SSCE Frequently Asked QuestionsAnswers to frequently asked questions about the State Seal of Civic Engagement (SSCE).
What is the State Seal of Civic Engagement (SSCE)?
The SSCE is a recognition conferred by the State Superintendent of Public Instruction for California public school students in grades eleven or twelve who demonstrate excellence in civics education and participation, as well as an understanding of the United States Constitution, the California Constitution, and the democratic system of government.
What is meant by local programming to support the SSCE?
Local programming refers to the criteria and other qualifications, procedures, and resources necessary for students to attain a SSCE from their local educational agency (LEA). This may include:
- Locally-adopted criteria
- Resources that support student fulfillment of the criteria, such as suggested or required courses to earn a SSCE, guidelines for civic engagement projects, project and assessment rubrics, connections to community organizations, and guidance for performance tasks and other assessments
- Timelines, application procedures, and other resources to support general LEA administration of the SSCE
LEAs should consider the above list a starting point for development of local programming.
What is meant by “civics?”
The California History–Social Science (HSS) Framework defines civics as the study of how people participate in governing society (p. 9). This also:
- Requires knowledge of state and local governments; markets; courts and legal systems; civil society; other nations’ systems and practices; international institutions; and techniques available to citizens for preserving and changing society.
- Includes civic practices such as voting, volunteering, jury service, and joining with others to improve society.
Additional information and examples are available in Appendix E of the HSS Framework, which explores civic education, and Appendix H, which focuses on service learning. Chapter 17 also offers guiding questions and curriculum suggestions for a grade twelve American government course, which is rooted in civic learning and engagement.
Is every LEA required to offer the SSCE?
No. Offering programming to support attainment of the SSCE is optional.
Do LEAs have to opt-in or sign up for the SSCE?
No, LEAs do not have to opt-in or sign up for the SSCE. LEAs do not need to submit their criteria to the California Department of Education (CDE) for approval, nor do they have to notify the CDE of their intention to participate.
What data will the CDE report to the public?
The CDE will capture information on the total number of insignias requested by LEAs each year, as well as whether those insignias were intended to be affixed to diplomas, transcripts, or other qualified certificates. The CDE will publish that data in a spreadsheet on the SSCE web page annually, each fall.
Will the CDE partner with community organizations to support civic learning and civic engagement through the SSCE?
The CDE worked extensively with individual and organizational stakeholders to develop the statewide criteria, and continues to support local implementation efforts through providing ongoing technical assistance, sharing of resources, and helping to promote professional learning opportunities. LEAs are responsible for developing and adopting local programming to support civic education and attainment of the SSCE, and may collaborate with both local and statewide community organizations that support student civic learning and engagement.
The CDE also maintains a Resources to Support Civic Engagement web page, which includes free resources from nonprofit organizations that LEAs may consider as they develop local programming. Resources are also available from the California Educators Together (CaET) platform's SSCE group .
Who is eligible to earn the SSCE?
Any pupil in grades eleven or twelve enrolled in a California public school, direct-funded charter, the juvenile justice system, and/or in an alternative school setting who has met the criteria adopted by the governing board of their LEA, which is based on the statewide criteria adopted by the California State Board of Education (SBE), is eligible to earn a SSCE.
Are students in Adult Education Programs eligible to earn the SSCE?
Adult students enrolled in Adult Education Programs are not eligible to earn the SSCE.
Are homeschooled students eligible to earn a SSCE? If so, what is the process?
Students who are schooled at home through a traditional Independent Study Program, with oversight of a credentialed teacher in an LEA that has adopted district-or-county-level programming to support civic education and attainment of the SSCE, are eligible to earn a SSCE. Some school districts offer both Independent Study programs as well as a form of homeschooling that includes supervision from a credentialed teacher. In both cases, interested individuals should contact the LEA to determine eligibility for the SSCE through Independent Study or homeschool programs offered locally.
Are elementary or middle school students eligible to earn a SSCE?
