Skip to main content
California Department of Education Logo

Independent Study Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently asked questions (FAQs) and answers pertaining to independent study.

These FAQs have been updated to address the changes to independent study pursuant to Assembly Bill 130 (Chapter 44, Statutes of 2021) approved by the Governor on July 9, 2021, and AB 167 (Chapter 2, Statutes of 2021) approved by the Governor on September 23, 2021.

For information and FAQs specific to independent study requirements for average daily attendance (ADA), apportionment, ratio calculations, instructional time, attendance accounting, waivers, and Form J-13A refer to the California Department of Education (CDE) Principal Apportionment web page or contact the Instructional Time and Attendance Accounting office by email at attendanceaccounting@cde.ca.gov.

Guidance on quarantine as it relates to independent study is available on the CDE Clarification for Student Learning in Quarantine web page.

Independent study is governed by California Education Code (EC) sections 51745–51749.6 External link opens in new window or tab. and California Code of Regulations, Title 5 (5 CCR) sections 11700–11705. Local educational agencies (LEAs) shall meet with their legal counsel and independent auditor for alignment of their independent study program with legal authority, regulations, and audit requirements.

Academic Requirements | Attendance and Reporting | Independent Study Environments | Other Supports and Resources | Policies and Procedures | Subgroup Populations

Academic Requirements

Admission
Assigned Work
Classroom Sessions
Immunization
Pupil-Parent-Educator Conference
Right to Classroom Option
Teacher Qualifications
Tiered Reengagement and Interventions
Written (Learning) Agreements

Admission

  1. Are LEAs required to offer an independent study program option?

    For the 2021–22 school year only, school districts and county offices of education (COEs) are required to offer independent study to meet the educational needs of its pupils (EC Section 51745). The school district or COE may meet this requirement by (1) contracting with a COE or (2) entering into an interdistrict transfer agreement. To learn about waiver eligibility, refer to the Waivers section.

    Charter schools are exempt from the requirement to offer an independent study option; however, charter schools that do provide this educational option are required to follow all other requirements for independent study. See the Charter Schools section for more information.
  2. Are all pupils eligible to participate in independent study?
    1. For the 2021–22 school year only, school districts and county offices of education are required to offer an independent study option to all pupils. As such, this alternative instructional strategy is available through local schools. EC Section 51745(a)
    2. Except in the case of pupils quarantined for Coronavirus (COVID-19) in the 2021–22 school year, enrollment in independent study is optional and must be voluntary. EC sections 51747(g)(8) and 51747(j)(1); 5 CCR Section 11700(d)(2)(A)
    3. Independent study pupils must be enrolled in a local school as a condition of apportionment. EC Section 51748
    4. Special education pupils may participate in independent study if their individualized education program (IEP) specifically provides for that participation. EC Section 51745(c)
    5. Charter schools that offer nonclassroom-based instruction must enroll all pupils who meet the enrollment requirements set in their approved charter school petition. EC sections 47605(e)(2)(A) and 51749.5(a)(17)
      • For a pupil who has an IEP and wants to participate in independent study, a determination as to whether independent study is appropriate must be 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 pupils participating in a continuation high school or opportunity school are eligible for apportionment credit for independent study. Pupils 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 (CBIS), if more than 10 percent of the LEA’s total ADA is claimed for pupils enrolled in CBIS, then the amount of ADA for all pupils enrolled by that LEA in courses authorized pursuant to this section that is in excess of 10 percent of the total ADA for the LEA shall be reduced by either (A) the statewide average rate of absence for elementary school districts for kindergarten and grades one through eight, inclusive, or (B) the statewide average rate of absence for high school districts for grades nine through twelve, inclusive, as applicable, as calculated by the department for the prior fiscal year, with the resultant figures and ranges rounded to the nearest tenth. EC Section 51749.5(b)(5)
    9. EC Section 48206.3 gives a pupil who is temporarily disabled the right to home and hospital instruction. EC sections 51745(d) and 51749.5(a)(7)(B) specify that temporarily disabled pupils may not receive individual instruction pursuant to EC Section 48206.3 through independent study, except that for the 2021–22 school year only, LEAs shall be eligible to receive apportionments for independent study for pupils that are subject to quarantine for exposure to, or infection with, Coronavirus (COVID-19) pursuant to local or state health guidance, and if the pupil cannot participate in classroom-based instruction due to the quarantine, and for school closures due to Coronavirus (COVID-19) pursuant to subdivision (c) of EC Section 41422. EC Section 51747(j)
    10. Pupils in independent study should be able to maintain satisfactory educational progress as defined in EC sections 51747(b)(2) and 51749.5(a)(8).
    11. A LEA may determine that independent study is not an appropriate educational option if a pupil is far behind in credits. However, a LEA may allow a pupil who is significantly behind in credits to participate in independent study if it is determined that the pupil has the ability to be successful.
  3. Does a student who requests to participate in independent study due to in-person instruction posing a risk to their health have to provide a doctor’s note or other medical authorization or can a LEA require such documentation?

    No, EC Section 51745(a) specifies that a student is eligible for independent study whose health would be put at risk by in-person instruction, as determined by the parent or guardian of the pupil. Therefore, no authorization other than the request of the parent or guardian is needed.

  4. Under what circumstances are LEAs required to provide learning devices to independent study pupils?

    EC Section 51747.3(b) states that LEAs shall ensure pupils have access to connectivity and LEA owned devices adequate to participate in their educational program.

  5. Is a LEA permitted to provide independent study to pupils in transitional kindergarten?

    Yes. If the LEA’s county-district-school (CDS) code identifies transitional kindergarten as part of the school grade level structure, then transitional kindergarten pupils may be allowed to participate in independent study consistent with the board policy. For information to update a CDS code, please visit the CDE CDS Administration web page.

  6. May pupils participate in independent study to complete work during travel?
    1. Yes. State law allows the use of independent study to serve a pupil who is traveling. EC Section 51745(a)(4) provides for “continuing and special study during travel” as one of the educational opportunities to be offered through independent study.
    2. The requirements for independent study for pupils 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 pupils and other independent study pupils; the same legal requirements must be met in either case.
    3. Traveling out of state does not pose any special barriers. Pupils may return completed work via an agreed-upon electronic method as indicated in the written agreement. Pupils may submit assignments upon their return, as-long-as the due date requirements established in the written agreement, and consistent with board policy, are met.

Return to Top

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)–(6)
      • Independent study is an instructional strategy for delivering California’s standards-based, grade level content; not an alternative curriculum, and is designed to teach the knowledge and skills of the core curriculum. EC Section 51745(a)(3)
    2. The independent study written agreement outlines the course of study for each independent study pupil and shall include the manner, time, frequency, and place for submitting a pupil’s assignments, for reporting the pupil’s academic progress, and for communicating with a pupil’s parent or guardian regarding the academic progress. EC sections 51747(g) and 51749.6(a)(7)
    3. Board policies for traditional independent study shall require that content be aligned to grade level standards provided at a level of quality and intellectual challenge substantially equivalent to in-person instruction; and, for high school students includes access to all courses offered by the LEA for graduation and creditable under the a–g admissions criteria for the University of California or the California State University. EC Section 51747(c)
    4. Course-based independent study (CBIS) provides that the governing board/body must annually certify CBIS courses to be the same rigor, educational quality, and intellectual challenge substantially equivalent to in-person instruction and equivalent classroom-based courses, and shall be aligned to all relevant content standards. EC Section 51749.5(a)(4)(A)
  2. How is the level of satisfactory educational progress determined for independent study pupils?

