Washington (CNN) - Three academically competitive high schools from different areas of the country are competing for a lofty prize: an appearance and a speech from President Barack Obama at their spring commencement ceremony.
Booker T. Washington High School in Memphis, Tennessee, is in an inner city school with high teen pregnancy and HIV/AIDS rates and a history of violence. But the school's graduation rate has risen from 55% to 82% in the past four years.
Wouldn't it be cool if he took it high tech, and gave all of them a live speech via the internet on a giant screen? Something like this must be done live, no taped messages. You could even add a little electricity by actually appearing at one of them live and in person as a surprise after the commencement speech.
Many more U.S. schools initially applied for the distinction, but the academic rigor, high graduation rates and college expectations of these three institutions made them finalists in the 2011 Race to the Top Commencement Challenge
This is the second year for the Race to the Top Commencement Challenge. Over 1,000 high schools competed last year with Kalamazoo High School being the winner, and having the President speak at their Commencement address. There are 3 rounds leading up to the three finalist schools. You are given the chance to vote on them after viewing a video put together by the school's students highlighting their achievements and accomplishments even against and in spite of many negative elements in their community.
I think that this administration recognizes the importance of re-inforcing outstanding educational perfomance early on. We lose so many of our chldren during the high school years to so many negative outside factors; drugs, drop-out rate, teen pregnancy, crime. The contest's focus is on improving graduation rate, and community involvement highlights the need to set back this trend.