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Posted at 5:23 PM ET, 03/ 7/2011

Few schools enter contest for Obama commencement speech

By Valerie Strauss

The White House did not receive enough applicants in a contest it launched for schools to win a commencement address by President Obama so it extended the deadline and made the application process easier.

The contest, officially called “Race to the Top High School Commencement Challenge,” invites schools to demonstrate how their school best prepares students for college and a career.

CBS News reports on an internal Feb. 22 White House memo that says only 14 schools had applied, and it asks recipients to "please keep the application number close hold."
The deadline was moved from Feb 25 to March 11.

A Feb. 28 memo then reported that there were 68 applications, compared with more than 1,000 schools in the 2010 contest. The memo says, according to CBS, “Something isn’t working,” and it urges White House staff to ask legislators and other public officials to encourage schools to apply.

The application originally had included answers to several essays and a video, but the contest website now says that schools have only to answer “three short essay questions and readily available student achievement data.”

The effort is a way for the administration to highlight Obama’s campaign for the United States to have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020.

Last year, the winner was Kalamazoo Central High School in Michigan, chosen by Obama himself after a process that included an on-line component in which the public could rate the applications.

You can learn more about the contest here.


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By Valerie Strauss  | March 7, 2011; 5:23 PM ET
Categories:  High School  | Tags:  commencement contest, obama speech, president obama, race to the top, race to the top commencement contest, white house contest  
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Next: Why schools should try things not "research-based"


MAybe if President Obama promied to bring some money along to leave behind, he'd get a greater response.

Posted by: edlharris | March 7, 2011 10:26 PM | Report abuse

So, the White House notification of said contest now states that the application has been "streamlined" and the deadline extended. Well, has the White House lowered the standards for the less motivated and the deadline for the laggards? What kind of contest are they running anyway? Why does Duncan feel it necessary now to drum up contestants; it is a dishonor to those who played by the rules of the contest and met the criteria and deadline. The White House should have stayed the course with the contest. I shouldn't, but oh, I can't help but to think that the winning school will have Obama as the booby prize. However, the fanfare will be fun for them.

Posted by: shadwell1 | March 7, 2011 11:44 PM | Report abuse

Sounds like the administration is learning a little lesson called sometimes students just don't care. Fire the person in charge of the contest. Obviously he/she needs to be held accountable for failing to motivate students to apply for this honor. Everyone knows that good contest coordinators make all the difference.

Posted by: stevendphoto | March 8, 2011 12:44 AM | Report abuse

Maybe American high school students are smarter than we realize.

Posted by: RogerThatt | March 8, 2011 2:33 AM | Report abuse

Maybe American high school students are smarter than we realize.

Posted by: RogerThatt | March 8, 2011 2:33 AM | Report abuse

Sorry, but there's just no time to put together a meaningful affirmation of your school with all the test prep this time of year. Who has time with PowerPoints when there's worksheets, benchmark tests, and data analysis to perform?

Posted by: pdexiii | March 8, 2011 2:40 AM | Report abuse

Whatever schools are selected the students will have a memorable commencement.

Posted by: 12345leavemealone | March 8, 2011 7:10 AM | Report abuse

It may be that schools are disappointed with "Race to the Top" and don't care to apply.

Posted by: jlp19 | March 8, 2011 11:09 AM | Report abuse

Who would as more and more want to see the hidden history of the imposter -in- chief?

Posted by: dottydo | March 8, 2011 11:44 AM | Report abuse

Who would as more and more want to see the hidden history of the imposter -in- chief?

Posted by: dottydo | March 8, 2011 11:44 AM


Yawn! Been a deebag long?!?!

Posted by: TheChampisheretoo | March 8, 2011 12:15 PM | Report abuse

Who would as more and more want to see the hidden history of the imposter -in- chief?

Posted by: dottydo | March 8, 2011 11:44 AM


Yawn! Been a deebag long?!?!

Posted by: TheChampisheretoo | March 8, 2011 12:15 PM | Report abuse

I guess not enough is being done to prepare them for college.

I just heard on the morning news today a local school (not in DC)has to cut programs like Art, Music, and FOREIGN LANGUAGE. That last one might be where the problem is; how can we compete globally if the few schools that do offer languages tend to cut that offering????

I might as well defend ART and Music too -Art is definitely a good way to release stress and relax. Also good for expressing oneself. Music is highly mentally engaging. Music is math basically and we should encourage learning music as a way to develope such skills.

Posted by: hebe1 | March 8, 2011 4:09 PM | Report abuse

I sure we can blame the teacher's union for this too...

Posted by: ozpunk | March 8, 2011 4:21 PM | Report abuse

What does "please keep the application number close hold" mean in English?

Everybody's heard him read from the teleprompter before...

Posted by: alanaforsyth | March 8, 2011 7:24 PM | Report abuse

Obama needs to wake up! This is certainly very revealing that only students at 14 schools nationally bothered to complete the application for the possibility of having him speak. OBAMA... WAKE UP... RTTT policies are destroying any possibility of students in title one public schools from getting the education they deserve. IT IS BELIEVABLE that only 14 schools in THE ENTIRE NATION responded... Shouldn't this be his wake up call?Also, Obama appears so out of touch with the realities that his RTTT policies create. Most states are in a stressful state right now (especially title one public schools) test prepping for the high stakes testing which is happening now in most states. Prior to now students in the few months previous to the high stakes tests are wasting their days test prepping. They don't have time to be completing applications for a visit from the very person responsible for fueling this education disaster!