    The level of satisfactory educational progress is based on the pupil’s achievement and engagement, the completion of assignments; the learning of required concepts; and progress toward successful completion of the course. EC sections 51747(b) and 51749.5(a)(8).

  3. Are pupils 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 pupils 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:

  4. Do pupils need to do as much work in independent study as they would in the regular classroom?

    Yes. 5 CCR Section 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, while EC Section 51747(a)(2) requires that all content be aligned to grade level standards. For course-based independent study, all courses shall be annually certified to be of the same rigor, quality, and intellectual challenge substantially equivalent to in-person instruction.

    It is important that independent study pupils understand the commitment they are making when they sign the independent study written agreement. Parents or guardians, teachers, and pupils shall understand that pupils are expected to spend at least as much time on independent study assignments as they would in the regular classroom setting. The flexibility of independent study allows pupils to complete courses at their own pace—either accelerated (for advanced pupils) or with additional support and practice, as necessary. Both EC Section 51747.5(b) and 5 CCR Section 11703(b)(4) provide that the time value of a pupil’s work is personally judged by a certificated teacher employed by the LEA for traditional independent study. For independent study pupils in transitional kindergarten through grade twelve 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.
  5. Are independent study pupils required to complete their assigned work?

    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 LEA.

    Teachers make assignments in increments consistent with the program that the pupil is enrolled in (i.e., full days for traditional kindergarten through grade twelve and opportunity education, hours for continuation education). Pupil work must be turned in as specified in the written agreement.
  6. Are there geographical limitations on generating attendance for independent study?

    Yes. EC Section 51747.3 limits the claiming of ADA for apportionment for pupils participating in independent study to pupils that reside in the county in which the ADA is reported or in the adjacent county to the county in which the ADA is reported.

Return to Top

Classroom Sessions

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

    Independent study pupils 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 pupil presence at seat-based sessions. It is based on either: (1) traditional independent study: the time value of pupil work per EC Section 51747.5(b); or (2) course-based independent study: course requirements are met and making satisfactory educational progress per EC Section 51749.5.

    If a pupil fails to attend required sessions or labs, the pupil cannot be reported absent or truant since independent study attendance is based only on pupil work product or course progress. According to EC sections 51747(b) and 51749.5(a)(8), a pupil who misses a specified number of assignments or who does not make satisfactory course progress must be evaluated to determine whether the pupil should remain in independent study or return to a classroom-based school program. Further, the lack of participation may activate the LEA’s tiered reengagement strategies.
  2. Are LEAs required to provide opportunities for both synchronous instruction and live interaction for independent study pupils?

    LEAs are required to provide synchronous instruction and live interaction opportunities pursuant to EC sections 51747(e) and 51749.5(a)(4)(C), as follows:

    Minimum Standards for Live Interaction and Synchronous Instruction
    Grade Level Live Interaction Opportunities Synchronous Instruction Opportunities
    Transitional kindergarten through grade three Not applicable Daily
    Grades four through eight Daily Weekly
    Grades nine through twelve Not applicable Weekly

    If a pupil fails to attend required group sessions or labs, the pupil shall not be reported absent or truant as independent study attendance is based only on the time value of pupil work for traditional independent study, and/or for course-based independent study, enrollment and satisfactory educational progress in certified courses. According to EC sections 51747(b) and 51749.5, a pupil who misses a specified number of assignments must be evaluated to determine whether the pupil should remain in independent study or return to a classroom-based school program. Further, pupils who do not participate in live interaction or synchronous instruction shall be documented as nonparticipatory for purposes of pupil participation and tiered reengagement.

  3. Does synchronous instruction have to be in-person?

    No. The synchronous instruction may be in-person or via internet or telephone communications. EC Section 51745.5(d)

  4. Are classified staff permitted to provide the synchronous instruction?

    No. The synchronous instruction must be provided by the teacher of record. EC Section 51745.5(d)

  5. If a pupil does not participate in a day of synchronous instruction, but still completes their assignments, are they marked as absent or nonparticipatory?

    Daily participation is not recorded based on assignments. Daily participation is recorded based on participation in synchronous instruction or live interaction. Pupils in transitional kindergarten through grade three shall be provided opportunities for daily synchronous instruction. If a pupil in transitional kindergarten through grade three does not participate in the assigned synchronous instruction, that pupil would be reported as nonparticipatory for that schoolday for purposes of pupil participation reporting and tiered reengagement (EC sections 51747.5[c] and 51747).

    A pupil that does not participate in assigned synchronous instruction would have that lack of participation recorded as nonparticipatory and that pupil could still generate attendance for funding purposes if they have completed and submitted sufficient work product by the assigned due date that substantiates the time value of a minimum day of instruction. As a point of clarification, pupils participating in independent study do not generate absences. Pupils generate nonattendance for days on which attendance is not earned (nonattendance days) due either to insufficient work product to substantiate time value in traditional independent study or lack of satisfactory progress in course-based independent study courses.

Return to Top

Immunization

  1. What are the immunization requirements for independent study pupils?

    Senate Bill 277 was signed by the Governor on June 30, 2015, and changes immunization requirements for children entering child care or school. Effective January 1, 2016:

    • Parents or guardians of pupils in any school or child-care facility, whether public or private, will no longer be allowed to submit a personal beliefs exemption to a currently-required vaccine.
    • Pupils will no longer be required to have immunizations for entry if they attend:
      • A home-based private school or
      • An independent study program with no classroom-based instruction.

    For additional immunization information, refer to the Regulations FAQs (2019 Changes) External link opens in new window or tab. on the Shots for School website.

    • As a form of example, the CDE legal team has deemed the times on campus in the scenarios below to be classroom-based instruction and, thereby, would require pupil immunization.
    • A pupil is 99 percent virtual, but returns to campus to submit projects, and A pupil completes academic instruction away from campus, but wants to participate in extracurricular activities on campus.

Return to Top

Pupil-Parent-Educator Conference

  1. Are LEAs required to have a meeting with parents or guardians of a pupil interested in independent study?

    Yes. Prior to signing a written agreement for independent study, LEAs must avail themselves as provided in EC sections 51747(h)(2) and 51749.6(b)(8)(B) to answer questions about the educational options and supports available to the pupil in independent study. The LEA may conduct the conference by phone, videoconference, or in-person, and must include an education advocate if requested by the pupil or parent. The LEA may include this topic as part of another school meeting as-long-as time is allowed for responding to questions.

    EC sections 51747(h)(1) require that school districts and county offices of education notify all parents, guardians, or caregivers of the option to enroll their pupil in independent study during the 2021–22 school year. The notification shall include information about the right of the parent, guardian, or caregiver to request a pupil-parent-educator conference prior to enrollment.

    Additionally, for pupils not generating attendance for more than three school days in a school week, not meeting satisfactory educational progress in one or more courses, or otherwise not meeting requirements, LEA’s shall include in their board policies, as part of their tiered reengagement strategies, a clear standard for requesting a pupil-parent-educator conference to review the pupil’s independent study agreement. EC sections 51747(d) and 51749.5(a)(8)(C)(iii)

Return to Top

Right to Classroom Option

  1. Do pupils have a right to return to a regular classroom setting?

    LEAs may not refuse independent study pupils 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 pupil reentry to a classroom-based option. In addition, statute now requires LEAs to include a transition plan for pupils whose families wish to return to in-person instruction in independent study board policies. The transition plan must allow for the return to in-person instruction expeditiously and in no case later than five instructional days. EC sections 51747 and 51749.5; 5 CCR Section 11700(d)(2)(A)

    For the 2021–22 school year only, an exception would be in the case of pupils that are subject to quarantine for exposure to, or infection with, Coronavirus (COVID-19) pursuant to local or state health guidance, and if the pupil cannot participate in classroom-based instruction due to the quarantine, and for school closures due to Coronavirus (COVID-19) pursuant to subdivision (c) of EC Section 41422. EC Section 51747(j)

Return to Top

Teacher Qualifications

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

    Independent study must be provided under the general supervision of an employee of the LEA who possesses a valid certification document pursuant to EC sections 44865, 44300, or 47605(l).

