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Golden State Seal Merit Diploma Letter

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

March 25, 2014

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


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 2013, a total of 63,429 graduating seniors from 1,061 schools were awarded the GSSMD. A total of 350 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 2014

To qualify for the GSSMD, graduating seniors in 2014 must be receiving a high school diploma and must have earned a scale score of 370 or above on six qualifying California Standards Tests (CSTs) which were administered under the previous Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) Program. The CDE provides the following documents to assist 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. LEA staff may use this spreadsheet 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. LEA staff are to 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.

After identifying seniors 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 that while there is no deadline for submitting the form, LEAs should send their requests far enough in advance of the date of the first graduation ceremony of each year to allow time for the CDE to process the requests and for school staff to affix the insignias to the diplomas. Generally, insignias can be expected within two weeks from the date the CDE receives a request.

LEAs may also request GSSMD insignias for eligible students who graduated in previous years. To do so, complete and submit a separate Insignia Request Form with the “Graduation Year” section completed with the appropriate year; the “Graduation Date” section may be left blank. The LEA superintendent or charter school administrator must sign the form. The CDE will process and mail insignias for prior year graduates on receipt.

Eligibility Requirements for Graduating Seniors in 2015 and Beyond

Any future recommendation the CDE may make to the SBE regarding GSSMD eligibility requirements for use in awarding the GSSMD to graduating seniors in 2015 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, in the Fiscal Support Office of the Assessment Development and Administration Division by phone at 916-319-0347 or by e-mail at



Diane Hernandez, Director
Assessment Development and Administration Division


cc: LEA CAASPP Coordinators

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