Independent Study, Private Schools, and Tutoring (ESS)
Attendance in a public school is one of three ways for a student to meet the requirement of compulsory education; attendance in a private school or receiving education from a tutor are the other two available alternatives.
In California, exemption from public school attendance requires enrollment in and instruction of a student by a full-time private school. A full-time private school may include a parent instructing his or her own child at home if the home school meets the criteria applied to other private schools. All private schools must file the Private School Affidavit annually as required by EC Section 33190.
Many public schools offer independent study or home-based study as an option. To learn what options your local schools offer, start by asking the public school district in which you live what programs allow schooling at home.
Private school affidavits may be accessed on the California Department of Education (CDE) website.
Schooling at Home
California statutes do not explicitly authorize home schooling. Local school districts have the authority and the responsibility to determine whether a home-schooled child is attending a private school and therefore is exempt from public school attendance.
A parent who offers or provides private school instruction and who meets the requirements of EC Section 33190 may file a Private School Affidavit, thereby registering their intent to educate their student(s) privately. After the Private School Affidavit is properly filed, and the California Department of Education (CDE) determines that the school meets the criteria for a full-time private day school, the public school district listed in the Affidavit makes a determination of whether a home-schooled child has met statutory requirements and therefore is exempt from public school attendance.
The Private School Affidavit becomes available October 1 and must be filed annually with CDE. A copy of the Affidavit must be kept at the school along with a record of student attendance as described in EC Section 48222. Attendance records must be provided to the local school district's attendance supervisor to verify that the private school has complied with the provisions of EC Section 33190.
A student being schooled at home in California should receive instruction in the various branches of study required in the public schools of the state. Parents who are privately educating or schooling their children at home must select and provide all curriculum, instruction, and materials. Learn more on the CDE's website.
If a parent chooses to engage a tutor for a child, the tutor must possess a valid California Teaching Credential. Tutoring must be provided for a minimum of 3 hours per day, between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. for 175 days per year. The tutoring must include the curriculum areas covered in the public school and must meet other requirements of the law.
School districts may (but are not required to) offer independent study programs. In these situations the student first enrolls in the public school, and then enters into a mutually agreeable contract with the district to complete required work. Such students are counted in the district’s enrollment, generate revenue for the district, may receive materials, resources and support from the district, have their performance evaluated, and ultimately, can receive a diploma from the district.
Students may attend a charter school; the law in California states that charter schools shall admit all pupils who wish to attend the school, within the school’s established enrollment limits. The State Legislature created charter schools to provide parents and students with expanded choices in the types of educational opportunities available within the public school system.
A charter school is a public school that may provide instruction in any of grades kindergarten through twelve. A charter school is usually created or organized by a group of teachers, parents and community leaders or a community-based organization, and it is usually sponsored by an existing local public school board or county board of education. Specific goals and operating procedures for the charter school are detailed in an agreement (or charter) between the sponsoring board and charter organizers. For more information on charter schools, visit the CDE Charter School Resources Web page or the CDE Fact Book 2009 (pages 100-101) on the CDE Fact Book Web page. A list of local charter schools can be found at California Charter Schools Association website.
A charter school is generally exempt from most laws governing school districts except where specifically noted in the law. California public charter schools are required to participate in the statewide assessment testing (STAR) program. The law also requires that a public school be nonsectarian in its programs, admission policies, employment practices, and all other operations, and prohibits the conversion of a private school to a charter school. Public charter schools may not charge tuition and may not discriminate against any pupil on the basis of ethnicity, national origin, gender, or disability.
When a charter school petition is denied by a local public school board, the appeal may come to the San Mateo County Board of Education.
California's nonpublic schools (NPS) are specialized private schools that provide services to public school students with disabilities. EC Section 56034 defines a nonpublic, nonsectarian school (nonreligious) as a private, nonsectarian school that enrolls individuals with exceptional needs pursuant to an individualized education program. The tuition of a student in an NPS is paid by the public LEA that places the student in the NPS based on the student’s individual needs.