It doesn’t sound possible — a school awarded the standard of excellence award by the state, yet not hitting federal Adequate Yearly Progress targets.

But it happened — at Santa Fe Middle School.

“It’s a hard thing to explain,” Principal Vicki Adamé said. “Even though we did not make AYP, we met standards of excellence.”

The school earned standard of excellence awards in seventh- and eighth-grade reading and eighth-grade math.

However, the school did not meet AYP targets in one subgroup — special education missed its target for AYP on math assessments.

Slate Creek Elementary fell into a similar situation. The school more than exceeded AYP numbers, yet it missed in three subgroups of students.

“We have work to do in our schools,” said Jan Neufeld, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction for USD 373. “We are focused and working hard.”

Newton schools earned 60 standard of excellence designations in the most recent round of testing — and that includes one elementary school, Walton, which earned the Governor’s Achievement Award for being in the top 5 percent of both reading and math test scores.

The district as a whole met AYP targets in reading and math, both overall and in all subgroups.

Districtwide, 86.8 percent of students meeting or exceeding standard on reading tests — to meet AYP the district needed 72 percent. Next year’s target for reading will be 76.7.

Students in Newton schools also showed proficiency in math — with 84.2 percent of students meeting or exceeding standards on assessment tests. The district target was 64.6 percent. Next year’s target will be 70.5 percent.

“A year ago, we were talking about our district not making AYP,” Neufeld said. “We are able to come back this year and have this celebration. Because of focused talks with teachers and administration we are a better place this year than we were a year ago. .... Student learning and achievement is going up.”

One of the biggest gains was recorded at the high school — where 80.8 percent of students scored at or above standard in math, up from 69.8 percent and well above the 65 percent target for AYP.

“I was really happy to see that,” Neufeld said. “High school math is one of the hardest areas to make gains — even a few percentage points.”

Middle school students did well on the state assessments as well — with both schools meeting overall AYP marks in math and reading. In addition to Santa Fe earning awards of excellence, Chisholm earned a standard of excellence award at every grade level in both reading and math.

Despite the strong showing, Chisholm principal George Leary offered a dose of perspective when talking with the board of education last week about his school’s test scores.

“In four years what we have as a standard of excellence now will not meet AYP goals,” Leary said. “We know we will have to make changes, do something better and different, to continue to meet AYP goals.”

His school began an English language learners program two years ago, and he said that is paying off for the school. ELL students met AYP goals this year.

At the elementary level, Newton schools met AYP standards in every building, at every level and in every subgroup save the three misses at Slate Creek.

“We had a couple of hiccups in a couple of subgroups,” said superintendent of schools John Morton. “Our people are working very hard. Folks have been pitching very hard for us.”