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Golden State Seal Merit Diploma Letter

California Department of Education
Official Letter
California Department of Education
Official Letter
January 27, 2017

Dear High School and Unified School District Superintendents and Charter School Administrators:

PROCEDURES FOR AWARDING THE GOLDEN STATE SEAL MERIT DIPLOMA

The requirement to award the Golden State Seal Merit Diploma (GSSMD) remains in state law. Each local educational agency (LEA) that confers high school diplomas is required per California Education Code 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.

The GSSMD, established in 1997, provides recognition to public school graduates who have demonstrated mastery of the high school curriculum in designated areas. The GSSMD is awarded jointly by the State Board of Education (SBE) and the State Superintendent of Public Instruction. The GSSMD eligibility requirements currently include a combination of course grades, results from assessments produced by private providers or LEAs, and/or qualifying Smarter Balanced Summative Assessment scores for use by LEAs to award the GSSMD to graduating students.

Eligibility Requirements

To receive the GSSMD, students must be eligible to receive a high school diploma and have demonstrated mastery of the curriculum in at least six subject matter areas, four of which are English language arts (ELA), mathematics, science, and U.S. history, with the remaining two subject matter areas selected by the student.

At the January 2016 SBE meeting, the SBE approved the GSSMD requirements. Please be aware that the previously eligible California Standards Tests (CSTs) no longer apply to GSSMD eligibility. The class of 2017 would not have taken any of the approved CSTs during the last administration of those tests in 2013. The CST for Science taken in grade ten was never approved for use toward GSSMD eligibility. The approved GSSMD eligibility requirements for the class of 2017 are as follows:

  1. English-language arts–students must have earned one of any of the following:
    1. A grade of B+ (or numerical equivalent) or above in a single course (each semester) completed in grade nine, ten, or eleven
    2. An achievement level of “Standard Met” for the high school Smarter Balanced Summative Assessment
  1. Mathematics–students must have earned one of any of the following:
    1. A grade of B+ (or numeric equivalent) or above in a single course (each semester) completed in grade nine, ten, or eleven
    2. An achievement level of “Standard Met” for the high school Smarter Balanced Summative Assessment
  1. Science–students must have earned one of any of the following:
    1. A grade of B+ (or numeric equivalent) or above in a single course (each semester) completed in grade nine, ten, or eleven
    2. A qualifying score that demonstrates mastery of the subject as determined by the LEA for an examination produced by a private provider or the LEA

  2. U.S. history–students must have earned one of any of the following:
    1. A grade of B (or numerical equivalent) or above upon completion of the required U.S. history course (each semester)
    2. A qualifying score that demonstrates mastery of the subject as determined by the LEA for an examination produced by a private provider or the LEA
  1. Two other subject matter areas–students may choose from any of the following:
    1. Any additional qualifying grade or score listed above earned for the subjects of ELA, mathematics, science, or U.S. history not already used to meet eligibility
    2. A grade of B (or numerical equivalent) or above upon the completion of high school courses in other subjects
    3. A qualifying score that demonstrates mastery of other subjects, as determined by the LEA, for an examination produced by a private provider or the LEA
Identifying Students Who Have Earned a GSSMD

All LEAs that award diplomas are required to annually identify students who have earned a GSSMD and request insignias from the California Department of Education (CDE) to be placed on the diplomas and transcripts of qualifying students.

The CDE provides the following documents to assist LEAs in the identification of graduating seniors who qualify for the GSSMD:

  • Eligibility Requirements for the Golden State Seal Merit Diploma — this document details the examinations and scores students may use to qualify for the GSSMD.

  • Certification of Award Summary Sheet this spreadsheet is used to identify graduating seniors whose test scores meet the GSSMD requirements. The spreadsheet is for optional LEA use only; please do not submit it to the CDE.

  • Insignia Request Form — complete this form and submit it to the CDE’s Assessment Development and Administration Division (address shown on form) to request the diploma insignias for eligible students.

These documents are available on the CDE GSSMD Web page at http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/tg/ca/meritdiploma.asp.

Please share this information with your high school principals, administrators, counselors, credit clerks, and staff in district curriculum offices. After identifying students who qualify for the GSSMD, complete and submit one Insignia Request Form per LEA. The LEA superintendent or charter school administrator must sign the form. The completed and signed form may be mailed to the CDE at any time. The CDE will begin mailing requested insignias the first week of April. Note: Although there is no deadline for submitting the form, LEAs should send their requests far enough in advance of the date of their first graduation ceremony in the district to allow enough time for the CDE to process the requests and for school staff to affix the insignias to the diplomas and transcripts. Generally, insignias can be expected within two weeks from the date the CDE receives a request.

If you have any questions about the GSSMD, please contact Alicia Aguirre, Analyst, High School and Physical Fitness Assessment Office, by phone at 916-445-9438 or by e-mail at gssmd@cde.ca.gov.

Sincerely,

/s/

Michelle Center, Director
Assessment Development and Administration Division

MC:aa

cc:  LEA CAASPP Coordinators

Last Reviewed: Tuesday, January 31, 2017

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