WASHINGTON (CNN) – Some school kids learned Monday that getting better grades means getting to go to the White House Easter Egg Roll next week, with federal and local school officials stopping at one school in the District of Columbia to announce distribution of the hard-to-get tickets.
U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan told a classroom of wide-eyed third-graders that, "We're going to give out 4,000 tickets to school children in this area, but 2,000 here to the D.C. public schools - and this is because you guys are working so hard."
As he visited with students Monday to tell them about the tickets, the secretary was accompanied by District of Columbia Mayor Adrian Fenty and Michelle Rhee, the chancellor of public schools in the District of Columbia.
Among the surprised school children was 8-year-old Chauntia Mabry, who stood and thanked Duncan.
The soft-spoken little girl later said, "I told them that it would be great to see Malia and Sasha, and that I wanted to see the president, and play on the playground, and find Easter egg rolls."
President Barack Obama's daughters attend private schools in the nation's capital. Malia is age 10, and Sasha is 7.
The officials stopped at Plummer Elementary School, where test scores a year ago were among the lowest in the district's public school system. Schools chief Rhee told CNN that scores at the school are now up 17 percentage points for reading, and 15 percentage points for math.
She also noted that district elementary schools are closing a gap in academic performance among African-American students compared to white and Hispanic children in the city.
Many people hoping to attend the annual event on the South Lawn of the White House have been disappointed at being unable to obtain the tickets through a new Internet-based distribution system. In previous years, people could get tickets by standing in line on the Ellipse the weekend before the event.
The Web site for tickets says they are are no longer available.
Duncan, speaking with reporters afterward, said handing out tickets to next week's Easter Egg Roll "was just a perfect opportunity to say to the school community here, 'Great job, keep working hard, we couldn't be more proud of what you're accomplishing.'"
According to the White House Web site, the annual Easter Egg Roll dates
The day-long event is scheduled for next Monday, April 13.