Tiny Beechwood High School is no stranger to national recognition.

The Fort Mitchell high school, with about 620 students, is a regular on Newsweek and U.S. News and World Report lists of best public high schools. In 2013 it was named a National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence by the U.S. Department of Education and this year it is Kentucky’s representative in the ACT’s national College and Career Transition Award to be presented in June.

The high school, part of the Beechwood Independent School District, which houses all 1,200 K-12 students in a single building, was named Kentucky’s ACT exemplar school by the state Department of Education in March.

Now in its second year, the ACT College and Career Readiness Campaign was established to create awareness around the goal of college and career readiness for all and to recognize exemplary efforts across states. The national award winner, to be announced in June, will be determined by a panel of education and workforce leaders.

First-year principal Alissa Ayres says the recognition is nice, but doesn’t really affect the school’s mission.

“I think it’s validation of the work our teachers and students do every day,” she says. “We’d do this whether there was an award or not. It’s wonderful award, but we do this because we know it is what’s best for kids.”

At Beechwood, what’s best for students is preparing them for college and careers afterward. Over the last five years, the school has scored at the top of the list among Kentucky high school juniors taking the ACT. Approximately 96.6 percent of students tested as college and career ready on tests measuring students’ reading, math and English abilities.

Rather than being a barrier, the school’s small size is an asset to Beechwood’s culture of excellence, says Julie Rash, high school English teacher.

Each graduating class is about 100 students. “We have a personal relationship with the students. They don’t get lost [in the crowd],” she says.

“Ironically, one of the biggest factors in our academic success is our extracurricular success,” she says.

“[More than] 90 percent of the students wear Beechwood on their chest after school in some type of extracurricular activity, whether it’s sports or band or some academic team. They just don’t go home. They’re attached to the school.”

School Counselor Chris Reeves says that community connection helps reinforce Beechwood’s performance.

“People want to be in a school that’s good,” he says. “That connection is what makes this a great school.”

Another factor in Beechwood’s ACT award was its success with economically disadvantaged students, he says.

“People would be surprised to know that 16 percent of our population is on the free or reduced lunch program,” he says. While that’s lower than many districts, it’s higher than many would expect, he says. “And, we’re still getting good [academic] results.”

“We try to meet the needs of all students by making sure every student is growing and reaching their full potential,” says Ayres. “It’s not just the highest ACT scores in the state. We’re also pushing each individual student to achieve their best, so when they go to college, they’re going to be successful.”