    For traditional independent study, EC Section 51747.5(a) states: 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 LEA who possesses a valid certification document pursuant to EC Section 44865 or an emergency credential pursuant to EC Section 44300, registered as required by law.

    Course-based independent study (CBIS) courses are taught under the general supervision of certificated employees who hold the appropriate subject matter credential pursuant to EC sections 44300, 44865 or 47605(l). CBIS teachers shall be employed by the LEA at which the pupil is enrolled, or by a LEA that has a Memorandum of Understanding to provide the instruction. EC Section 51749.5(a)(3)

  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 Act of 2001 highly qualified teacher requirements were eliminated and replaced with applicable State certification and licensure requirements. Teachers shall meet all 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. 20 U.S.C. Section 1412(a)(14)(C)

Return to Top

Tiered Reengagement and Interventions

  1. Will a LEA’s current procedures for school/district-wide reengagement meet the independent study requirement of procedures for tiered reengagement strategies?

    LEAs may utilize existing procedures for tiered reengagement strategies only if all the requirements in EC sections 51747(d) and 51749.5(a)(8)(c), as applicable, are included in those procedures. The procedures shall clearly identify the specific actions and requirements for pupils participating in an independent study program.

  2. How does tiered reengagement work in course-based independent study (CBIS)?

    Pupils enrolled in CBIS and not making satisfactory educational progress in one or more courses, or who are in violation of the learning agreement pursuant to EC Section 51749.6, shall participate in tiered reengagement strategies per the LEA’s board policies, the learning agreement, and consistent with EC Section 51749.5(a)(8). Further, the LEA shall conduct an evaluation to determine whether the pupil should remain in independent study or be referred to an alternative program.

  3. Are there specific requirements for an independent study tiered reengagement plan?

    Yes. A LEA’s procedures for tiered reengagement shall include: (1) verification of the pupil’s current contact information; (2) notification to parent or guardian of nonattendance or nonparticipation (traditional independent study, only); (3) a plan for outreach to determine the pupil needs; and (4) a clear standard for requiring a conference to review a pupil’s independent study agreement. EC sections 51747(d) and 51749.5(a)(8)(C)

  4. What strategies may LEAs utilize for tiered reengagement?

    The CDE School Attendance Improvement Strategies web page lists 30 practices that have a positive effect on pupil attendance and that can be used in multiple types of learning programs. Attendance practices that LEAs adopt generally fall into one of three categories in a multi-tiered system of support for pupil attendance:

    • The first tier of the reengagement plan involves how the district will welcome pupils and parents and engage them to promote a culture of attendance. This includes raising the awareness of school personnel, parents, guardians, and caregivers of the effects of chronic absenteeism and other challenges to full participation in the educational program.
    • The second tier of the plan ensures that pupils with attendance problems are identified as early as possible to provide applicable support and interventions at the school.
    • The third tier serves pupils who have exhausted the resources of the school by a referral to the school attendance review board (SARB). The SARB is composed of a diverse group of experts who will link the family to any needed school district or community services. The SARB will also identify and respond to grade level or pupil subgroup patterns of chronic absenteeism and will evaluate the effectiveness of strategies implemented to reduce chronic absenteeism rates.

    In addition, the following are outstanding publications describing interventions based on research with links to studies and examples of schools and districts using successful strategies:

Return to Top

Written (Learning) Agreements

  1. What are the required components of an independent study agreement?

    The EC requirements for independent study written agreements include all of the following for the respective independent study model (traditional independent study or CBIS):

    1. Traditional independent study, EC Section 51747(g):
      1. The manner, time, frequency, and place for submitting a pupil’s assignments, for reporting the pupil’s academic progress, and for communicating with a pupil’s parent or guardian regarding a pupil’s academic progress.
      2. The objectives and methods of study for the pupil’s work, and the methods used to evaluate that work.
      3. The specific resources that will be made available to the pupil, to include confirming or providing access to all pupils to the connectivity and devices adequate to participate in the educational program and complete assigned work.
      4. A statement of the policies adopted regarding: (a) the maximum length of time allowed between the assignment and the completion of a pupil’s assigned work, (b) the level of satisfactory educational progress, and (c) the number of missed assignments allowed before an evaluation of whether or not the pupil should be allowed to continue in independent study.
      5. The duration of the independent study written agreement, including the beginning and ending dates for the pupil’s participation in independent study under the agreement. No independent study agreement shall be valid for any period longer than one school year.
      6. A statement of the number of course credits or other measures of academic accomplishment to be earned by the pupil upon completion.
      7. A statement detailing the academic and other supports that will be provided to address the needs of pupils not performing at grade level, or who need support in other areas.
      8. A statement that independent study is an optional educational alternative in which the pupil is not required to participate. For pupils referred or assigned to any school, class, or program, the agreement shall also include a statement that instruction may be provided through independent study only if the pupil is offered the option of classroom instruction.
      9. For the 2021–22 school year only, the written agreement shall be signed no later than 30 days after the first day of instruction by the following persons (after the 2021–22 school year, it shall be signed prior to commencing instruction):
        1. Pupil
        2. Parent or guardian (if the pupil is less than 18 years of age)
        3. Supervising certificated teacher
        4. All other persons with a direct responsibility for providing assistance to the pupil
    2. CBIS, EC Section 51749.6:
      1. A summary of the board adopted policies and procedures.
      2. The duration of the enrolled course(s), the duration of the learning agreement, and the number of course credits for each course. The duration of the agreement shall not exceed a school year or span multiple school years.
      3. The learning objectives and expectations for each course to include:
        1. How satisfactory educational progress is measured.
        2. When a pupil evaluation is required to determine whether the pupil should remain in the course(s) or be referred to in-person instruction.
      4. The specific resources that will be made available to the pupil, to include confirming or providing access to all pupils to the connectivity and devices adequate to participate in the educational program and complete assigned work.
      5. A statement detailing the academic and other supports that will be provided to address the needs of pupils not performing at grade level, or who need support in other areas.
      6. A statement that enrollment in an authorized course is an optional educational alternative in which no pupil may be required to participate. For pupils referred or assigned to any school, class, or program pursuant to EC sections 48915 or 48917, the agreement shall also include a statement that instruction may be provided through CBIS only if the pupil is offered the option of classroom instruction.
      7. The manner, time, frequency, and place for submitting assignments, for reporting academic progress, and for communicating with a pupil’s parent or guardian regarding a pupil’s work.
      8. The objectives and methods of study for the pupil’s work, and the methods used to evaluate that work.
      9. A statement of the policies regarding the maximum length of time allowed between the assignment and the completion of a pupil’s assigned work, the level of satisfactory educational progress, and the missed assignments allowed before an evaluation of whether or not the pupil should be allowed to continue in CBIS.
      10. A statement of the number of course credits or other measures of academic accomplishment to be earned by the pupil upon completion.
      11. For the 2021–22 school year only, the learning agreement shall be signed within 30 days of the commencement of an independent study course by the following persons (after the 2021–22 school year, it shall be signed prior to commencing instruction):
        1. Pupil
        2. Parent or guardian (if the pupil is less than eighteen years of age)
        3. Supervising certificated teacher
        4. All other persons with a direct responsibility for providing assistance to the pupil
  2. What are supplemental agreements?

