Have you ever visited Bridgeport, Washington? It is a beautiful town on the shores of the Columbia River in Douglas County. There's no rush hour traffic and the closest Starbucks is 45-minutes away in Chelan.
That said, the community of only about 2,000 people has mustered enough online votes for the high school to become a finalist in the Department of Education's Race to the Top Commencement Challenge.
Bridgeport HS is by far the smallest school among the finalists with only 200 registered students.
The competition honors schools that have made progress at improving test scores and graduation rates.
Students at the school face tremendous odds: nearly half of all students are classified as low-income, many are migrants and most are not native English speakers. Despite those challenges, the school now manages to graduate 90 percent of its students. Three years ago, only 75 percent of its students graduated on time. Statewide, the graduation rate is only 73.5 percent.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn calls that "incredible."
In announcing the finalists, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said, "I am humbled by the hundreds of extraordinary applicants we received this year and, more importantly, by the tremendous work our nation's public high schools are doing to ensure that our students are graduating ready to go on to college and careers. The Challenge continues to be a wonderful opportunity to share stories of success from our nation's public high schools and put a spotlight on the tough and exceptional work they do every day."
The public will help determine the winner of the Challenge through an internet vote. To vote, go to the White House website and watch the video each school has made. At the bottom of the page, you will see blue boxes numbered 1-5. Rank each school by clicking on one of the numbers (5 is the highest ranking; 1 is the lowest); then click "Next" to view the next school.
Ratings will not be restricted by IP or email address, however each person is only allowed to rate the schools one time.
The three schools receiving the most votes will be announced Monday, May 2. Those schools will be forwarded to President Obama, who will then select the winner - and speak at their graduation ceremony in June.