“Why shouldn’t we do something different? Let’s break the mold,” says Chris McAdoo, Principal of Santa Fe South Pathways Middle College.
McAdoo is all about trying something new. In 2001, the school opened as a public traditional high school under Oklahoma City Public Schools. Their vision and mission was to help students get as many college credits as possible while still in high school. In 13 years, the school saw just one student get an associate degree. So, in 2014, Oklahoma City Public Schools closed it down.
But the students, parents, and community saw the potential. They petitioned Chris Brewster, the Superintendent of Santa Fe South Charter Schools, to reopen it as a charter school and hired McAdoo as Principal to lead the charge. He hired the same staff and had the exact same mission: to grow the school and build a replicable model for others.
“I’m a mathematician and a logical person,” McAdoo said. “Mathematically, it’s possible to get students associate degrees while still in high school. Why aren’t we?”
In his second year, four students got their degrees. The third year, nine students, and by the fourth year, 13 students. They’ve grown every year since. What started with four classrooms has grown to 20 and over 300 students.
Now, in 2023, Santa Fe South Pathways Middle College has been recognized as a top performing school in Oklahoma.
During Pathways’ tenure, more than 200 students have graduated with their associate degree before getting their high school diploma, including 36 of the 50 who graduated this year. Nationally, an average of 23% of middle and early colleges’ graduates finish with an associate degree, but 72% of Pathways’ 2023 graduates obtained theirs.
“I’m so proud of what we’ve accomplished,” McAdoo said. “We have turned the traditional educational model on its head, and our students and staff have set the bar nationally for excellence and achievement.”
In addition to earning degrees, the school transcends aspirations in other areas. For the state tests in English Language Arts, math, and science, 97% of Pathways’ students meet or exceed their priority student group target and/or score basic, compared to 48% of students in the state.
To reach these ambitious goals, the school utilizes a rigorous project-learning college-preparatory curriculum that includes Summit Learning. Each student has a mentor teacher who helps them develop strong habits and provides academic guidance and support.
“We spend a lot of time in our professional development and growth conversations thinking about how to become better mentors and how to push our kids and strengthen that teacher-student relationship,” McAdoo said. “Every kid knows that we love them. Where I’m coming from. If we are pushing them it’s from our love for them. As we’re pushing them, we’re constantly thinking, where do we want this student to end up?”