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Posted at 6:20 AM ET, 04/26/2010

Vote on Obama's commencement speech contest

By Valerie Strauss

The Obama administration sure likes competition in education.

Starting today the public can rate six public schools named as finalists in a White House competition that offers President Obama as the prize. He will deliver the commencement address for the national winner.

Obama put out a call earlier this year for public schools to participate in the “Race to the Top High School Commencement Challenge.” The idea was for schools to submit applications -- complete with video and written essays -- that show how dedicated they are to getting their students ready to succeed at college and at a career.

The six finalists, selected by the administration, are:

* Blue Valley Northwest High School (Overland Park, Kansas)
* Clark Montessori Junior High and High School (Cincinnati, Ohio)
* Denver School of Science and Technology (Denver, Colorado)
* Environmental Charter High School (Lawndale, California)
* Kalamazoo Central High School (Kalamazoo, Michigan)
* MAST Academy (Miami, Florida)

The public is being asked to go to this Web site,, and review a three-minute video and a short essay from the finalists, and then vote using the following criteria:

* Educational success of the school as an example for other high schools around the country;
* The ability of the school to engage students in learning and to foster personal responsibility and academic excellence; and
* The success of the school in preparing students to graduate college and career-ready, to help meet the President’s 2020 goal that America have the highest proportion of college graduates of any nation in the world.

I have no idea how anybody is supposed to learn all of that from a student-made three-minute video and a short essay, but nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Voting starts at 8 a.m. today and ends at 11:59 p.m. ET Thursday.

Obama will pick from the three schools with the highest average ratings, and the winner will be announced Tuesday, May 4, just in time to start to get ready for a presidential graduation visit.

The contest has the same name as an even bigger administration competition: The $4 billion Race to the Top, in which states are trying to beat each other to win federal education funding to implement reform measures that the administration champions. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and his aides make those decisions.

Duncan selected Tennessee and Delaware in the first round of Race to the Top, saying they had the best applications, though a new study concludes that the winners were chosen through “arbitrary criteria.”

I wish we’d get to vote on those applications.

Follow my blog all day, every day by bookmarking And for admissions advice, college news and links to campus papers, please check out our new Higher Education page at Bookmark it!

By Valerie Strauss  | April 26, 2010; 6:20 AM ET
Categories:  Race to the Top  | Tags:  Blue Valley Northwest High School, Clark Montessori, Denver School of Science and Technology, Environmental Charter high School, High School Commencement Challenge, Kalamazoo Central High school, MAST Academy, Obama and high schools, Obama gives commencement, Race to the Top, Race to the Top High School Commencement Challenge  
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Posted by: itkonlyyou29 | April 26, 2010 10:53 AM | Report abuse

There is no way you can tell if a school met the criteria unless it is studied in depth over years.

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