story by Jamie Gilbert-Fitzpatrick, Becca Spilka and Abby Beauregard

Hard work pays off as Dutch Fork High School is ranked 526 as America’s most challenging high schools according to thestate.com.  Dutch Fork also ranked number three in the state of South Carolina for most challenging high schools according to washingtonpost.com.   The ranking is based on the percentage of seniors taking Advanced Placement exams.

“We’re glad that a lot of our kids take advantage of the opportunities we have with AP. You don’t want to just take courses that are real hard and not do well in them. You want to always take courses that push you and that you can perform adequately in,” principal Dr. Greg Owings said.  “I’m real happy. Any time you’re in the top two or three of high schools in South Carolina, that’s pretty good. Very proud of our students, our teachers, our district office and all of our community that supports us.”

Sophomore Abigail Cox agrees and expresses how Dutch Fork has prepared her well for the future.

“My experience with Dutch Fork has been a challenging, academic environment, especially with all of the AP classes and honors classes offered here. Although it’s challenging, teachers are always willing to help and encourage me to do better. Teachers truly care about my personal success,” Abigail said.  “I think compared to other schools in the state, Dutch Fork is definitely more challenging in terms of a learning environment. Compared to other schools, even here in the midlands, DF offers more AP classes and expects more of the students. That includes more in-depth homework, more projects and more research, but the extra work pays off when it comes to exams.”

Dutch Fork wouldn’t have been able to obtain such success without the support of the community, students, faculty and the district office.

“I think that we deserve this recognition because of the collaboration and tireless efforts of all stakeholders including students, teachers, the district office and the community.  I think that it’s evident through our rankings that Dutch Fork High School has established a culture of excellence and that we strive to do better and be better in all areas,” assistant principal for instruction Sarah Longshore said.

Senior Grace Brezeale agrees.

“I felt like the teachers have tried to go above and beyond in teaching me more than I need to know, so when I get to the next level of the content I feel comfortable with it,” Grace said. “I feel comfortable not just doing what I learn in class but taking it one step further.”
The ranking is not only beneficial for the school but also for students beyond high school.  Applying to college in the fall is a very competitive time of the year for rising seniors but being ranked so highly gives Dutch Fork’s students a foot in the door.

Owings says how students can benefit from putting it on their transcripts and resumes because colleges will recognize the name of the school and will know that students have been very well prepared.

“If your high school is ranked very high, colleges know ‘Hey this is a very good school and most of these kids are well prepared.’ So I think it helps them to get the notoriety out with colleges. Most of the colleges in South Carolina and a lot of the south east and around the country, when Dutch Fork students apply, they know those kids have been well prepared,” Owings said.

Faculty and students strive to keep improving and work towards bettering the school.

“I think what we have to remember is that as a society changes and as the world changes we must also continue to change.  The practices that we used ten years ago, will most likely not be as effective as they would be ten years from now,” Longshore said.  ”We must continue to stay open-minded, be willing to change and learn new best practices.”