California law allows virtual instruction to occur for charter and traditional school via provisions for nonclassroom-based instruction, including independent study provisions.
Funding amounts are determined via a funding request from the school, as approved by the state board of education, based on the nonclassroom-based daily average attendance, as well as expenditure data on instruction and related services, school site operations and facilities, administration, and all other activities. In addition, the school must provide data to affirm compliance with the maximum student-to-teacher ratios (unless certain academic standards are met), and other law and policy affirmations including that all transactions, contracts, and agreements are in the best interest of the school and reflect a reasonable market rate. The amount approved shall be 70% of total, unless a greater or lesser percentage is determined appropriate by the state board (based upon the recommendation of the California Advisory Commission on Charter Schools, which also has the power to request additional information as needed when reviewing the funding request).
Beyond accountability measures for all schools, the law requires additional items for those schools engaged in independent study (which is a form of nonclassroom-based instruction), whereby each student must have a written agreement (signed by the student, parent – if student under 18 - and school personnel), including, but not limited to: (1) the manner, time, frequency, and place for submitting a pupil’s assignments and for reporting his or her progress; (2) the objectives and methods of study for the pupil’s work, and the methods utilized to evaluate that work; (3) the specific resources, including materials and personnel that will be made available to the pupil; and (4) a statement of the policies adopted regarding the maximum length of time allowed between the assignment and the completion of a pupil’s assigned work, and the number of missed assignments allowed before an evaluation of whether or not the pupil should be allowed to continue in independent study. Law requires that certificated employees and each pupil shall communicate in person, by telephone, or by any other live visual or audio connection no less than twice per calendar month to assess whether each pupil is making satisfactory educational progress. If satisfactory educational progress is not being made, certificated employees providing instruction shall notify the pupil and, if the pupil is less than 18 years of age, the pupil’s parent or legal guardian, and conduct an evaluation to determine whether it is in the best interest of the pupil to remain in the course or whether he or she should be referred to an alternative program, which may include, but is not limited to, a regular school program.
The law requires an evaluation of independent study courses by September 1, 2019, comparing, at a minimum, the academic performance of pupils in independent study with demographically similar pupils enrolled in equivalent classroom-based courses.