WASHINGTON, May 10 (UPI) -- Booker T. Washington High School in Memphis is the winner of the 2011 Race to the Top High School Commencement Challenge, the White House announced Tuesday.
"I'm so proud of the schools that participated in this year's commencement challenge and I want to thank all of them for their hard work and dedication," President Barack Obama said in a release issued by the White House. "Booker T. Washington High School proves what can be accomplished when students, teachers, parents and administrators come together to support achievement in the classroom and I'm looking forward to delivering the commencement address at this extraordinary school soon."
School Principal Alisha Kiner was informed of the honor by Vice President Joe Biden.
The Tennessee school's graduation rate went from 55 percent in 2007 to 81.6 percent in 2010.
Steps the school has taken to improve its graduation rate include the creation of separate freshmen academies for boys and girls to help them adjust to high school, and developing a culture in which teachers take personal interest in seeing students take pride in their schoolwork.
The school's students can now take Advanced Placement classes, learn about engineering through robotics competitions and earn college credits.
The Race to the Top program is part of Obama's goal of having the United States achieve the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020.