    The written agreement is the pupil’s individual learning plan for independent study instruction. Any required elements not in the written agreement, including the dates of the independent study instruction, shall be in one or more documents that are referenced in the written agreement as supplemental agreements and become part of the agreement. These supplemental documents help the pupil and parent understand the course of study, and commonly include assignment and work records. Supplemental agreements may also include course outlines and curriculum guides, as well as a more detailed description of the learning objectives, resources, methods of study, and evaluation methods.

    Supplemental agreements should include the signatures of the supervising teacher, the pupil, and the pupil’s parent or guardian (if the pupil is under eighteen years of age). It is not necessary to include the signatures of all persons who have direct responsibility for helping the pupil, but the person or persons involved with the change being made should sign the supplemental agreement.

  3. Is it permissible for some of the required signatures to be provided electronically?

    Electronic signatures are permitted on independent study written agreements in compliance with state and federal standards. The marking may be computer generated or produced by electronic means and is intended by the signatory to have the same effect as a handwritten signature pursuant to EC sections 51747(g)(9)(E) and 51749.6(b)(6).

  4. Whose signatures are required on an independent study written agreement?

    EC sections 51747(g)(9) and 51749.6(b)(1), and 5 CCR Section 11702(a) require that each independent study written agreement be signed by the pupil, parent or guardian (if the pupil is less than eighteen years of age), the certificated employee designated as having responsibility for the general supervision of independent study, and all persons who have direct responsibility for helping the pupil.

  5. 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 pupils participating in independent study for three or more consecutive school days and pursuant to EC sections 51745–51749.6, inclusive.

    In the case of quarantine-related independent study participation, the pupil’s agreement may start on the first schoolday of the pupil’s quarantine. For additional information related to independent study for pupils that are subject to quarantine, refer to the CDE Clarifications for Student Learning in Quarantine web page.

  6. If a teacher leaves during the middle of a semester, how is the independent study agreement amended to reflect the new teacher?

    While there is no legal authority on this issue, this possibility should be addressed by the LEA in their board policies related to independent study. Unless otherwise stated in local policy, it is suggested the LEA retain a written record of the change in the file with the written agreement and have a written record to make it clear for the auditor what was done and why. For example, having Teacher B sign as Supervising Teacher on the existing agreement with a new date and a simple note of explanation such as replacing Teacher A who is on leave.

  7. What information should be included in the written agreement addressing the needs of pupils not performing at grade level or requiring other supports?

    In identifying the academic and other supports that will be provided to address the needs of pupils not performing at grade level, LEAs shall consider the unique needs of English learners, pupils in foster care or experiencing homelessness, and pupils with exceptional needs or requiring mental health supports. LEAs shall clearly identify how the needs were identified and the action(s) and supports to address the needs. Resources available to address the needs of pupil subgroups include:

    • CDE English Language Development Standards web page
      The English language development (ELD) standards, ELD video series, information, and resources to assist LEAs design, implement, and enhance integrated and designated ELD instruction for English learner students.
    • CDE English Learners web page
      Programs and services to help students who do not speak, read, write, or understand English well as a result of English not being their home language.
    • CDE English Learner Roadmap web page
      Guide to assist LEAs to implement California's 21st century college-and-career-ready standards, curriculum, instruction programs, and assessments.
    • CDE Foster Youth Services web page
      Provides foster youth services coordinating program grantee information, county and district contact information, reports and publications, resources, and FAQs.
    • CDE Foster Youth in California Schools web page
      Includes information on foster youth definitions, data and accountability, education rights, and partnerships.
    • CDE Coronavirus (COVID-19) Foster Youth Resource web page
      Contains information and resources regarding Coronavirus (COVID-19) and California's foster youth.
    • Foster Youth Services Coordinating Program Technical Assistance Hub External link opens in new window or tab. web page
      Includes information on legislation, policies, trainings, and other guidance relating to foster youth.
    • CDE Homeless Education web page
      Provides information and resources for homeless children and youth and their right to enroll, attend, participate fully, and succeed in school, including homeless liaisons’ names and contact information.
    • CDE Resources for Homeless Children and Youth web page
      Resources, such as training modules, publications, sample documents, housing questionnaire, and implementation strategies, to better assist LEAs identify, enroll, and serve children and youth experiencing homelessness.
    • CDE Mental Health web page
      Provides strategies, resources and training, including coping with tragedy, crisis intervention and prevention, school psychology and suicide prevention.
  8. Are pupils allowed to start instruction before all required signatures are on the written agreement?

    Yes. For the 2021–22 school year only, LEAs shall allow pupils to begin instruction before all signatures are on the written agreement; however, required signatures shall be affixed on the written agreement no later than 30 days after the pupil’s first day of instruction. Failure to do so may have fiscal implications for the LEA, including a loss of ADA. EC Section 51747(g)(9)(F)

  9. Are LEAs required to meet with a pupil’s parent or guardian prior to signing an independent study agreement?

    Prior to signing an independent study agreement, and at the request of the pupil’s parent or guardian, LEAs shall conduct a phone, videoconference, or in-person meeting pursuant to EC sections 51747(h) and 51749.6(b)(8)(B) to answer questions about the educational options and supports available to the pupil. The LEA may include this topic as part of another school meeting as-long-as time is allowed for responding to questions.

Return to Top

Attendance and Reporting

Attendance
Course (Academic) Credit
Data Management Systems
Instructional Minutes and Days
Recordkeeping
Waivers

Attendance

  1. In what way does assigned work impact attendance?

    As of 2015–16 there are two different independent study programs, traditional independent study and CBIS. There are a lot of common requirements between the programs, but there are also some distinctly different programmatic and fiscal requirements. One difference is the way in which each program generates ADA. In addition to the ADA information below which is based on independent study modalities and environment, please refer to the CDE Instructional Time and Attendance Accounting web page.

    Traditional Independent Study Average Daily Attendance

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

    Noncharter School Attendance Reporting
    • Schools shall use the time value method of attendance accounting for pupils participating in traditional independent study. EC Section 51747.5(b)
    • A district can claim a full day’s attendance for completed independent study pupil 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 pupil to complete the full three hours for the district to claim apportionment. If the pupil 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 pupils are enrolled, separate from classroom attendance records, and maintained on a current basis as time values of pupil work products are personally judged by a certificated teacher, and reviewed by the supervising teacher if they are two different persons. 5 CCR Section 11703(b)(4)
    • LEAs are required to maintain written or computer-based evidence of pupil engagement that includes, but is not limited to, a grade book or summary document that, for each class, lists all assignments, assessments, and associated grades. EC Section 51747.5(d)
    • Prior to reporting attendance for the second principal apportionment, LEAs 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 CDE Independent Study Ratio Calculations web page.
    Charter School Attendance Reporting
    • Charter schools shall use the time value method of attendance accounting for pupils participating in traditional independent study. 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 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 are enrolled, separate from classroom attendance records, and maintained on a current basis as time values of pupil work products are personally judged by a certificated teacher, and reviewed by the supervising teacher if they are two different persons. 5 CCR Section 11703(b)(4)
    • LEAs are required to maintain written or computer-based evidence of pupil engagement that includes, but is not limited to, a grade book or summary document that, for each class, lists all assignments, assessments, and associated grades. EC Section 51747.5(d)
    • 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 pupil’s daily engagement in educational activities for each day school is in session) should be maintained by the pupil and reviewed by the supervising teacher weekly.
    • Prior to reporting attendance for the second principal apportionment, LEAs 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 CDE Independent Study Ratio Calculations web page.
    Course-based Independent Study Average Daily Attendance

    CBIS attendance credit is based on satisfactory educational progress in courses appropriately supervised and certified annually by the local governing board or body. The annual course certification must meet the statutory requirements pursuant to EC Section 51749.5(a)(4) which include requirements that:

    • Courses be of the same rigor, educational quality, and intellectual challenge substantially equivalent to in-person instruction and equivalent classroom-based courses, and
    • Courses be aligned to all relevant local and state content standards
    • For high schools, this includes access to all courses offered by the LEA for graduation and approved by the University of California or the California State University as creditable under the a–g admissions criteria.