Elementary or middle school students are not eligible to earn a SSCE. California Education Code (EC) sections 51470–51474 lay out the basic statutory requirements for earning a SSCE, which include participation in a series of secondary level core HSS courses, including world history, United States history, and United States government.
However, the statute and statewide criteria strongly encourage districts to create and encourage pathways for elementary and middle school students to become civically engaged as part of their experiences working towards earning the SSCE. This might include a locally-adopted seal or other form of recognition that a school could award to elementary and middle students as they demonstrate progress working towards a SSCE in grade eleven or twelve.
Can students from a school or LEA that does not yet offer the SSCE earn the SSCE?
An LEA, at the district or county level, must have adopted SSCE criteria in order for students to earn the SSCE.
In the absence of locally adopted SSCE criteria, educators and families are encouraged to promote the development and adoption of programming to support civic education and attainment of the SSCE in their local communities. Interested individuals and groups may consider collaborating with LEAs to develop and adopt programming to support civic education and attainment of the SSCE, including criteria and other requirements and procedures.
May other organizations or individuals sponsor students to earn a SSCE?
Only eligible LEAs may offer the SSCE locally. LEAs may choose to allow other organizations and/or individuals to recommend or support students working towards earning a SSCE. However, only the LEA may administer the application process and provide eligible students with the SSCE insignia.
Must all school sites within a county offer the SSCE, if the county office of education (COE) adopts local programming to offer the SSCE?
COEs that adopt county-wide programming to support civic education and attainment of the SSCE may choose to provide opportunities to districts and sites to opt-in to offering the SSCE, or to opt-out of offering the SSCE.
Educators and families may work with the district and county to encourage adoption of SSCE criteria and programming at sites throughout the county. If the district chooses not to implement this programming, individuals may contact their local COE about acceptable alternatives.
Are students who attend private school eligible to earn a SSCE?
No. Private schools function outside of the jurisdiction of the CDE; therefore, they are not eligible to receive the SSCE. They can, however, establish their own civic diploma seal opportunities.
Where can the SSCE insignia be placed?
Insignia may be placed on high school diplomas, General Educational Development diplomas, Certificates of Completion, or grade eleven or grade twelve transcripts. Students may only receive one SSCE insignia to be affixed to one eligible document.
When should LEAs order insignias?
LEAs should order the insignia at least four weeks before they are needed.
The CDE will post an updated online SSCE Insignia Request Form for each school year.
Who can order insignias from the CDE?
A representative from the LEA will complete the online SSCE Insignia Request Form. The representative’s signature will certify that the LEA has adopted local programming that fulfills the statewide criteria, and that insignias will be awarded to students who have met that criteria. The CDE will then mail insignias to the LEA representative, who will be responsible for affixing the insignias.
How do students order insignia if their LEA has not yet adopted programming to support attainment of the SSCE?
Students may earn a SSCE if they are enrolled in an LEA that has adopted programming to support civic education and attainment of the SSCE. Students may not request insignia directly from the CDE.
Educators and families are encouraged to advocate for the development and adoption of programming to support civic education and attainment of the SSCE in their local communities. Interested individuals and groups should work first with the district to advocate for adoption of SSCE criteria and programming.
Is there a charge for SSCE insignias?
No. Per EC Section 51474 , there is no charge for SSCE insignias.
Is it possible to request additional insignias, or to make corrections to previous requests?
LEAs may request additional insignias and make corrections to previous requests through the Online Insignia Request Form, updated for each school year and available from the SSCE web page.
The CDE encourages LEAs to submit corrections to insignia requests after insignias are distributed to eligible students each spring. This significantly helps increase the accuracy of SSCE insignia data that is reported each fall.
What are the statewide criteria for earning an SSCE?
