Juniors at Troy Junior-Senior High School shattered the statewide median test score on the SAT this year, earning the title of the highest-scoring traditional district in the state of Idaho.

The 27 juniors at the school amassed a median score of 1,136, outpacing the typical statewide score of 976.

The small number of students makes the test results even more impressive, according to Brad Malm, superintendent of the Troy School District.

“It’s kind of incredible because one kid can skew that (score) pretty fast,” Malm said.

The district is not a newcomer to high SAT scores. Last year, the district was one of the top schools in the state for students who met both the math and reading benchmarks on the test, earning a composite score of 1,096.

“I think we’ve been fairly consistent over the years with how well we’ve done on the SAT, but this has been the highest we’ve scored,” Malm said.

About four years ago, the district adopted curriculum that was introduced by then-Superintendent Christy Castro. The Beyond Textbooks curriculum focuses on multi-level interventions, student assessment and instructional improvement. That’s been accomplished by putting a system in place that focuses on teaching a standard, or a topic the students should master by the end of the year, on a set schedule or calendar.

“That calendar tells you what standard to teach, when to teach that standard and how long to teach that standard,” Malm said. “Once we’ve taught that, the kids take a formative assessment.”

Those who pass the test move into an enrichment group that allows the students a deeper dive into the topic, while those who fail the assessment are placed into a “reteach group” where they work to hit the benchmark put in place. If the students once again do not pass the assessment, then they participated in targeted one-on-one tutoring.

“There are a lot of safety nets built in,” Malm said. “For us, we have teacher buy-in, which you have to have.”

Malm, who is also the principal of the junior-senior high school, said he’s excited to see the high SAT scores, but he’s even more proud of the district’s accountability scores in the past three years. Idaho’s K-12 school accountability system aims to hold districts and educators responsible for student results.

Last year, the elementary school placed the second-best statewide with an accountability score of 96.3 out of 100, while the junior-senior high school also emerged as the frontrunner for traditional schools with a total score of 88.5.

“The SAT, that’s a test that a grade level is going to take, so the chance of that differing year by year can be pretty significant,” Malm said, adding the accountability scores show a bigger, more complete picture of the district’s success.

The high scores come from a team effort, Malm said, that includes parents, students and staff.

“I think (the juniors) are a group highly motivated to do well,” Malm said. “They take pride in their work and their effort. That’s a reflection of how they ranked.”

None of it would be possible without the community’s support, Malm said.

“It’s a community effort, and we have people who support the schools and our taxpayers passed the levy, so we can do the things that we do, pay for the things that we need and have the programs we have,” he said.

Statewide scores on the SAT saw a decline from last year’s scores. This year’s median score was 976, compared to 989 in 2018 and 998 in 2017. A perfect SAT score is 1,600.

The number of juniors who took the test on SAT School Day in Idaho increased to 19,783 from 19,178 a year ago.

Idaho requires all students to take a college entrance exam in order to graduate from high school. Most 11th graders take the SAT because the state provides the test at no cost to the student and can send along the results at no cost to four colleges.

Here’s how Palouse area districts’ median scores compared: Troy School District: 1,136, Whitepine School District: 1,113, Moscow School District: 1,103, Kendrick School District: 1,030, Genesee School District: 1,024 and Potlatch School District: 967.

Justyna Tomtas can be contacted at jtomtas@lmtribune.com or (208) 848-2294. Follow her on Twitter @jtomtas.

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