    The certification must also include the duration, number of equivalent daily instructional minutes for each schoolday that a pupil is enrolled, number of equivalent total instructional minutes, number of course credits for each course, and a plan to provide synchronous instruction for all pupils and daily live interaction for pupils in grades four through eight, inclusive.

    As required in EC Section 51749.5(b), pupils in CBIS must meet minimum day requirements to generate attendance. The minimum day can be met through CBIS courses or a combination of CBIS courses and traditional independent study or a combination of CBIS courses and in-person instruction.

    All LEAs with CBIS programs must compute ADA for each pupil enrolled. If the total CBIS ADA is greater than 10 percent of total LEA ADA, any CBIS ADA above 10 percent must be reduced by the statewide absence rate, available on the CDE Funding Rates and Information web page for each applicable fiscal year.

    • In addition, similar to traditional independent study requirements, LEAs offering CBIS must compute the ratio of independent study pupils to full-time equivalent certificated employees responsible for independent study and the comparative ratio for all other educational programs, pursuant to EC Section 51745.6 and the independent study ratio calculation instructions provided on the CDE Independent Study Ratio Calculations web page. These calculations help LEAs determine whether they have any excess ADA that cannot be claimed for funding.
  2. How do schools keep attendance records for online courses?

    For more information, see the following:

Return to Top

Course (Academic) Credit

  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 pupils 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.”

Return to Top

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 pupil growth and can be integrated with attendance accounting systems used by LEAs. The CDE does not promote or approve attendance accounting programs or systems by outside vendors. While reaching out to other LEAs for data management programs, or attending related workshops offered by the California Consortium for Independent Study External link opens in new window or tab. may prove helpful in learning about additional recordkeeping resources, statute requires that attendance forms and procedures, including those used for independent study attendance accounting used by school districts and county offices of education be approved by the CDE.

    The CDE’s Principal Apportionment Data Collection software is used by LEAs to report pupil attendance, tax, and other data to calculate funding for the Local Control Funding Formula and special education (AB 602, Chapter 854, Statutes of 1997). Additional information is available on the CDE Principal Apportionment Data Collection web page.

  2. Will LEAs receive additional funding for digital assignment tracking systems to reduce the workload associated with accounting for pupil work?

    There is no additional funding for LEA digital assignment tracking systems; however, it is recommended that LEAs review their Local Control and Accountability Plans priorities and consider adjusting their Local Control Funding Formula and/or other funding to support a system that would reduce staff workload relating to accounting for a pupil’s work.

    While not a mandate, EC Section 51747.5(b) provides the intent of the legislation that teachers be given access to digital assignment tracking systems to reduce workload associated with evaluating and accounting for pupil work.

Return to Top

Instructional Minutes and Days

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

    All school district pupils are required to be offered at least 180 instructional days of instruction per year. All charter school pupils are required to be offered 175 instructional days per year. All pupils are also required to be offered a minimum number of instructional minutes of physical in-person instruction per year that varies by their grade level. This is both a site level and a LEA level requirement.

    Independent study is not an alternative curriculum; pupils must meet the same required number of instructional minutes as their peers enrolled in physical education instruction at the school site.

    To claim apportionment, all school districts and county offices of education must offer at least a minimum day. In order to generate a day of attendance, a pupil of a school district or county office of education must be offered the required annual instructional minutes and days and be scheduled for at least a minimum day.

    In traditional independent study, a minimum day is based on the teacher’s determination of the time value of that work. For CBIS, the combined equivalent daily instructional minutes for enrolled courses authorized per EC Section 51749.5 and enrolled courses authorized by all other laws and regulations shall meet the minimum instructional day requirements applicable to the LEA. Pupils enrolled in courses authorized by this section shall be offered the minimum annual total equivalent instructional minutes pursuant to EC sections 46208 and 47612.5.

    • The required minimum day offering and scheduling thresholds are as follows:
    • Transitional kindergarten/kindergarten: 180 minutes (EC Section 46117)
    • Grades one through three: 230 minutes (EC Section 46112)
    • Grades four through twelve: 240 minutes (EC sections 46113 and 46141)
    • Opportunity school: 180 minutes (EC sections 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:

    • Pupils 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)

    Pupils 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). For additional information, visit the CDE Physical Education FAQ web page.

    For additional information on instructional time and attendance accounting, refer to the CDE Instructional Time and Attendance Accounting web page.

Return to Top

Recordkeeping

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

    LEAs shall follow the same guidelines for independent study record retention as with all other pupil 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., 2006–07 records may be destroyed after July 1, 2010), 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 5 CCR sections 432, 437, 16023, 16026, and 16027.

Return to Top

Waivers

  1. What are the waiver requirements for a LEA that is unable to offer an independent study option?

    For waiver information, visit the CDE Instructional Time and Attendance Accounting web page, or send an email to attendanceaccounting@cde.ca.gov.

  2. May a LEA apply for waivers of independent study rules and regulations?
    The provisions of EC sections 51747(k), 51747.3(f), 51747.5(g), and 51749.5(g) are not subject to waiver by the California State Board of Education, by the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, or under any provision of Part 26.8 (commencing with EC Section 47600).

Return to Top

Independent Study Environments

Charter Schools

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

    Charter schools are required to follow the requirements in EC sections 51745–51749.5 when providing independent study, except where the language of the statute excludes charter schools. EC sections 51745.6(d) and 51747.3(a) provide legal requirements specific to charter schools. Please refer to the CDE Charter Schools web page for additional information.

  2. Are charter schools exempt from the requirement to offer independent study?

    Yes. The requirement to offer independent study in the 2021–22 school year applies only to school districts and county offices of education.

Return to Top

Concurrent (Dual) Enrollment

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

    For noncharter 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 (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 pupil 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 nonenrolled pupil. 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 pupil is enrolled for at least the minimum day at the public school, the pupil is a pupil of the district and school. As such, the public school will be accountable for all attendance records, pupil 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 pupil to attain proficiency in grade level courses. There is no additional ADA generated by taking a course at a private school.
    3. If the pupil is enrolled for at least the minimum day at the private school, then that pupil should be considered a private school pupil, and no public monies would be generated on the basis of ADA to support the education of that pupil.
    4. For high school pupils taking online courses outside the public school, the pupil 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 pupil 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.
    For charter schools, public funds will not be available for any pupil who also attends a private school that charges the pupil’s family for tuition. EC Section 47602(b)

Return to Top

Course-based Independent Studies

  1. What is CBIS?

    CBIS was first available to pupils in the 2015–16 school year as an alternative to the traditional independent study model. Pupils participating in CBIS enroll in courses that are certified by the LEA to be of the same rigor, educational quality, and intellectual challenge substantially equivalent to in-person instruction and equivalent classroom-based courses.

    CBIS records the pupils’ independent study efforts by converting entire courses to instructional minutes (EC sections 51749.5 and 51749.6). Otherwise stated, CBIS replaces making time valued assignments (traditional independent study) with enrolling in an authorized LEA course when ADA is computed and reported. Attendance for CBIS is earned if all course requirements are met and the pupil is making satisfactory progress.