The five criteria adopted by the SBE in September 2020 are meant to provide participating LEAs with a framework for making determinations of student qualifications required to earn the SSCE, based on their own local contexts. The criteria are written to ensure that no student is excluded from an opportunity to earn the SSCE based on academic ability, alternative school settings, or unique or unconventional expressions of civic engagement.The student must:
- Be engaged in academic work in a productive way;
- Demonstrate a competent understanding of United States and California constitutions; functions and governance of local governments; tribal government structures and organizations; the role of the citizen in a constitutional democracy; and democratic principles, concepts, and processes;
- Participate in one or more informed civic engagement project(s) that address real-world problems and require students to identify and inquire into civic needs or problems, consider varied responses, take action, and reflect on efforts;
- Demonstrate civic knowledge, skills, and dispositions through self-reflection; and
character traits that reflect civic-mindedness and a commitment to positively impact the classroom, school, community and/or society.
How were the criteria developed?
Information on the criteria development process is available on the SSCE Criteria Development web page.
Must students achieve all five statewide criteria in order to earn a seal?
Yes, a student must meet all of the statewide criteria to earn a SSCE.
Are LEAs permitted to adopt the statewide criteria?
LEAs are permitted to adopt the statewide criteria for local use. The CDE encourages considering specialized criteria that reflect the local community wherever possible and practical.
Are LEAs permitted to adopt their own criteria?
LEAs are permitted to adopt their own criteria to award a SSCE that are reflective of the LEA’s community, background, and needs. Local criteria should encompass the statewide criteria adopted by the SBE and be made accessible to all students served by the LEA.
Are sites within the same district or county allowed to adopt different criteria and other requirements for earning a SSCE?
As long as all local criteria and requirements adopted by sites, districts, and/or counties are aligned to the statewide criteria, LEAs at the county or district level may decide to develop local programming to award the SSCE that permit individual sites a measure of flexibility in determining criteria and other requirements. This could be one way that LEAs ensure the SSCE is accessible to students from a variety of different school sites.
In each case, the local governing board is responsible for reviewing and adopting local criteria and other requirements that account for flexibility among sites.
By when do students have to meet the criteria to earn a SSCE?
The LEA determines all local timelines for students to earn an SSCE. The CDE recommends that LEAs request insignias four weeks before they are required to ensure timely delivery.
Will the CDE provide additional criteria on what counts as a community-based project?
The legislated requirement for the CDE to develop statewide criteria was met when the SBE adopted the final criteria in September 2020. What counts as community-based is determined by the LEA and is dependent on local conditions and needs.
Local Programming Specifics
When can LEAs begin to offer the SSCE locally?
LEAs may begin to design and implement local programming to support civic education and attainment of the SSCE at any time. LEAs who have already adopted local programming may begin to award insignias as early as the end of the 2020–21 school year.
Can passing an Advanced Placement exam or other types of classes count towards the SSCE?
Each LEA will make a determination of course and exam eligibility, based on the locally-adopted SSCE criteria. LEAs are encouraged to design local programming that is flexible and provide a variety of options to ensure that the SSCE is accessible to all students, including students with disabilities, English Learners, socioeconomically disadvantaged students, foster and homeless students, and youth in alternative educational settings.
Is there a Grade Point Average requirement for the SSCE?
The LEA is able to make that determination, based on the statewide SBE-adopted criteria. The CDE encourages LEAs to design programming to support civic learning and attainment of the SSCE that is flexible and provide a variety of options to ensure that the SSCE is accessible to all students.
Should projects be single year or cumulative?
Project length is determined at the local level. Locally-adopted programming to support civic learning and attainment of the SSCE should have clearly-defined pathways for students to earn the SSCE over a cumulative academic trajectory. However, LEAs are encouraged to have a clear policy in place for providing students opportunities to earn the SSCE over differing periods of time. The CDE encourages LEAs to design programming that is flexible and provide a variety of options to ensure that the SSCE is accessible to all students.
What type of evidence should an LEA keep in order to ensure that the student has met the local requirements to earn a SSCE?
This will mostly be determined by the LEA, and will be based on the local criteria. However, based on the statewide criteria, the LEA will likely need to track:
- What classes has the student completed?
- In what ways and to what extent has the student been involved with various civic groups and activities, on campus and/or off campus?
- In what other ways has the student demonstrated ongoing civic learning and engagement? Are there rubrics that measure and demonstrate the student’s ongoing civic engagement?
