Charter Currents

Charter Currents: Budget “Trailer” Bill Tweaks Independent Study Mandates, Allows Counting of Asynchronous Instructional Time

Eric Premack

Founder & Executive Director

Category: CA State Budget
July 12, 2024

Sacramento, CA–The 2024-25 state budget education “trailer” bill enacted a few modest, but noteworthy changes to independent study law allowing schools to count asynchronous instruction toward computing funded attendance, tweaking the definitions of short- and long-term independent study, and other items. These amendments come in the context of additional changes regarding funding of attendance during school closures and emergencies and are of import to both classroom- and nonclassroom-based charter schools. Some of the new provisions are not well drafted, so CSDC continues to discuss their practical meaning with the drafters.

Basic Independent Study ADA Context

While California allows schools to serve students via independent study (IS) and to be funded for it, it also heaps numerous restrictions and regulations on the practice, especially when computing average daily attendance (ADA) for purposes of generating funding under the state’s Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), California’s primary school funding program. Instead of computing attendance on a “butts in seats” methodology as in a traditional classroom setting, California law for decades has allowed schools to compute ADA for independent study based on the “time value” of students’ “work products” as judged by a certificated teacher in lieu of the “butts in seats” methodology. Individual schools’ methodologies for computing the time value of work products varies widely, but teachers generally review students’ work, assign a time value to it using their professional judgment (often in alignment with school norms on point), and use this to compute ADA.

Though not required by law, most independent study programs operated by school districts call for teachers to compare the time value of students’ work in comparison with the statutory minimum daily minutes of instruction mandated by law...