Law Office of Michelle Ball 504/Accommodations,curriculum/grades/testing,Disabilities,Special education/IEP 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 August 18, 2022 by Michelle Ball

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

Is a student in high school and being pushed to attend a directed or supported studies class or an academic support class? What are these classes?

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

What is an Academic Support Class?

An academic support class is typically a supplemental class to help with a student’s other classes. Students get credits toward graduation for attending.

Academic support classes may be similar to resource support classes (classes with a special education instructor where students work on IEP goals and needs).

In high school, academic support classes are often called “Study Skills” classes and replace an elective class. They usually provide a student a period to work on homework, organization and other school needs.

What is a Supported Studies Class?

A supported studies class is usually a standalone class teaching core classes, such as English or Geometry to special needs students. Students may have two instructors, a general education and special education teacher, or just one special education teacher.

Sometimes supported studies classes supplement a “regular” class. In that case, the student would take both English 9 and the supported studies English class.

Supported studies classes are there to ensure students get the help they need to pass required classes and graduate on time with a regular diploma.

What is a Directed Studies Class?

A Directed studies class is similar to an academic support class. I have seen schools however, mix these up with supported studies classes as well.

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

Are These Classes Only for Special Education Students?

Directed or supported studies classes, as well as academic support classes, are usually set up to help special needs students, such as those on an IEP or a 504. However, sometimes schools allow general education students in who need them.

What Personnel Are In These Classes?

Usually supported studies are cotaught by a general education teacher and a special education teacher.

In an academic support class, usually there is a special education teacher. There may also be school support staff, like aides. In directed studies, the set up is often similar.

Will a Student Be Assisted by These Classes?

Whether a student will find value in these student support classes will depend on the student and their needs.

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

Asian male teen in blazer and bowtie
Students may have to miss out on electives to take certain support classes.

Drawbacks of Support Classes?

The main issue is that students may miss out on electives if they take a supplemental support class, but it depends on the way the classes are set up.

With an academic support class, students usually replace an elective on their schedule with this class. So, they would not get to take a photography or art class that other students may enjoy.

Sometimes supported studies may cover two periods. For example, a student has supported studies Algebra and a second supported studies math class. In that case, the student would also have to replace one elective.

Other times, supported studies will be one period and replace one period, so there are no electives missed. A student may simply take supported studies English which replaces “regular” English.

Other Sources of Information?

The student’s school staff will know much more about that particular school’s programs, and how to get the student into any support classes.

The IEP and 504 teams may also provide additional information. Parents can call an IEP or 504 meeting to discuss.


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