    All CBIS courses shall be taught under the general supervision of certificated employees who hold the appropriate subject matter credential and are employed by the LEA, or by a LEA that has a Memorandum of Understanding to provide the instruction.

  2. Is a pupil permitted to remain enrolled in CBIS if the pupil is not making satisfactory educational progress in a course?

    Pupils not achieving satisfactory educational progress in one or more courses shall have an evaluation conducted by the certificated employee(s) providing instruction to determine whether it is in the pupil’s best interest to remain in the course(s) or whether the pupil should be referred to the regular classroom or an alternative program. LEAs shall include in their board policies procedures for tiered reengagement strategies for pupils not making satisfactory educational progress in one or more courses. EC Section 51749.5(a)(8)

Return to Top

Home and Hospital Instruction

  1. To learn more about Home and Hospital instruction, including eligibility requirements, please visit the CDE Home and Hospital web page, or send an email to homehospital@cde.ca.gov.

Return to Top

Home Schooling

  1. How do I enroll and find a home school program that works for my pupil?

    For information pertaining to home schooling, please visit the CDE Schooling at Home web page. While LEAs may have independent study studies that they describe as home school, such programs, if offered by the LEA must meet independent study requirements, even if labelled as home school.

Return to Top

Short-term

  1. What constitutes short-term independent study?

    EC Section 46300(e)(1) allows districts to claim apportionment for pupils participating in independent study for three or more consecutive school days and pursuant to EC sections 51745–51749.6, inclusive. For pupils who participate in independent study for fewer than 15 schooldays in a school year, LEAs are exempt from the requirements to provide tiered reengagement strategies, daily live interaction, synchronous instruction, and of returning the pupil to in-person instruction within five instructional days. EC Section 51747(h)(2).

    Short-term independent study for nonquarantine reasons is for pupils with a minimum of three and fewer than 15 cumulative schooldays in a school year.

    Short-term independent study for pupils that are subject to quarantine begins on the first instructional day of the quarantine through the fourteenth cumulative school day in a school year.

    There is no other distinction in law between short-term and long-term independent study (more than 15 days and not longer than a school year). With the exception of the number of days as indicated above, the same legal requirements must be met. In short-term independent study, the pupil’s classroom teacher often serves as the independent study supervising teacher and provides the independent study assignments (coursework the pupil would have covered had the pupil remained in the classroom during this period).

  2. What are the legal requirements for assignment due dates with short-term independent study?

    Assignments for independent study shall be submitted in accordance with the LEA’s adopted policies and as provided in the written agreement. EC Section 51747 provides, in part:

    A local educational agency shall not be eligible to receive apportionments for independent study by pupils, regardless of age, unless it has adopted written policies, and has implemented those policies, pursuant to rules and regulations adopted by the Superintendent, that include, but are not limited to, all of the following:

    (a) The maximum length of time, by grade level and type of program, that may elapse between the time an independent study assignment is made and the date by which the pupil must complete the assigned work.

    The required written agreement shall include “the manner, time, frequency, and place for submitting a pupil’s assignments and for reporting progress.” EC Section 51747(g)(1)

Return to Top

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 through independent study during the summer session, the time value of the pupil’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 pupil 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.
    3. LEAs shall comply with legal requirements as provided in independent study statute. EC sections 51745–51749.6

Return to Top

Virtual Learning

  1. May independent study courses be offered online?

    All online classes or courses offered by the LEA shall be board approved and ensure that content is aligned to grade level standards provided at a level of quality and intellectual challenge substantially equivalent to in-person instruction, as provided in EC Section 51747(c). All courses for CBIS shall be annually certified by the board/body to be of the same rigor, educational quality, and intellectual challenge substantially equivalent to in-person instruction and equivalent classroom-based courses, and shall be aligned to all relevant content standards. EC Section 51749.5(a)(4)(A). The LEA shall be responsible to ensure all course offerings are aligned with independent study legal authority.

  2. Is there a prohibition against using either recorded or live content/instruction provided by third-part content providers?

    Instructional materials shall be approved and adopted by the local board. EC Section 240 requires that “Governing boards of school districts shall adopt instructional materials in accordance with the provisions of Section 60040” relating to social content standards. Local boards shall decide, through a resolution, as to whether instructional materials are aligned to the content standards and are consistent with the content and cycles of the curriculum framework adopted by the State Board of Education for: (i) Mathematics; (ii) Science; (iii) History-social science; (iv) English language arts, including the English language development component of an adopted program. LEAs shall note that content and instruction offered by a third-party provider cannot count towards live interaction or synchronous instruction requirements.

    Further, the traditional independent study by each pupil shall be under the general supervision of a LEA employee with a valid certification document pursuant to EC Section 44865 or EC Section 44300, as required by law. In CBIS, courses are taught under the general supervision of certificated employees who hold the appropriate subject matter credential, and are employed by the LEA at which the pupil is enrolled, or by a LEA that has a Memorandum of Understanding to provide the instruction in coordination with the LEA at which the pupil is enrolled.

  3. Are school districts allowed to open an independent study school to serve all pupils through virtual learning?

    Independent study, or virtual programs offered as a form of independent study, should be implemented as a program, rather than a school type. The legal authority for a school district to meet its instructional day requirements and the annual instructional time requirements mandates that instruction be under the immediate supervision of a certificated employee to be included in instructional day and minute calculations. These requirements are both district level and site level requirements, which carry a financial penalty for not meeting them.

    Regardless of whether independent study is offered through a program within a school or exclusive at a school site, independent study has a number of conditions that must be met to generate funding in addition to the methodology used to determine ADA. These requirements are evaluated through the annual audit guide process, during which external auditors follow audit procedures to determine whether LEAs are in compliance. For additional information, refer to the Guide for Annual Audits of K–12 Local Education Agencies and State Compliance Reporting External link opens in new window or tab..

    School districts may operate, a separate school, which many districts refer to as a virtual school, as an Alternative School of Choice, using independent study as the instructional delivery mode for instruction by electing one of two independent study instructional delivery options:

    • Option 1: Traditional independent study instructional delivery is based on a time value of assignments as determined by the supervising instructor.
    • Option 2: CBIS instructional delivery is based on enrollment in a certified LEA course or courses with attendance earned if all course requirements are met and the pupil is making satisfactory progress.

    Current law only allows LEAs to operate virtual schools using an independent study instructional delivery mode for instruction that is in adherence with options 1 or 2.

    In addition to the programmatic requirements noted above that must be met to generate attendance through independent study, in a school setting LEAs have school site-based instructional time requirements that apply to all school sites within the district. Some of these requirements carry fiscal penalties if unmet. The CDE encourages LEAs to consult with their independent auditors to ensure compliance with site-based annual minute requirements, and with their legal counsel to ensure compliance with equity length of time requirements pursuant to EC sections 37202 and 46207. To learn more about the requirements for establishing an Alternative School of Choice, contact altschoolschoice@cde.ca.gov.

Return to Top

Other Supports and Resources

Comprehensive/Targeted Support and Improvement
Resources

Comprehensive/Targeted Support and Improvement

  1. If a school/district is identified for comprehensive support and improvement or targeted support and improvement, does that change how independent study is offered?

    Schools/districts in comprehensive support and improvement (CSI) or targeted support and improvement (TSI) must follow applicable state and federal requirements. Refer to the CSI/TSI program requirements on the CDE School Support web page.

    LEAs that offer independent study must continue to comply with the laws and regulations regarding independent study as provided in EC sections 51745–51749.6, inclusive.

