The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

April 24, 2013

UPDATE: Athens High ranks 13th among Alabama high schools

ATHENS — Athens High School has been named the 13th best high school in Alabama in a recent poll by U.S. News and World Report.

Of the 363 schools analyzed in the annual report, 90 achieved ranking in the survey.

Athens High school moved up six slots from 19th place in 2012 among all state schools — public, magnet and charter — to 13th place in 2013. 

Among public schools only — excluding magnet and charter schools — Athens High ranked 10th statewide.

Superintendent Orman Bridges Jr. credited teachers at all grade levels, including the high school, for the ranking.

“I feel very good about this,” Bridges said. “We have moved up six spots (since the last ranking) and this is very rewarding for both the school system and the community.”

He credited the administrators and teachers all around and the hard work they put in to provide a quality education for children in Athens.

“This accolade is a reflection on the school system,” he said. “It goes to all teachers in the system because there has to be a foundation as the students come through our system, but they (high school teachers and administrators) put the polishing touches on our students. They do an outstanding job.”

Athens High Principal Chris Bolen said, “I’m extremely proud of the faculty and students. They are to be credited. We did not seek this out. U.S. News compiled its own information, sorted through all the evidence and compiled its own list. I consider that an honor.”

Bolen believes the people and businesses of Athens should be proud that the high school’s students and teachers are performing at a very high level.

“We look to get even better than we are,” Bolen said “That is what we work for every day we come to school — to be better as a school and better at community service.”

Athens school board member Chris Paysinger said, “This ranking confirms what we in Athens already know, that we have dedicated teachers at every level, wonderful students, and a supportive community that values education. I am personally proud of this achievement and am happy that Athens City Schools is getting the recognition it deserves.”

Schools to beat

Of the nine public high schools that outranked Athens High in Alabama, most have larger populations and wealthier school districts, including Mountain Brook, Homewood, Auburn, Bob Jones in Madison, Ramsay in Birmingham, Virgil Grissom in Huntsville, Vestavia Hills and Fairhope. The two other schools that outranked Athens High are magnet schools that draw students from across normal school zones and offer a specialized curriculum. Athens High’s student population of 879 is 51 percent male, 49 percent female and 35 percent minorities, according to the survey.

The survey said …

The survey ranked 21,035 high schools nationwide, with Athens High ranking 1,579th nationally. Of the best Alabama high schools, two were awarded gold medals, 16 received silver medals — including Athens High — and 72 were considered bronze medal schools. To be eligible for a state ranking, a school must be awarded a national gold or silver medal. Schools were evaluated based on college readiness, math and English proficiency and student to teacher ratio.

• Math and English proficiency scores were a measure of student performance on the state exit exams. Athens High scored 3.3 on both math and English exit exams, meaning 95 percent of the students who took the exam were proficient in math and 96 percent were proficient in English.

• College readiness scores were based on the percentage of 12th graders who pass advanced-placement or AP exams. The top possible score is 100 percent. Athens High scored 23 percent, which is above both the state and national averages. The score means that of the 30 percent who took the AP exam, 21 percent passed.

• Student-teachers ratios reflect the number of students to every teacher in a given classroom. Athens High’s rate is 15:1 or 15 students to every teacher, which is about the state average.

Compare that to the top high school in the nation, The School for Talented and Gifted in Dallas, which scored 100 percent on college readiness; 4.0 and 3.7 respectively on math and English proficiency, meaning 100 percent of its students were proficient in both subjects on exit exams; and reported a 14:1 student-teacher ratio.)

For the results of the survey, including details on how schools are scored, go online to