Some high schools in Auburn, Bellevue, Federal Way also offer the new AP "Capstone" program, which gives students a chance to dig deep into a topic of contemporary concern -- and hone their research and collaborative skills.

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The College Board has come up with a new way for accomplished high school students to distinguish themselves: “AP Capstone,” a program meant to supplement and enrich advanced placement (AP) courses.

To earn this new stamp of distinction on their diploma, students must pass four AP exams as well as two new yearlong Capstone courses, AP Seminar and AP Research.

Students who pass the Capstone classes without passing four AP classes receive an AP Seminar and Research Certificate.

In Washington State, the curriculum has been adopted by schools in the Everett, Auburn, Bellevue, Federal Way, Gig Harbor, Spokane, Camas and Springdale school districts.

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Everett started offering the program at Henry M. Jackson High School this fall and plans to become the first district in Western Washington to offer it at all of its comprehensive high schools next year.

“We think this will help our students prepare for both college and career,” said Tony Byrd, associate superintendent of curriculum, assessment and special programs. “This will be a huge feather in their cap. Many universities around the country have endorsed this program, including the University of Washington, Stanford and Yale.”

Districts are invited to participate in Capstone by the College Board, which administers the SAT college-entrance exam and AP exams nationwide. The board selects districts that have a solid record of enrolling diverse students into their AP programs and proven success at helping them pass the tests.

In the first year of Capstone, students take an AP Seminar course in which they learn to evaluate arguments, pose solutions, collaborate and communicate. In the second year, the AP Research course requires them to plan and conduct a yearlong interdisciplinary project on an issue of contemporary concern, culminating with a 5,000-word research paper.

Byrd said the program’s emphasis on collaboration was very appealing. “We like that dimension,” he said. “That’s what people are doing in the workplace today. We think this will help them in both college and career.”

The AP Capstone program began in the fall of 2014 at just 114 U.S. schools and 22 in Canada.

This story has been corrected. Everett Public Schools plans to be the first district in Western Washington to offer the AP Capstone curriculum at all of its comprehensive high schools, not the first in the state.