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HHS receives national accolades

Hartselle High School has achieved several academic accomplishments recently in national rankings based on student performances and college preparedness.

HHS was recently ranked No. 629 in a list of the best high schools in the nation compiled by The Daily Beast. Only nine high schools in Alabama made the cut, with Hartselle coming in at No. 7 in the state.

HHS finished ahead of Cullman High School (631) and James Clemons High School (716). Alabama schools ahead of Hartselle included Jefferson County International Baccalaureate School (13), Alabama School of Math and Science (43), Mountain Brook High School (148), Bob Jones High School (311), Oak Mountain High School (437) and Homewood High School (448).

The list ranked high schools based on their ACT/SAT scores, rigor, graduation rate, college preparedness and free/reduced lunch percentages. Hartselle had a graduation rate of 92 percent and a college bound rate of 85 percent. About a fourth of the student population has free or reduced lunch rates. Hartselle’s average ACT score is a 23, and about a fourth of the students are enrolled in AP courses. The Daily Beast concluded that Hartselle’s AP students pass 21.5 percent of their AP exams.

Recent results show HHS had 40 students qualify for AP honors last year. From students taking AP exams last year, 23 students qualified as AP Scholars, meaning they received a passing score of three (out of five) or higher on three or more AP exams. Nine students were named AP Scholars with Honors, meaning they averaged at least a 3.25 on all AP scores and scored a three or higher on four or more exams. Hartselle also had eight AP Scholars with Distinction, meaning they averaged at least a 3.5 on all AP scores and scored a three or higher on five or more AP exams.

Seniors Robin Tumlinson and Molly Ruffington were also named semifinalists in the 2015 National Merit Scholarship Program. This accomplishment was based on their PSAT scores from their junior year. This prestigious honor will make them eligible for many college scholarships.

HHS principal Jeff Hyche said he is very proud of Hartselle’s faculty, staff and students.

“The kids are really starting to raise the bar academically,” Hyche said. “There’s not one accomplishment that I’m proud of over any other, but I’m very happy with everyone’s hard work. I think more students are seeing the benefits of opting to take more challenging courses that will give them more of an opportunity to be successful.”

Hyche said the junior high has also structured its curriculum to help with college preparedness.

“The junior high offers courses that will help prepare students for more rigorous classes at the high school that will in turn help them pass AP exams and hopefully earn them college credit,” Hyche said. “This new structure has now been in place long enough that some of the first students taking these courses are juniors or seniors taking the AP exams, and we are seeing great results from this.”

Hyche predicts that Hartselle’s AP program has not hit its peak yet. He feels the numbers will continue to grow.

“I feel the numbers will be even higher next year,” Hyche said. “Our students are changing their mindset, so instead of wanting easy A’s they are putting in the effort to challenge themselves and are enjoying the benefits AP courses can bring. They’re seeing that these classes can get them scholarships and college credit. We are always trying to make our program better, but I’d say it’s well on its way with the results we’ve had so far.”