Law Office of Michelle Ball curriculum,Special Education What Are Directed Studies, Supported Studies And Academic Support Classes?

What Are Directed Studies, Supported Studies And Academic Support Classes?


Students may enroll in a supported or directed studies class

Last Updated on November 1, 2021 by Michelle Ball

By Michelle Ball, Sacramento California Expulsion, Special Education, sports/CIF, College, Education and School Attorney/Lawyer for Students since 1995

Is your child entering high school and the special education team (aka IEP team), says the student will be in a directed or supported studies class or an academic support class? What are these classes?

The exact form of the student’s class may depend on the school district, but here are some basics.

Graduation of special needs students is more likely with special classes
Students may get extra support in academic support classes to help them graduate

Are Directed Studies and Supported Studies Classes the Same?

Maybe. These titles are often used interchangeably for the same type of hybrid classroom.

What is an Academic Support Class?

An academic support class can be different things depending on the school district. Usually, these classes are similar to elementary school resource support classes (classes with a special education instructor where students work on IEP goals).

In high school, resource classes can morph into a “Study Skills” class where a student basically has a period to work on homework and get some extra help on organization.

What is a Directed Studies or Supported Studies Class?

A directed or supported studies class is usually one of two things. It is either a standalone class teaching, for example, English 9 to special needs students. Or, it is a class which supplements a class like English 9. Then, a student would have to take two classes: English 9 and English 9 Supported Studies.

A supported or directed studies class may be co-taught by general education and special education teachers or just by a special education teacher. Often directed studies classes exist at the high school level for mandatory classes, such as English or Algebra, to ensure students can pass.

Graduation from high school in special education with a regular diploma can occur with the right supports
Directed or supported studies classes may be cotaught by general and special education teachers

Is a Directed Studies Class Special Education?

Yes. Directed or supported studies classes, as well as academic support classes, are all special education. Special needs IEP students attend to get supplemental support.

These classes are set up so a special needs student can access general education classes and graduate with a regular diploma, due to the extra support provided.

What Personnel Are In a Supported Studies Class?

Usually a general education teacher and a special education teacher are in a supported or directed studies classes. In an academic support class, usually there is a special education teacher. There may also be school support staff, like aides.

Will a Student Be Assisted by These Special Education Classes?

It depends on the student. Some special education students don’t need these types of classes and can access the general education classes just fine with push-in support and accommodations. Other students need this extra help and support to graduate from high school with a regular diploma.

One Drawback of Academic Support or Directed Studies Classes?

The main drawback with these classes is that students miss out on other fun elective classes, such as photography, welding, yearbook or whatever class the student desires. Taking these classes is a trade off.


Michelle Ball is a student lawyer who assists parents with special education, IEP and 504 meetings, student placements, and enforcing IEP documents. As a student attorney in Sacramento California, she can reach across the state to Foresthill, Rancho Cordova, Oakland, Santa Ynez, Orange, and many other locations.