Posted by: teachermd | March 8, 2011 7:27 PM | Report abuse

"Music is math basically and we should encourage learning music as a way to develope such skills."
Something repeated by people who don't know math nor music.

Posted by: AT_MD | March 8, 2011 9:21 PM | Report abuse

Can't blame the schools for not entering the contest since Obama has promised to speak at the winning school. His popularity is hitting rock bottom since America is awakening to his AntiAmerican Agenda so they certainly don't want Marxist Trash dirtying up their school grounds.

Posted by: billwhit1357 | March 9, 2011 1:08 AM | Report abuse

"Barack Obama did not sneak into power.
An army of clueless, disconnected, ignorant Americans invited him to bring his Marxist, glaringly anti-American jihad into our lives. This president's overtly destructive, clear-and-present-danger agenda is surpassed in transparency only by his ultra-leftist public voting record and overall lifetime conduct of consorting with the enemy as a child and student of Marxism, socialist and racist community organizer, congregant of the blatant America-hating Rev. Jeremiah Wright and close personal friend of convicted terrorists like Bill Ayers, and by his unflinching appointment of an array of communist czars, including Van Jones, Cass Sunstein, Anita Dunne, et al. So let me get this straight: You claim your intentions were noble because you simply wanted to get your child a puppy but somehow didn't notice that it was foaming at the mouth, and now you're shocked that your child has rabies? I think not. That is not a mistake. It is negligence -- dangerous, life threatening and, I am convinced, downright criminal negligence. And the price for such negligence is catastrophic. But it gets worse. For, you see, the blame doesn't fall just on the obvious stupidity of our friends and families who voted for this corrupt, death-wish government in whose stranglehold we find ourselves. Ultimately, it is our fault. It is the failure of those of us who know better but have failed miserably to educate our own. Living our lives with a captive audience of family, friends, co-workers, socialites, fellow worshippers at church and other parents at school -- everyone in our everyday walks of life -- far too many of us have allowed uneducated, history-devoid, denial-riddled, fantasy-driven, anti-gun and anti-hunting, anti-capitalism general ignoramuses to remain so and run amok, when by all thoughtful considerations, it was our duty to educate and upgrade everyone in our lives to truth, logic and the American way. It is the terminal curse of apathy and disconnect that got us into this shameless mess we find America in today, and in all honesty, we have no one to blame but ourselves.
We all saw it coming, but political correctness caused most of us to clam up in the ridiculous mindset that it was more important to avoid hurting feelings than to stand up for what we knew in our hearts was being trampled underfoot. Sadly, America has become a nation of ultra-thin-skinned, whining little girls, afraid of our own shadows and so cowardly as to back away from the simple solution of speaking the truth when we know we are supposed to do so. The devil brigade acting upon the Saul Alinsky deception playbook has made its mark by lying, cheating and attacking with the very hate that it accuses everybody else of harboring." Rock n' roll icon, Ted Nugent, who wrote the previous essay, might just be on to something. Obama is a fraud.

Posted by: readthevotingrecord | March 9, 2011 7:58 AM | Report abuse

Just think about the percentages here. There are millions of graduating high school students and only 14 originally -- and now 68 total (while making it easier I guess the plus side for President Obama, it sure makes it easier to determine the winner! (In other words, you would expect these entries to be in the thousands.)

Now, to some of the other commenters' statements regarding these seniors don't have time to complete an entry because they are prepping for tests! I used to be a teacher -- and if you are really doing your job, your students "should not" have to do a lot of prepping for any kind of testing. You don't teach for a "test". You teach so students acquire knowledge and skills to use throughout life. One of my measures of how well I was doing as a teacher, was whether my students had not only acquired the subject matter but could "retain it" to use on an on-going basis.

Therefore, whether a test, final exam, achievement tests, etc. you really can't cram. You either have it or you don't. Any senior wanting President Obama to choose their school would most likely be one that "prepping" for tests wouldn't be a consideration in applying.

I think what is occurring is President Obama has lost his credibility with not only a good majority of the American people, but also our young people. He has not kept his campaign promises, he never really defined "Hope & Change" during the campaign -- left each person to define. Upon becoming president, they found his definition & theirs were not the same. Then, he has over-exposed himself like a celebrity vs. a leader. Every day he finds a way to be on TV. When he really needs to speak to America, no one is tuning in. But, most of all, he has defied the will of the American people several times in favor of pushing his socialist agenda. This is not the American way! When you add up all his negatives versus his positives, the scales are definitely unbalanced to the negative.

Since taking office, all our youth hears night after night is what a "horrible" future they will inherit; mainly, due to President Obama's policies and agenda. It's doom and gloom! Not much Hope & Change! So, what's the old saying, "Out of the mouth of babes!" Guess the babes are indirectly saying, "I'm not buying this!"

Posted by: Nee43 | March 9, 2011 1:01 PM | Report abuse

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