Few schools enter Obama commencement speech contest

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 reported 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.”

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 Web site 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 online component in which the public could rate the applications.

You can learn more about the contest here.

Follow my blog every day by bookmarking washingtonpost.com/answersheet. And for admissions advice, college news and links to campus papers, please check out our Higher Education page at washingtonpost.com/higher-ed. Bookmark it!

Valerie Strauss covers education and runs The Answer Sheet blog.

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