One of Alabama’s best: Cleburne County High School ranks 17th in state
by Laura Camper
May 06, 2013 | 2063 views |  0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Cleburne County High School was ranked 17th in Alabama by U.S. News & World Report in its annual Best High Schools ranking, and Superintendent Claire Dryden is excited.

“We’re very proud of our schools,” Dryden said.

Board of Education member Jerry Cash echoed that sentiment. It’s the teachers, he said.

“We have cream of the crop teachers,” Cash said. “I firmly believe that.”

To be included in the state rankings a school had to be awarded a gold or silver medal under the magazine’s qualifications. The medals are awarded based on criteria including the college readiness of students, math and English proficiency and the student-teacher ratio.

In Alabama math and English proficiency was determined by student performance on the Alabama High School Graduation test. At Cleburne County High School 94 percent of students were proficient and 29 percent exceeded the standards in math. In English 91 percent were proficient and 15 percent exceeded the standards.

College readiness was determined by the number of students who participated and passed Advanced Placement courses or the International Baccalaureate Program, both of which can earn high school students college credits. Cleburne County schools don’t offer the International Baccalaureate program but they do offer AP classes.

At Cleburne County High School 32 percent of students participated in at least one AP class. Of those students who were taking the AP classes, 33 percent passed the tests to receive college credit. The school earned a College Readiness Index of 17.6.

Both high schools in the county were awarded medals. Cleburne County High School received a silver making it eligible for state ranking. Ranburne High School received a bronze.

At Ranburne, 93 percent of students were proficient in math and 23 percent exceeded standards. In English, 89 percent of students were proficient while 13 percent exceeded standards.

Ranburne earned a college readiness index of .7, well under Cleburne County’s 17.6.

Three percent of students at RHS participated in AP classes but none passed the exams to gain college credit for them.

Dryden said the difference was the availability of the AP classes and the training of the teachers. Cleburne County High School has a few of the classes because of a three-year grant the school received from A+ College Ready, Dryden said.

“Ranburne did not have that opportunity,” Dryden said. “It’s a funding issue.”

It’s expensive to train the teachers to teach the classes and to provide the equipment needed for the classes. The extra training for the AP classes also increased the number of students who exceed the standards on the graduation test, Dryden believes.

“Because we have Pre-AP classes,” Dryden said. “And part of that training wasn’t just for the AP teachers, it was for the teachers who lead up to those 11th and 12th grade AP classes.”

It increased the rigor for all the students, she said.

But money isn’t the only issue that stands in the way of adding the advanced classes at Ranburne, Dryden said. Larger schools have a teacher teaching one specific grade level, for instance ninth grade English. It’s easy to schedule one of those classes as a Pre-AP class, she said.

With Ranburne being a smaller school, teachers often teach every grade level. That makes it harder to schedule Pre-AP and AP classes while still accommodating all the students, she said. Still she’s offered to allow teachers to use some of the professional development funds available to get AP and Pre-AP training; and she’ll continue working to bring the opportunity of advanced classes to the students at Ranburne, she said.

Staff writer Laura Camper 256-235-3545. On Twitter @LCamper_Star.
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