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Golden State Seal Merit Diploma Letter

California Department of Education
Official Letter
California Department of Education
Official Letter
January 22, 2016

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

PROCEDURES FOR AWARDING THE GOLDEN STATE SEAL MERIT DIPLOMA
Effective January 2016 Until Replaced

The requirement to award the Golden State Seal Merit Diploma (GSSMD) remains in state law. 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 (SSPI). 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.

Eligibility Requirements

For the GSSMD, students must be eligible to receive a high school diploma and have demonstrated the 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 new GSSMD eligibility requirements that include a combination of course grades, results from assessments produced by private providers or LEAs, and/or qualifying Smarter Balanced Summative Assessment or California Standards Tests (CST) scores for use by LEAs to award the GSSMD to graduating students, effective January 2016 until replaced. The approved GSSMD eligibility requirements 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 completed in grade nine, ten, or eleven
    2. An achievement level of “Standard Met” for the high school Smarter Balanced Summative Assessment
    3. A scale score of 370 or above on CSTs, if available
  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 completed in grade nine, ten, or eleven
    2. An achievement level of “Standard Met” for the high school Smarter Balanced Summative Assessment
    3. A scale score of 370 or above on any of the following CSTs, if available: Geometry; Algebra II; Summative High School Mathematics; or Integrated Mathematics 2 or 3
  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 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 LEA
    3. A scale score of 370 or above on any of the following CSTs, if available: Biology; Chemistry; Physics; Earth Science; or Integrated/Coordinated Science 1, 2, 3, or 4

  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
    2. A qualifying score that demonstrates mastery of the subject as determined by the LEA for an examination produced by a private provider or LEA
  1. Other two 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 LEA
LEA Identification of Students Earning 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. In 2015, a total of 332 LEAs that award diplomas notified the CDE of the number of qualifying students and schools by requesting GSSMD insignias for their graduates, representing a total of 51,253 graduating seniors from 1,018 schools.

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 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.

Transitioning to New Statewide Assessment System

While there is a desire to develop a set of GSSMD eligibility requirements that will enhance a student’s chance at receiving recognition for mastery of the high school curriculum, as well as make the identification of eligible students in an efficient manner, the state is transitioning to a new assessment system and available and uniform access to assessment results for all subject areas required are currently not available.

The CDE will provide future recommendations to the SBE related to the use of statewide assessment results for GSSMD eligibility requirements as the implementation of the new assessment system progresses. Any future recommendations regarding GSSMD eligibility requirements will be presented to the SBE and posted for the public as an agenda item at a regularly scheduled SBE meeting. LEAs will be contacted when the SBE makes any change to the eligibility criteria for the GSSMD. If you have any questions about the GSSMD, please contact Debbie McClurg, Analyst, Fiscal Support Office, by phone at 916-319-0347 or by e-mail at dmcclurg@cde.ca.gov.

Sincerely,

/s/

Michelle Center, Director
Assessment Development and Administration Division

MC:dm

cc:  LEA CAASPP Coordinators

Last Reviewed: Wednesday, January 27, 2016

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