is an alternative instructional strategy for grades K-12, not an alternative curriculum.
Students work independently, according to a written agreement
and under the general supervision of a credentialed teacher. While
independent study students follow the district-adopted curriculum
and meet the district graduation requirements, independent study
offers flexibility to meet individual student needs, interests,
and styles of learning.
- Independent study is only available as a voluntary option
chosen by students and parents. Students cannot be assigned
to independent study.
- Independent study can be used on a short-term or long-term
basis, and on a full-time basis or in conjunction with courses
taken in a classroom setting. Classroom-based students may take
some classes using independent study, often to solve scheduling
- Districts can operate independent study as a program within
a school, or as stand-alone charter school or alternative school
- State law provides that the education students receive using
independent study should be at least equal in quality and quantity
to that offered in the classroom.
- For K-12, the ratio of independent study students to independent
study teachers cannot exceed the ratio of classroom-based students
to classroom-based teachers, calculated in terms of average
Because students in independent study work closely with their teacher,
in one-on-one meetings or small group instruction, independent study
can be a highly personalized form of instruction. Independent study
also offers a high degree of flexibility and individualization, so it
can serve a wide range of students including:
- Gifted students who are not challenged in their regular classrooms and wish to accelerate their studies.
- Students who face particular challenges -- such as health issues or the need to work -- that make classroom attendance difficult.
who, for a variety of reasons, have fallen behind in their studies and
need targeted instruction to fill in gaps in their learning or make up
- Students who want an individualized approach that allows them to delve more deeply into areas of special interest.
Independent study can also be used as a dropout
prevention or recovery mechanism for a subset of discouraged students
who have very little connection with school. Independent study can
facilitate a turnaround in student engagement. This can happen when
students develop a close relationship with teachers in a one-on-one
setting, and when they are able to take charge of their own learning
through a customized approach. Based on diagnostic assessments of their
academic achievement, such students are provided the additional
assistance they need to be successful in independent study, which may
include math and reading labs, tutoring, counseling, and
study is not for all students, for a significant number of students it
provides a crucial option that meets their needs, interests, and styles
of learning. In keeping students engaged in learning and in school,
independent study contributes to closing the ultimate achievement
gap -- the gap between students who graduate and those who drop out.