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Golden State Seal Merit Diploma FAQs

Frequently asked questions for the Golden State Seal Merit Diploma.
What is the Golden State Seal Merit Diploma (GSSMD)?

Assembly Bill 3488, approved in July 1996, called for the development of the GSSMD to recognize public school graduates who have demonstrated their mastery of the high school curriculum in designated content areas.

Why were GSSMD regulations proposed and adopted in spring 2004?

Education Code (EC) Section 51452 identified the Golden State Examination (GSE) as the means by which students could demonstrate their mastery of the high school curriculum and earn the GSSMD. Later, Assembly Bill 1266, Chapter 573, Statutes of 2003, repealed the GSE program. EC Section 51452 also stated that the State Board of Education (SBE) could designate other subject-matter examinations deemed appropriately rigorous as the means by which students could demonstrate their mastery of the high school curriculum. In order to continue the GSSMD, the SBE proposed regulations to allow the use of specified California Standards Test (CST) scaled scores, previously earned GSE results, or a combination of the two to qualify for the GSSMD. Those regulations were adopted at the March 2004 SBE meeting and became effective April 22, 2004. Regulations are available for viewing on the California Code of Regulations Web Site. External link opens in new window or tab.

How do students now qualify for the GSSMD?

To be eligible for the GSSMD, students (1) must be receiving a high school diploma from their district; and (2) must have earned a scaled score of 370 or above on six qualifying CSTs. Results from specified CSTs students have taken in previous years may be used. Note that the CSTs for General Mathematics, Algebra I, Integrated Mathematics 1, and Life Science (Grade 10) may not be used to qualify for the GSSMD

Detailed eligibility requirements are available on the CDE GSSMD Web page.

Which CSTs may be used to qualify for the GSSMD?

Students may use qualifying scaled scores from the following CSTs:

May students use results from three CSTs for ELA (or three CSTs for Mathematics or three CSTs for Science) to qualify for the GSSMD?

Yes. Students must earn a qualifying scaled score on the grade eleven CST for History–Social Science, one CST for ELA, one CST for Mathematics, and one CST for Science. After qualifying on those four exams, students may use qualifying scaled scores from any other eligible exams, including two other CSTs for ELA (or two CSTs for Mathematics or two CSTs for Science).

May the CST for World History be used to meet the history exam requirement?

No. EC Section 51451(b) specifically cites United States history as one of the subject-matter requirements to be used to meet the history exam requirement. However, a student's results on the CST for World History may be counted toward the GSSMD as one of the two exams of his or her choice.

What will eligible students receive?

For each eligible senior, school districts and charter schools will receive two GSSMD insignias: (1) a gold, embossed insignia to be affixed to the student’s high school diploma; and (2) a black-and-white insignia to be affixed to the student’s transcript (EC Section 51453 [b]).

Do students apply for the GSSMD?

Individual students do not apply to the state for the GSSMD; rather, school districts and charter schools submit the Insignia Request Forms for eligible students. Each school district or charter school that confers high school diplomas is required per EC sections 51450–55 to maintain appropriate records in order to identify eligible students who have earned a GSSMD and to affix the appropriate insignia to the diploma and transcript for each qualifying student.

How do school districts and charter schools identify students and obtain insignias?

The CDE provides materials to assist school districts and charter schools. Those materials, which include the Insignia Request Form, are available on the CDE GSSMD Web page.

After verifying that students have met all eligibility requirements, the district/charter school shall complete and submit the Insignia Request Form to the CDE. The form must be signed by the superintendent/charter school administrator. On receipt, the gold embossed insignia shall be affixed to the student’s high school diploma and the black and white insignia shall be affixed to the student’s transcript (EC Section 51453 [b]).

When is the deadline for submitting the Insignia Request Form to the CDE?

There is no deadline for submitting the Insignia Request Form to the CDE; however, the form should be sent far enough in advance of the first graduation ceremony date in the district to allow time for the CDE to process the request and for district staff to place the insignias on the diplomas. Districts should receive insignias within two weeks from the date that CDE receives the request. The CDE will begin mailing requested insignias for current-year recipients in April.

Do school districts and charter schools need to send student records to the CDE?

No. Student information is not to be sent to the CDE. School districts and charter schools are to maintain the individual student information used to verify GSSMD eligibility. The only document to be submitted to CDE is the Insignia Request Form.  

May school districts and charter schools request insignias for eligible graduates from previous years?

Yes. The verification process is the same as that used for current-year graduates. To request insignias, complete and submit an Insignia Request Form with the “Graduation Year” section showing the appropriate year of graduation. The “Graduation Date” section may be left blank. The form must be signed by the school district superintendent or charter school administrator. 

Questions:   Debbie McClurg | dmcclurg@cde.ca.gov | 916-319-0347
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