Independent Study FAQ

Independent Study Frequently Asked Questions


Are all students eligible to participate in independent study? 

Enrollment in independent study is optional, and no pupil may be required to participate. Independent study students must be enrolled in a local school. 
Special education students may participate in independent study if their individualized education program (IEP) specifically provides for the participation.  

  • The IEP team shall make an individualized determination as to whether the student can receive a free appropriate public education in an independent study placement.
  • A pupil’s inability to work independently, the pupil’s need for adult support, or the pupil’s need for special education or related services shall not preclude the IEP team from determining that the pupil can receive a free appropriate education through independent study.

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, independent study may be offered to pupils 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.

May students participate in independent study to complete work during travel? 

Yes. State law allows the use of independent study to serve a pupil who is traveling. The requirements for independent study for students who are traveling are the same as for independent study in other situations, including written agreements. 

What is the course content in independent study? 

Board policies for traditional independent study shall require the provision of content aligned to grade level standards that is substantially equivalent to in-person instruction; and, for high school students includes access to all courses offered by the district for graduation and creditable under the a–g admissions criteria for the University of California or the California State University. 

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.  

The independent study agreement shall outline the course of study for each independent study student and shall include the manner, time, frequency, and place for submitting a pupil’s assignments, for reporting the student’s academic progress, and for communicating with a student’s parent or guardian regarding the academic progress. 

How is the level of satisfactory educational progress determined for independent study students?

The level of satisfactory educational progress is based on the student’s achievement and engagement, the completion of assignments; the learning of required concepts; and progress toward successful completion of the course. 

Are students required to do as much work in independent study as they would in the regular classroom? 

Yes, independent study is to be substantially equivalent in quality and quantity to classroom instruction. All content should 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. 

Are independent study students required to complete their assigned work? 

School districts are required to have attendance systems procedures that have been approved by the CDE and include independent study attendance tracking information. 

Teachers make assignments in increments consistent with the program that the student is enrolled in (i.e., full days for traditional kindergarten through grade twelve and opportunity education, hours for continuation education). Student work must be turned in as specified in the independent study agreement.

Are LEAs required to provide opportunities for both synchronous instruction and live interaction for independent study pupils?

School districts are required to provide synchronous instruction and live interaction. Opportunities provided as follows:

Grade Level Live Interaction Opportunities Synchronous Instruction Opportunities
Transitional Kindergarten through Grade 3 Not applicable Daily
Grades 4 – 8  Daily Weekly
Grades 9 – 12 Not applicable Weekly

Does synchronous instruction have to be in-person?

No. The synchronous instruction may be in-person or via internet or telephone communications. Synchronous instruction shall be provided by a teacher or teachers of record for that student or the certificated employee of the district providing instruction for course-based independent study.