Capstone Project

Complete a Culminating Project  

While NWA   determines the guidelines for this Culminating Project, there are statewide goals:
  • Encourage students to think analytically, logically and creatively and to integrate experience and knowledge to solve problems.
  • Give students a chance to explore a topic in which they have a great interest.
  • Offer students an opportunity to apply their learning in a “real world" way.
  • As part of the Culminating Project, each student will demonstrate essential skills through reading, writing, speaking, production and/or performance. To complete the project, students may be asked to write a research paper, work with a mentor in school or in the community, present to a community or peer panel, pull together a portfolio of work and/or develop a multimedia presentation.

Pass State Tests or Approved Alternatives to those Tests

The Certificate of Academic Achievement (CAA) and Certificate of Individual Achievement (CIA) tell families, schools, businesses and colleges that an individual student has mastered a minimum set of reading, writing and math skills by graduation. State law (RCW 28A.655.061) dictates the assessment graduation requirement.

Beginning in the 2009-2010 school year, the high school Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) was replaced by the High School Proficiency Exam (HSPE). If a student has previously passed the WASL in a specific content area (e.g., reading), the student is not required to take the HSPE. Visit for more information and a frequently asked questions section.

Students in the classes of 2009-12 can earn a diploma without one of the CAA/CIA certificates if they:

Meet the state’s reading and writing standards,
Earn two credits of math after 10th grade.

Beginning with the class of 2013, students will be required to earn one of the certificates by meeting state learning standards in reading, writing, math and science.

Both the CAA and the CIA lead to a diploma. Only a student’s transcript indicates which certificate the student earned.

Certificate of Academic Achievement (CAA)

Students earn the CAA by meeting state reading, writing and math learning standards on the high school WASL/HSPE,
One of the CAA Options (state-approved alternatives to the WASL/HSPE)
Option 1 - Earn your CAA by passing the WASL/HSPE: Students have five chances to pass the WASL/HSPE in high school. Testing windows are in March/April and August. Additional retake opportunities will be available in high school completion programs in community colleges.

Option 2 - Earn your CAA through alternative assessment. Most students will earn a high school diploma with a CAA by passing the High School WASL/HSPE in reading, writing and math. But some equally skilled students will need a different way to show what they know. The state has created a menu of options students may access after they take the High School WASL/HSPE at least once and meet any requirements spelled out in their Student Learning Plan.

All of the CAA Options are designed and required to be at least as rigorous as the High School WASL/HSPE. The CAA Options should not be viewed as an alternative for students who have not yet acquired the reading, writing or math knowledge and skills that are required by the state.

The CAA Options are:

A collection of evidence consisting of student work showing they meet grade-level academic standards.
AP/College Admission test scores: A student earns scores at or above a state-designated level on the SAT, ACT and Advanced Placement exams.
An HSPE/Grades Comparison. Comparing a student’s grades in specified math or English/language arts classes with the grades for students who passed the test. (This option is only available to students in 12th grade with an overall cumulative Grade Point Average (GPA) of at least 3.2 on a 4.0 grading scale.)
Certificate of Individual Achievement (CIA)
The CIA is available for students with an Individualized Education Program (IEP) who are unable to take the High School WASL/HSPE (with or without accommodations). As 10th graders, students in special education programs only earn a CIA by passing the WASL/HSPE-Modified (the High School WASL/HSPE with the passing score adjusted to Level 2) or Washington Alternate Assessment System Portfolio. In grades 11 and 12, students who have not yet earned a CIA may also use the Developmentally Appropriate Proficiency Exam (DAPE, formerly DAW), which allows students to take the HSPE at a grade level that best matches their abilities. To pass the DAW, students must earn Proficient (Level 3) on each test taken. Any testing accommodations used must be consistent with the student’s IEP. Students with 504 Plans are not eligible to earn a CIA.

Students receiving special education services must pass state-approved special education reading, writing and math alternate assessments. Download the handout “How Students in Special Education Participate in State Testing.”

Transfer Students and Special Cases
Guidelines have been established for students who have special, unavoidable circumstances (e.g., an extended illness, death of immediate family member, etc) or who transfer to a Washington public school during their 11th or 12th grade year. For transfer students, the process considers whether students have passed a high school assessment in their former state. In addition, these transfer students may access the CAA Options without first taking the WASL/HSPE.

The appeal process ONLY applies to the state’s testing requirement for graduation. Students with special circumstances and those who move into the state during their 11th or 12th grade year need to ask their local school district how they can fulfill the other statewide graduation requirements.

Graduation Requirements