    For the 2021–22 school year only, school districts and county offices of education shall offer independent study to meet the educational needs of pupils. EC Section 51745(a)

Return to Top

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:

Return to Top

Policies and Procedures

Board Policy
Frequency of Required Meetings
Participation in Graduation, Sports, or Other School Events
Physical Education
Transcripts
Truancy
University of California A–G Policy for Nonclassroom-based Independent Study Schools
Work Samples

Board Policy

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

    Independent study statute requires that LEAs have adopted board policies to include, in part:

    • Maximum length of time between the time an assignment is made and when it must be completed.
    • Level of satisfactory progress a pupil must make and number of missed assignments allowed before an evaluation is conducted to determine whether pupil should remain in independent study.
    • Content must be aligned to grade level standards and substantially equivalent in quality and intellectual challenge to in-person instruction. For high schools, this shall include access to all courses offered by the LEA for graduation and approved by the University of California or the California State University as creditable under the a–g admissions criteria.
    • Procedures for tiered reengagement strategies for pupils not generating attendance for more than three school days or 60 percent of instructional days in a school week, not making satisfactory educational progress in one or more courses (for CBIS), pupils found nonparticipatory as provided in EC sections 51747(d) and 51749(a)(8)(B), or otherwise violating the written agreement.
    • Opportunities for live interaction and synchronous instruction, pursuant to EC sections 51747(e) and 51749.5(a)(4)(C).
    • Plan to transition pupils to in-person instruction upon request within five instructional days.

    In addition to the above, for CBIS (EC Section 51749.5):

    • Courses shall be annually certified to be of the same rigor, educational quality, and intellectual challenge substantially equivalent to in-person instruction and equivalent classroom-based courses, and aligned to all relevant local and state content standards.
    • For high schools, shall include access to all courses offered by the LEA for graduation and approved by the University of California or the California State University to meet admissions criteria.

    It is recommended that LEAs review the following resources to ensure that independent study program implementation meets applicable California laws and regulations:

    1. Refer to the Guide for Annual Audits of K–12 Local Education Agencies and State Compliance Reporting External link opens in new window or tab. is available from the Education Audit Appeals Panel External link opens in new window or tab..
    2. Review the CDE Legal Requirements for Independent Study web page for a complete listing of statutes and regulations relating to independent study.
    3. Refer to the CDE’s Attendance Accounting Office at attendanceaccounting@cde.ca.gov.
    4. Access more information at legal compliance workshops and California Consortium for Independent Study External link opens in new window or tab. conferences.

Return to Top

Frequency of Required Meetings

  1. Is there a requirement for how often pupils and teachers should meet face-to-face in independent study?
    1. Statute does not specify the frequency of pupil-teacher in-person interactions; however, EC sections 51747(a) and 51749.6(a)(7) state that adopted written policies and learning agreement, respectively, must stipulate the maximum length of time between the date the assignment is given and when it must be completed. This typically translates into a written agreement that identifies the classes/courses the pupil must complete, and when and how to turn in assignments. However, the law is silent about meetings.
    2. EC sections 51747(e) and 51749.5(a)(4)(C) provide requirements for both opportunities for synchronous instruction and live interaction by grade level as shown below. The synchronous instruction shall be delivered by the teacher of record for the pupil per EC Section 51747.5.
    Minimum Standards for Live Interaction and Synchronous Instruction
    Grade Level Live Interaction Opportunities Synchronous Instruction Opportunities
    Transitional kindergarten through grade three Not applicable Daily
    Grades four through eight Daily Weekly
    Grades nine through twelve Not applicable Weekly
    1. It is recommended that LEAs give thought to what auditors may consider a reasonable amount of time between pupil work completed and teachers verifying the work—an issue that is reinforced by the educational need for frequent, formative assessments to ensure that pupils are making adequate progress.
  2. How will a LEA document a pupil's participation in live interaction and synchronous instruction on schooldays where pupils are not required to participate in synchronous instruction?

    EC Section 51747.5 provides that a LEA shall document each pupil’s participation in live interaction and synchronous instruction pursuant to EC Section 51747 on each schoolday, as applicable, in whole or in part, for which live interaction or synchronous instruction is provided as part of the independent study program. A pupil who does not participate in independent study on a scheduled live interaction or synchronous instruction shall be documented as nonparticipatory for that schoolday for purposes of pupil participation reporting and tiered reengagement pursuant to EC Section 51747.

    A LEA should not report a student as nonparticipatory on days for which no synchronous instruction or live interaction is scheduled for that student.

Return to Top

Participation in Graduation, Sports, or Other School Events

  1. Do pupils in independent study have the right to participate in school events, particularly graduation ceremonies?
    • According to 5 CCR Section 11701.5, equitable provision of resources and services states “(c) pupils … who choose to engage in independent study are to have equality of rights and privileges with the pupils … of the district or county office of education who choose to continue in the regular school program.”
    • District policy and practice may not prevent pupils 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 pupils have taken or are taking their classes in independent study. Any denial of that right or privilege to independent study pupils is a prohibited form of discrimination. Whenever possible, it is recommended that districts make services and resources equally available to all district independent study pupils. 5 CCR Section 11701.5(b).
    • The California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) Bylaws External link opens in new window or tab., Bylaw 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 pupils evaluated by that school/school district’s governing body’s designees.
      • A pupil enrolled in an independent study program is eligible at the public school in whose attendance area his/her parent(s) or guardian(s) reside, or where the pupil most recently established his/her residential eligibility provided that:
        • A pupil’s registration is accepted by the local school board; and
        • The courses taken by the pupil meet the standards adopted by the local school board and EC Section 51745 et seq.; and
        • The administrative responsibility for the pupil involved in athletics would rest with the principal of the school for which the pupil is competing; and
        • The pupil 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 nonCIF-member school/program pupils 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.
  2. Are LEAs allowed to use state funds to provide low-contact sports opportunities which are only made available to pupils in independent study?

    No. The use of public funds to provide a thing of value to independent study pupils only is not allowable. EC Section 51747.3 provides (in part):

    (a) Notwithstanding any other law, a local educational agency, including, but not limited to, a charter school, may not claim state funding for the independent study of a pupil, whether characterized as home study or otherwise, if the local educational agency has provided any funds or other thing of value to the pupil or his or her parent or guardian that the local educational agency does not provide to pupils who attend regular classes or to their parents or guardians. …

Return to Top

Physical Education

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

    Yes. Physical education offered via independent study should meet all statutory physical education requirements. A source of information for providing the course of study is the CDE Physical Education Model Content Standards for California Public Schools (PDF; 2MB). For additional information, visit the CDE Physical Education FAQs web page.

  2. How can a school meet the required number of minutes of instruction for physical education through independent study?

    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 pupil's work product, as further provided in 5 CCR Section 11700(b)(2).

    Both the knowledge and performance of concepts, principles, and strategies of physical education are recommended in the CDE Physical Education Model Content Standards for California Public Schools (PDF; 2MB) and the CDE 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 pupils 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 pupil (and/or the pupil’s parent[s] or guardian[s], depending on the pupil's age) would keep a physical education activity log(s). This log would be signed by the parent or guardian (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 pupil could record his or her heart rate while using a heart monitor, or could calculate calories burned while using a pedometer. In addition, pupils could keep a record of striking an object consistently so that the object travels in the intended direction at the desired height.

  3. 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 pupils?

    Each district should define a process for approving independent study courses for which academic credit can be awarded through traditional independent study. Time spent participating in district-approved physical education courses provided via traditional 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 traditional independent study pupils, 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), and the pupil is under the general supervision of a certificated employee. 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.

    Each course, including physical education courses offered through CBIS must meet specific supervision and course certification requirements. Students that are enrolled in appropriately supervised and certified courses for at least a minimum instructional day can generate CBIS attendance while enrolled and making satisfactory progress.

