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Posted at 03:00 PM ET, 04/24/2011

The problem with Obama’s commencement contest

Six finalists have been selected in this year’s sweepstakes in which high schools compete for President Obama -- or, more precisely, for the president to deliver the school’s 2011 commencement speech. Now the administration wants the public to help select the winner and losers.

And that’s the problem. Five schools have to lose for no good reason.

The Obama administration is running its second annual “Race to the Top High School Commencement Challenge.” It works this way: Schools were invited to demonstrate with essays and data how their school best prepares students for college and a career, and six finalists were selected by administration officials from dozens of applicants.

(There was initially a shortage of applicants this year, as CBS reported in February, but the administration then made it easier to apply and more schools decided to participate.)

The six finalists (listed below) were then asked to submit a video, all of which are posted on the Education Department’s Web site, so the public can vote according to specific rating criteria on the school’s application. The rating deadline is Friday, 11:59 p.m. EDT. Obama will choose the winning school from the three with the highest average ratings.

What’s wrong with this picture?

Well, for starters, as one reader, pdexiii, commented March 8 on an earlier post I did about the contest, “Sorry, but there’s just no time to put together a meaningful affirmation of your school with all the test prep this time of year. Who has time with PowerPoints when there’s worksheets, benchmark tests, and data analysis to perform?”

And, perhaps, this all comes down to which school has more students and parents who can vote.

But aside from those practicalities, the notion of making the president a prize to be won on largely subjective criteria is not especially palatable. Why should five schools who have done great work in educating children have to feel like they lost?

There’s nothing wrong with healthy competition, but this, I don’t think, is.

The finalists this year are:

* Bridgeport High School (Bridgeport, Wash.)

* Wayne Early Middle College High School (Goldsboro, N.C.)

* Booker T. Washington High School (Memphis, Tenn.)

* Science Park High School (Newark, NJ.)

* Pittsburgh CAPA 6-12, School for Creative and Performing Arts (Pittsburgh, Pa.)

* High Tech High International (San Diego, Calif.)

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By  |  03:00 PM ET, 04/24/2011

 
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