Independent Study Changes Released

July 7, 2021 Staff Writer

The highly-anticipated language for independent study has been released as part of the education trailer bill, AB 130. Below, you will find highlighted details of the changes.

Program Offering Requirements 

  • For the 2021-22 school year, Local Education Agencies must offer an independent study option to students and families to be made available to students whose health would be put at risk by in-person instruction, as determined by the parent or guardian.
  • LEAs may meet this requirement by contracting with a county office of education or by entering into an interdistrict transfer agreement with another school district.
  • The requirement to offer independent study for the 2021-22 school year may be waived if an LEA can demonstrate both of the following:
    • Offering independent study would create an unreasonable fiscal burden on the school district or county office of education due to low numbers of students participating or other extenuating circumstances.
    • The governing board of the school district or county office of education does not have the option to enter into an interdistrict transfer agreement with another school district or to contract with a county office of education to provide an independent study option.

Notice of Option

For the 2021–22 school year only, LEAs shall notify parents and guardians of their options to enroll their child in in-person instruction or independent study.

  • This notice shall include the right to request a student-parent-educator conference meeting before enrollment; students’ rights regarding procedures for enrolling, disenrolling and re-enrolling in independent study; and the synchronous and asynchronous instructional time that a student will have access to as part of independent study.

Board Policies

To receive apportionment for students participating in independent study, LEAs must have adopted board policies that include:

  • Procedures for tiered re-engagement strategies for all students who are not generating attendance for more than three school days or 60 percent of the instructional days in a school week, or who are in violation of the students’ written agreement;
  • A plan to transition students whose families wish to return to in-person instruction from independent study expeditiously, and, in no case, later than five instructional days;
  • Daily live and synchronous instruction requirements (see below).

Daily Live and Synchronous Instruction

  • Kindergarten to grade 3 — daily synchronous instruction for all students throughout the school year.
  • Grades 4 to 8 — both daily live interaction and at least weekly synchronous instruction for all students throughout the school year.
  • Grades 9 to 12 — at least weekly synchronous instruction for all students throughout the school year.
  • “Live interaction” means interaction between the student and local educational agency classified or certificated staff, and may include peers, provided for the purpose of maintaining school connectedness, including but not limited to: wellness checks, progress monitoring, provision of services and instruction. This interaction may take place in person or in the form of internet or telephonic communication.
  • “Synchronous instruction” means classroom-style instruction or designated small group or one-on-one instruction delivered in person, or in the form of internet or telephonic communications and involving live, two-way communication between the teacher and student. Synchronous instruction shall be provided by the teacher of record for that student.

Written Learning Agreements

Written learning agreements must be signed before a student commences an independent study course. Electronic signatures are allowable for auditing purposes. Written learning agreements must include:

  • Confirmation or providing access to all students to the connectivity and devices adequate to participate in the educational program and complete assigned work.
  • A statement detailing the academic and other supports that will be provided to address the needs of students who are not performing at grade level, or need support.
  • A statement that enrollment in a course is an optional educational alternative in which no student may be required to participate.
  • The manner, time, frequency, and place for submitting a student’s assignments, for reporting the student’s academic progress and for communicating with a student’s parent or guardian regarding a student’s academic progress.

Documentation 

  • Documentation of live and synchronous instruction is required for each school day, in whole or in part, that independent study is provided. 
  • Any student who does not participate in independent study on a school day must be documented as non-participatory for that day.
  • LEAs are required to maintain either written or computer-based evidence of student engagement. This includes but is not limited to a grade book or summary document for each class that lists all assignments, assessments and associated grades.
  • Beginning in the 2021-22 fiscal year, the State Audit Guide shall incorporate compliance with the above.

Short-term Independent Study

The tiered re-engagement strategies, daily live and synchronous instruction requirements and plan to transition back to in-person instruction do not apply to students participating in an independent study program for fewer than 15 school days in a school year.

Contact Kristy Tchamourian at ktchamourian@acsa.org for more information

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