Locust Fork is School of Excellence



Locust Fork High School celebrated a huge accomplishment during halftime of Friday night’s football game. After years of hard work, Locust Fork is one of four A+ College Ready Schools of Excellence for the 2019-2020 school year.They are the only school in the Blount County School system to achieve this designation.

A+ College Ready partners with high schools and their feeder middle schools to raise academic expectations for all students.

According to Principal Tommy Smitherman (pictured above receiving the School of Excellence award), LFHS wrote a grant for inclusion into the A+ College Ready program. Once the grant was approved, A+ College Ready partnered with the school and worked with LFHS administration and faculty to develop a diverse pipeline of students prepared for rigorous coursework as well as increase access to Advanced Placement (AP) classes.

The A+ College Ready program began in 2007 with a $13.2-million grant given by the National Math and Science Initiative. “States could then apply to receive grants to promote or enhance Advanced Placement classes,” explained John Richey, A+ College Ready leader- ship consultant. Accepted schools are placed in cohorts, with Locust Fork in Cohort 10.

Teachers from grades six to 10 are then trained to teach in a pre-AP-style course with increased rigor to better prepare students for the AP courses they will take in grades 11 and 12. Each AP teacher is trained either at Auburn University or The University of Alabama.

Incentives are offered to both students and teachers for passing AP exams in an effort to help foster excitement and commitment to the program. The A+ College Ready Program happens over a three-year period in which schools are provided all supplemental materials needed to help teachers and students achieve successful AP outcomes.

“Tommy Smitherman is a perfect example of how this program can work perfectly,” Richey said. “The students earned qualifying scores on their AP exams that exceeded their ambitious goal. This is the heart of our work – training, equipping, and supporting teachers to better prepare their students for a bright future.”

Smitherman, however, gives credit to his students. “Our students jumped in and bought into these new classes in total faith. They knew immediately they were in over their heads a little, but they knew it was worth it.” He also noted that their participation in this program has transformed the culture of the school and shows that “someone who attends LFHS and wants a great education can have it here.”

The rest of the credit, according to Smitherman, are the teachers of LFHS. He said it was their concerted effort that made this program a success. From 2017-2019, “LFHS teachers went through hours of training and professional development to become better teachers and rise to the challenge of designing a more rigorous AP course. The energy of LFHS is palpable and they have found a confidence in being the only Blount County School to earn this designation so far.”

The Blount Countian congratulates each of the students who committed to these challenging courses, the teachers who spent countless hours training so they could better prepare their students, and the administrators who had a vision and turned it into reality.