- Through which assessments has the student demonstrated civic learning?
- Who has attested to the character traits that demonstrate an ongoing, positive commitment to civic engagement in the student?
- Will the insignia be affixed to a diploma, transcript, or other official certificate of completion?
If most students take an American Government class during grade twelve, how can LEAs award the SSCE to students in grade eleven?
Students in grade eleven who have met the American Government requirement through coursework on campus or through dual enrollment at a community college, or via an Advanced Placement exam or the equivalent, or through other routes that can lead to graduation before completion of grade twelve, may be eligible to earn an SSCE to be affixed to their transcript in grade eleven.
Please see the Resources to Support Civic Engagement web page, SSCE web page, and the CaET SSCE group for additional resources and ideas.
How can students use civic engagement outside of school to earn a SSCE?
LEAs are encouraged to include provisions for students to incorporate civic learning and engagement outside of school into a pathway to earn the SSCE, wherever possible and practical. LEAs may consider including specific instructions or options for students to incorporate these experiences into civic engagement projects or reflections, or in any other way that upholds the statewide SSCE criteria that the LEA deems acceptable.
How do educators assess student performance towards the seal, especially if districts do not offer authentic assessments?
The CDE recognizes that the lack of an authentic statewide assessment in social science may present challenges for LEAs in implementing the SSCE. LEAs are encouraged to consider how a variety of formative, interim, and summative assessments may be used to satisfy eligibility requirements as they develop local SSCE criteria.
Will the CDE provide a suggested model for implementation?
The authorizing legislation, codified in EC sections 51470–51474 , does not include development of a statewide suggested model for implementation. However, the CDE can connect LEAs with stakeholder organizations that may be able to share these resources as they are developed. Please visit the SSCE web page for additional information on these organizations. The Resources to Support Civic Engagement web page also has information to support implementation.
Who can develop and adopt programming to support civic education and attainment of a SSCE?
LEAs may develop programming to support civic education and attainment of a SSCE at the county or district level, or both. Independent secondary charters are permitted to adopt programming at the school site level. Due to the requirement that local criteria be adopted by the local governing board at the district level, individual public school sites are not permitted to adopt their own programs independently. However, counties or districts may choose to grant flexibility to sites in determining the format of their programming.
Counties and districts are also strongly encouraged to develop local criteria that is accessible to students in alternative school settings (e.g., juvenile justice programs, continuation high schools, independent study, etc.), and to develop equitable pathways for students in non-traditional settings to earn and receive a SSCE.
Will there be any special guidance on implementing the SSCE for English Learners, multilingual students, students with disabilities, students living in rural areas, homeless students, foster students, and students in alternative educational settings?
The authorizing legislation, codified in EC sections 51470–51474 , encourages LEAs to develop local programming to support civic learning and attainment of the SSCE, responsive to local needs, to include all student populations to the best of their abilities. The SBE further emphasized the need to make the SSCE accessible to all students, especially those who may otherwise lack access to civic engagement opportunities. As LEAs begin to implement the SSCE, the CDE will identify and promote models of successful, equity-focused programs that incorporate special student populations. As LEAs continue to develop and adopt programming to support civic education and attainment of the SSCE locally, the CDE will also conduct surveys to identify and report on ways that LEAs are providing all students opportunities to earn the SSCE.
What type of record keeping should LEAs use with respect to the SSCE?
Specific SSCE-related record keeping is at the discretion of each LEA. At a minimum, the CDE recommends that the following records are kept in programming and/or individual student files:
- Locally-adopted criteria and district/county contacts
- Identified site staff leads/SSCE advisors
- Identified community partners
- Pathway agreements between elementary, middle, and high school programs
- Procedures to support students in alternative settings, including students enrolled through an Independent Study Program
- Timeline and/or list of promotional activities
- Student applications
- Locally-adopted criteria tracking record for each eligible student
- Summary of evidence submitted by student to verify eligibility
- Names of students at each site who earned a SSCE each academic year
- Information on students who applied for, but did not receive, a SSCE (if applicable)
- Number of insignias requested each year, broken into categories: high school diplomas, General Educational Development certificates, certificates of completion, and grade eleven or twelve transcripts
- Number of insignias distributed each year (by categories outlined above)
Can LEAs partner with the CDE to sponsor clubs or other organizations on campus that support the SSCE?
