For the second year in a row, Cullman High School has been named to Newsweek/The Daily Beast’s annual list of America’s Best High Schools. Cullman ranked 611th out of a total 700 schools selected nationwide.

The national publication analyzed survey data from high schools in an effort to rank America’s best high schools. Much of the criteria focused on how well schools are preparing students for college.

Six indicators culled from school surveys were used to compare public high schools in the U.S., with graduation and college acceptance rates weighed most heavily. Other criteria included college-level courses and exams, rigor, percentage of students with free or reduced lunch, plus SAT and ACT scores.

When compared with 2013 data, Cullman High School improved in several of the college readiness criteria used in the selection process.

The Cullman High graduation rate improved from 93 percent to 94 percent over the past year, the ACT composite score improved from 22.3 to 23.0, the percentage of students enrolled in college level classes (Advanced Placement) increased from 7 percent to 11.6 percent, the number of college level exams (AP Exams) increased from 10 percent to 20 percent of the total school enrollment and the passing rate on college level exams (AP exams) increased from 45.5 percent to 52.6 percent. Cullman High had 25.1 percent free and reduced lunch student population for 2013.

According to recent statistics, officials say more than 80 percent of Cullman High graduates enroll in college within one year of graduating.

“I think we have good instruction from kindergarten through 12th grade, and that has a cumulative effect,” principal Elton Bouldin said. “All our teachers do an excellent job of preparing students, and we keep the instructional focus all the way through high school. Our students are as well, or better, prepared to succeed in college based on ACT scores, as the average student in Alabama or the nation.”

Bouldin also credited the increased rigor of having Advanced Placement courses offered at the school as a factor in the higher student achievement scores.

Cullman High School was the only Cullman area school to make the Newsweek list, though some Alabama schools did rate very highly. Jefferson County International Baccalaureate School - Shades Valley, in Irondale, ranked No. 11. The Alabama School of Mathematics and Science, in Mobile, ranked No. 39. Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science in Bowling Green, Kentucky, led the overall list at No. 1.

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