[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/02/18/art.obama.file.gi.jpg caption="One lucky high school class will get President Obama to speak at their graduation this year, the White House announced Friday."]Washington (CNN) – One lucky high school class will get President Obama to speak at their graduation this year, the White House announced Friday.
The first annual "Race to the Top High School Commencement Challenge" competition invites public high schools across the country to show the White House what sets them apart from other schools in academic excellence and college preparedness. Obama will address the commencement of the winning school.
"Public schools that encourage systemic reform and embrace effective approaches to teaching and learning help prepare America's students to graduate ready for college and a career, and enable them to out-compete any worker, anywhere on the world," Obama said in a video released on the White House Web site Friday. "This is your opportunity to show me why your school exemplifies the best that our education system has to offer."
Schools must fill out an application form available through the White House Web site by March 15. Six finalists will then be featured on the White House Web site where the public will have an opportunity to vote for the three schools they think best meet Obama's goals. An ultimate winner will then be selected. The six finalists will be selected by the White House and the Department of Education according to a statement from the White House.
Obama has made education reform a centerpiece of his domestic agenda. In his budget for fiscal year 2010, Obama proposed adding an additional $1.35 billion to continue his $4 billion Race to the Top Challenge for the nation's public schools.
The initiative calls for states to submit applications outlining how they would improve student performance, reward and retain teachers, and turn around low-performing schools.