Return to Top

Transcripts

  1. Should independent study be designated on pupil transcripts?

    No. To designate independent study on the transcript suggests that it is an alternative curriculum, which is prohibited by EC Section 51745(a)(3), which states that “Independent study shall not be provided as an alternative curriculum.” EC Section 51749.5(a)(4)(A) requires that courses for CBIS be annually certified to be of the same rigor, educational quality, and intellectual challenge substantially equivalent to in-person instruction.

    Further, 5 CCR Section 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 pupils who take courses via independent study are not to be viewed as having had a different or inferior course of study.

Return to Top

Truancy

  1. Do truancy laws apply to pupils in independent study?
    1. Pupils in kindergarten through twelfth grade independent study are not subject to truancy laws. Instead, EC sections 51747(b) and 51749.5(a)(8)(B) call for an evaluation to determine whether or not the pupil should remain in independent study. LEAs are also required to have in their independent study board policies a plan for tiered reengagement strategies to include outreach and clear standards for requiring a pupil-parent-educator conference. EC sections 51747(d) and 51749.5(a)(8)(C)
    2. Most schools have instituted a system of progressive interventions, starting when a pupil misses a single assignment, so that the problems that are preventing the pupil from completing assignments can be addressed. In the extreme case, if a pupil never turns in work and never comes to appointments, that pupil would rapidly accumulate missed assignments. Once the specified number of missed assignments is reached, the pupil’s continuance in independent study must be evaluated and his or her return to the regular classroom or another appropriate educational option considered.
    3. If the pupil 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 pupil 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
    4. For more information about truancy laws, please contact the Educational Options Office, Child Welfare and Attendance Services, by email at cwa@cde.ca.gov.

Return to Top

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

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

Return to Top

Work Samples

  1. What are the rules about keeping samples of pupil work?
    1. According to 5 CCR Section 11703(b)(3), records shall include … A file of all agreements, supplemental agreements, and representative samples of each pupil’s work products. LEAs are not required to sign and date pupil work products when assessing time value for apportionment (EC Section 51747.5[e]).
    2. According to 5 CCR Section 11700(l): “Work product means that which results from a pupil’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 Section 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 pupil 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 pupil work are required for the audit trail.
    4. The Guide for Annual Audits of K–12 Local Education Agencies and State Compliance Reporting External link opens in new window or tab. is silent on the number of work samples that must be kept for independent study. LEA's shall determine the number of samples appropriate to reflect a representative sample. In Section D, auditors are directed to, “Verify that the pupil 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 pupil, in the event that some pupils 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, and not quizzes and tests.
    8. In addition, LEAs shall verify that written or computer-based evidence of satisfactory educational progress was retained for each course and pupil. At a minimum, this evidence shall include a grade book or summary document that, for each course, lists all assignments, examinations, and associated grades.

Return to Top

Subgroup Populations

Adults
Native American Pupils
Emancipated Minors
Expelled or Suspended Pupils
Pupils Experiencing Homelessness
Pupils in Foster Care
Pupils Requiring Mental Health Supports
Special Education

Adults

  1. For information about adult education and independent study, visit the CDE Adult Education web page or send an email to adulteducation@cde.ca.gov.

Return to Top

Native American Pupils

  1. For information about meeting the unique academic, cultural, and linguistic needs of Native American pupils, refer to the CDE American Indian web page.

Return to Top

Emancipated Minors

  1. Do legally emancipated minors need parent or guardian signatures on the independent study written agreement?

    No. The signature of a parent or guardian is not required for adults or legally emancipated minors. The independent study written agreement should clearly indicate that the parent or guardian signature is absent for this reason. For signature requirements, refer to the Written (Learning) Agreements section.

Return to Top

Expelled or Suspended Pupils

  1. Are expelled or suspended pupils 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 pupils 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 pupil. For independent study to meet this criterion, the pupil should be considered capable of learning independently. Also, the pupil’s instructional program should be able to address needs for learning related to the behavioral issues that led to the expulsion.
    • The pupil shall not be required to participate in independent study, rather it shall always be voluntary. A pupil would have to agree to receive instruction through independent study.
    Suspended Pupils

    Suspended pupils may take courses via independent study only if the pupil is offered the alternative of classroom instruction (EC Section 51747[g][8]). Since independent study must be continuously voluntary (5 CCR Section 11700[d][2]), schools may not assign suspended pupils to take courses via independent study. For the 2021–22 school year only, an exception would be made in the case of pupils that are subject to quarantine for exposure to, or infection with, Coronavirus (COVID-19) pursuant to local or state health guidance, and if the pupil cannot participate in classroom-based instruction due to the quarantine, and for school closures due to Coronavirus (COVID-19) pursuant to subdivision (c) of EC Section 41422. EC Section 51747(j).

    Pupils may be assigned to a supervised suspension classroom, also known as in-school suspension. Pupils in supervised suspension classrooms are enrolled in their regular schools, just as all suspended pupils are enrolled in their regular schools, if they pose no imminent danger or threat to the campus, pupils, or staff, or if an action to expel the pupil 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 pupil because the pupil is not in a regular classroom. Pupils in supervised suspension classrooms must have access to appropriate counseling services. Districts can claim ADA credit for pupils 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 pupil in independent study if the pupil has the option of classroom instruction. If the parent or guardian 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 pupil, and the parent's or guardian’s involvement in the rehabilitation program may be specified in the pupil's rehabilitation program. If the parent or guardian insists on classroom instruction for a pupil whose expulsion order has been suspended, the district must provide it. The law regarding suspended orders of expulsion is EC Section 48917.

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

    Other expelled pupils 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 Pupils

    Pupils 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 pupils to county programs for expelled pupils if programs are available.

    Independent study may not be used in a community day school per EC Section 48663(d). Pupils 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.

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

    Pupils 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 pupils must be described in a charter school petition per EC Section 47605(c)(5)(J).

    For more information about expulsions and suspensions, please contact the Educational Options Office, Child Welfare and Attendance Services by email at cwa@cde.ca.gov.

Return to Top

Pupils Experiencing Homelessness

  1. Can pupils experiencing homelessness take classes via independent study?

    Yes. Pupils experiencing homelessness have the right to enroll in and attend school. As such, homeless pupils have the same rights as all other pupils to choose independent study as an alternative to classroom-based instruction. For more information about education for pupils experiencing homelessness, visit the CDE Resources for Homeless Children and Youth web page.

Return to Top

Pupils in Foster Care

  1. What are the LEA requirements for pupils in foster care taking classes via independent study?

    Foster youths shall be afforded the same rights and have equal access to available resources and classes as all other pupils enrolled in the LEA. Please also refer to the CDE Foster Youth Services web page for additional information.

Return to Top

Pupils Requiring Mental Health Supports

  1. Can a pupil receive mental health supports through the LEA, while participating in independent study?

    Yes. Pursuant to EC sections 51747(g)(7) and 51749.6(a)(5), the pupil’s independent study agreement shall include a statement indicating the academic and other supports to address the needs of pupils who are not performing at grade level, or who need support in other areas, including mental health supports.

Return to Top

Special Education

  1. For information about pupils with an individualized education program or plan pursuant to Section 504 of the federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (29 U.S.C. Section 794), please refer to the CDE Assembly Bill 130 Independent Study FAQs web page for Special Education FAQs.

Return to Top

Questions:   Independent Study | independentstudy@cde.ca.gov | 916-319-0277
Last Reviewed: Wednesday, January 12, 2022
Related Content
Recently Posted in Educational Options
No items posted in the last 60 days.