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Golden State Seal Merit Diploma Letter

Letter Head: Tom Torlakson, State Superintendent of Public Instruction, California Department of Education

December 5, 2014

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

PROCEDURES FOR AWARDING THE GOLDEN STATE SEAL MERIT DIPLOMA TO ELIGIBLE GRADUATING SENIORS IN 2015

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. In 2014, a total of 65,914 graduating seniors from 1,067 schools were awarded the GSSMD. A total of 337 LEAs that award diplomas notified the California Department of Education (CDE) of the number of qualifying students and schools by requesting GSSMD insignias for their graduates.

Eligibility Requirements for Graduating Seniors in 2015

For the GSSMD, students in the class of 2015 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 November 2014 SBE meeting, the SBE approved new GSSMD eligibility requirements that include a combination of qualifying California Standards Tests (CSTs) scores, 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 2015. Graduating students in the class of 2015 may demonstrate meeting the GSSMD requirements as follows:

  • ELA requirement: Students must have earned a scale score of 370 or above on CSTs taken in grades nine or ten.
  • Mathematics requirement: Students must have earned a scale score of 370 or above on any of the following CSTs taken in grades eight, nine, or ten:

    • Geometry
    • Algebra II
    • Summative High School Mathematics
    • Integrated Mathematics 2 or 3

  • Science requirement: Students must have earned a scale score of 370 or above on any of the following CSTs taken in grades nine or ten:

    • Biology           
    • Chemistry      
    • Physics          
    • Earth Science
    • Integrated/Coordinated Science 1, 2, 3, or 4

  • U.S. History requirement:  Students must have completed the required U.S. History course with an overall grade point average (weighted or unweighted, as determined by the LEA) of 3.5 or above in that course.
  • Other two subject matter areas:  Students may choose from the examinations listed above (that have not already been used to meet eligibility), the completion of high school courses in other subjects with an overall grade point average of 3.5 or above in those courses, or examinations produced by private providers or LEAs and their respective qualifying scores.

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 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.

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.

Eligibility Requirements for Graduating Seniors in 2016 and Beyond

The possible means to qualify for the GSSMD for the class of 2016 and beyond could include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Completion of ELA, mathematics, science, and history–social science requirements for graduation with an overall grade point average (weighted or unweighted, as determined by the LEA) of 3.5 or above in those classes.
  • Passing the Smarter Balanced assessments in ELA and mathematics administered in grade eleven at the top two levels of achievement (class of 2016 and beyond).
  • Allowing private provider or LEA summative tests that meet the rigor of a four-year high school course of study in required subjects and their respective qualifying scores.
  • Passing an LEA offered Advanced Placement (AP) examination in a qualifying subject.
  • Passing the SAT examination with a score of 600 or higher.
  • Passing an equivalent summative test that an LEA uses in place of an AP test in the qualifying subjects.

Any future recommendations regarding GSSMD eligibility requirements for use in awarding the GSSMD to graduating seniors in 2016 and beyond 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.

Please share this information with your high school principals, administrators, counselors, credit clerks, and staff in district curriculum offices. 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/

Diane Hernandez, Director
Assessment Development and Administration Division

DH:dm

cc:  LEA CAASPP Coordinators

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