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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 Golden State Seal Merit Diploma (GSSMD) to recognize public school graduates who have demonstrated their mastery of the high school curriculum in at least six subject matter areas, four of which are English-language arts, mathematics, science, and U.S. history, with the remaining two subject matter areas selected by the student. The GSSMD is awarded jointly by the State Board of Education (SBE) and the State Superintendent of Public Instruction (SSPI).

Is the awarding of the GSSMD mandatory?

Yes. Each local educational agency (LEA) that confers high school diplomas is required per California Education Code (EC) sections 51450–55 to maintain appropriate records in order to annually identify students who have earned a GSSMD and to affix the GSSMD insignia to the diploma and transcript of each qualifying student.

How many students receive the GSSMD annually?

Approximately 50,000-65,000 students are awarded the GSSMD insignia each year. In 2015, a total of 51,253 graduating seniors from 1,018 schools were awarded the GSSMD. A total of 332 LEAs that award diplomas notified the California Department of Education of the number of qualifying students and schools by requesting GSSMD insignias for their graduates.

How do students now qualify for the GSSMD?

The SBE determines and adopts, based upon the recommendations of the SSPI, the means by which students may demonstrate mastery of the high school curriculum to be awarded the GSSMD. In January 2016, the SBE designated new GSSMD eligibility requirements that include a combination of qualifying California Standards Tests (CSTs) scores, Smarter Balanced Summative Assessment results, course grades, and/or results from assessments produced by private providers or LEAs for use by LEAs to award the GSSMD to students graduating in effective January 2016 until updated. Any future recommendation the SSPI may make to the SBE regarding modifying the GSSMD eligibility requirements will be presented to the SBE and posted for the public as an agenda item at a regularly scheduled SBE meeting.

Detailed eligibility requirements are available on the California Department of Education (CDE)

GSSMD Web page.

What courses and/or assessments would qualify for "other two subject matter area?"

The intent is for the course and grade, or examination and score, to signify to the LEA that the student mastered the high school subject area completed or assessed. The LEA will not be required to report the other subject criteria selected for use by the LEA to the CDE.

What are the business rules for determining the grade mentioned?

LEAs should use the same course grade rules they used to determine the student’s eligibility to be awarded a high school diploma.

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 are required to identify eligible graduates and submit the Insignia Request Form to the CDE.

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 district 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 enough time for the CDE to process the request and for school staff to place the insignias on the diplomas and transcripts. Districts should receive insignias within two weeks from the date 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. In order to maintain student privacy, individual 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 the CDE is the Insignia Request Form that indicates the school and number of eligible students per school.

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

Yes. 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 district superintendent or charter school administrator. LEAs must certify that the previous graduates met the eligibility criteria that were in place for that specific graduating class.

Must a student receive the required grade or higher in both semesters of a single course?

Yes. The intent is that the student demonstrate a mastery of the subject during BOTH semesters (i.e., received a qualifying grade during both semesters), not just a portion of the curriculum for that subject. This applies to all grades utilized for GSSMD subjects.

With AP courses students received an honors “bump” so a B is actually an A. If a student earns a C or C+ would that student meet the GSSMD grade criteria since technically it would be equivalent to a B or B+?

Nothing prohibits an LEA from making allowances for grade disparities between standard course grades and AP course grades. The numerical calculation an LEA uses is it at their own discretion. The intent behind the GSSMD eligibility is a grade or score that would demonstrate “mastery of the high school curriculum: in that subject. If the Honors curriculum and/or grading system is set at a more rigorous level that the standard course in that subject, then calculating a numerical equivalent to the standard course grade for Honors grades is certainly appropriate.

Does the term “In a single course completed” mean the whole year or are we talking about a semester?

The intent is to demonstrate mastery of the full course curriculum in that subject area—not a portion or single semester.

May LEAs use the California Standards Test (CST) for science scores toward GSSMD eligibility?

No. The CST for science in grade ten was never an approved CST to be used toward GSSMD eligibility.

Questions:   Alicia Aguirre | | 916-445-9438
Last Reviewed: Monday, January 30, 2017
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