The CDE does not partner with, sponsor, nor endorse on-campus clubs or organizations. However, the CDE will identify exemplar local opportunities to attain the SSCE to post on its SSCE web pages as resources that support local implementation.
How can LEAs engage teachers in areas in addition to HSS, such as Career Technical Education and science?
The CDE encourages LEAs to develop programming to support civic learning and attaining of the SSCE that include courses in other subject areas, and offer professional development opportunities for educators outside of HSS to become involved in the SSCE. Additionally, students may be permitted to engage in service learning projects that support environmental literacy or financial literacy, or work with community organizations that focus on those subject areas.
Is the Civic Learning Award tied to the SSCE?
The SSCE is awarded to eligible students as a seal of recognition for their individual efforts. The Civic Learning Awards are awarded to schools as part of the Civic Learning Initiative . This program exists independently of the SSCE, but is complementary to the goal of promoting student civic engagement. Activities completed through established civic education programs (such as those that have earned a Civic Learning Award) may be counted toward the requirement to earn a SSCE, as determined by the local governing board.
How does the SSCE compare with the Golden State Seal Merit Diploma (GSSMD) or the State Seal of Biliteracy (SSB)?
Eligible California students have several options for seals to affix to diplomas or transcripts upon or nearing graduation.
The GSSMD, established in 1997, recognizes public school graduates who have demonstrated mastery of the high school curriculum in at least six subject areas, four of which are English language arts, mathematics, science, and U.S. history, with the remaining two subject areas selected by the student. Per EC sections 51450–51455, each LEA that confers a high school diploma is required to maintain appropriate records in order to annually identify students who have earned a GSSMD and to affix the GSSMD to the diploma and transcript of each qualifying student.
The SSB, established in 2012, is a recognition conferred by the State Superintendent of Public Instruction for graduating high school students who have attained a high level of proficiency in speaking, reading, and writing in one or more languages in addition to English, as specified in criteria in EC Section 51461. LEA participation in this program is optional. Per EC Section 51463, one seal may be placed on the eligible graduate's high school diploma or transcript for each language in addition to English in which they demonstrate proficiency.
How does the SSCE relate to the California Serves Program?
California EC Section 51475 establishes the California Serve Program, including an annual grant program to support LEAs seeking to increase access to service learning. The purpose of this program is to promote access to effective service learning, with the goal of expanding access for high school graduates in obtaining a SSCE service learning. LEAs that choose to participate in this program will use these resources to support high-quality service learning instruction, supporting students working towards a SSCE.
Additional information on California Serves, including the grant program, will be posted to the California Serves web page as it becomes available.
May LEAs reproduce the SSCE insignia image for promotional use or to place on intermediate certificates and awards that mark progress toward the SSCE?
Upon request and approval from the CDE, LEAs may use the SSCE image, for promotional and informational purposes about local SSCE programming that meets the statewide criteria. This includes resources like web pages, brochures, fliers, and other informational handouts about the SSCE opportunity.
LEAs are not permitted to reproduce the SSCE image for recognition of progress toward the SSCE (e.g., elementary or middle school certificates, awards, or diplomas). LEAs are also not permitted to reproduce the SSCE image for official documents in grades eleven or twelve that are in addition to one official SSCE insignia available per student.
How will the SSCE appear on the California School Dashboard?
At this time, LEAs are able only to provide information on the number of students earning a SSCE when they place an insignia order. This information will not appear on the California School Dashboard. However, at the request of the SBE, the CDE has convened a Civic Engagement Work Group to consider how additional criteria may be developed to recognize civic engagement in the College and Career Indicator. Additional information about the progress of this work will be available in late 2021.
How will this information be reported to colleges?
The CDE will not report this information to colleges.