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  • Erica Peterson

Tug of Independent Study Requirements

Adult teams playing tug of war in a grassy field.

Lessons learned from the tidal wave of disengagement wrought by distance learning seem to be reflected in the Governor’s May budget revision trailer bill. If approved, it proposes significant changes to independent study programs as many districts announce they will continue some level of remote learning offerings to families that request it in the year ahead.

In an email from the California Department of Education’s School Attendance Review Board Chairperson, David Kopperud shared an overview of the proposed provisions and, with his permission, and I am reposting this important information.

“I know many of you have experienced more changes in the supervision of attendance during the last year than anyone could have predicted with the onset of distance learning and all the safety precautions for COVID-19.

The next big change coming is not the further intensification of multi-tiered support for students returning for full in-person attendance, but the radical increase in requirements for supervising independent study students.

While there will be no extension of distance learning, the May Revise proposes to change the supervision requirements for students in independent study radically:

  • New board policies will be required to ensure close supervision of students in independent study with new procedures for tiered reengagement, including daily live interaction and synchronous instruction for all students at least once per week with a plan to transition students out of independent study quickly, if requested.

  • New written independent study agreements must include details for communicating academic progress with parents or guardians, provisions for providing the necessary Internet connecting devices, and a statement for providing academic and other supports for students not performing at grade level.

  • Independent study will now require LEAs to document daily participation for each student on each school day, in whole or in part. A student who does not participate in independent study on a school day shall be documented as absent for that school day.

  • Evidence of daily participation may include online activities, completion of regular assignments, completion of assessments, and contacts between LEA employees and students or parents/guardians.

  • Apportionment credit will now include the sum of synchronous instruction in addition to the time value of student work production.

  • The State Board of Education will not be allowed to waive any of these new independent study requirements.

  • The CDE will be required to create a digital form for LEAs to report daily participation and weekly engagement by September 1, 2021.

These proposals are not yet state law, but it is certain that the supervision of students in independent study will be very different and very challenging this coming school year.”

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