's determination on the number of samples that is appropriate as long as the case can be made that what is kept is a representative sample. In Section D, auditors are directed to, “Verify that the pupil/adult education student work product samples are related to the assignment pursuant to which the work was undertaken and reflect the curriculum adopted by the local governing board and not an alternative curriculum.” In Section CC, auditors are directed to, “Verify that pupil work samples have been retained in the file.”
    5. Independent study law and regulations do not specify whether or not work samples must be “original.” However, audit guidelines have established the standard that work samples be “originals.”
    6. Most administrators recommend that teachers collect at least some samples early in the semester so that they will have samples for each student, in the event that some students leave before the end of the semester (and thus possibly before work samples have been collected for them).
    7. Work samples shall include assigned work to learn the concepts, rather than quizzes and tests.
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Questions: Independent Study | INDEPENDENTSTUDY@cde.ca.gov | 916-319-0277 
Last Reviewed: Monday, May 03, 2021
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