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Gradient Learning

Helping schools ‘raise the bar’

10.15.2023

Listen to Chris McAdoo long enough and you’ll likely hear a few of them.

“People around here call them ‘McAdoo-isms,’” he said.

The principal at Santa Fe South Pathways Middle College in Oklahoma City repeats sayings in ways that connect with his students and staff. One of McAdoo’s favorites is a 23-word phrase that he fires off in rapid succession:

“Do what you gotta do, to get done what you need to get done, so you can do what you want to do.”

What McAdoo wants to do—and what he’s done each year since becoming the charter school’s founding principal in 2014—is continually evolve as a school leader who helps each of his students chase their dreams. 

And he knows he can’t do this important work alone.

That’s why McAdoo has greatly appreciated the close partnership his school has had with Gradient Learning over the past seven years. McAdoo works with a dedicated coach from Gradient Learning who helps support his school to implement their whole student vision and continuously improve and refine it. 

“It’s not a contract or a business agreement,” McAdoo said. “It’s truly a relationship between us and Gradient Learning and that relationship helps us achieve our goals in the way that we do it here. Because we do it differently in Oklahoma than they do in Arkansas or California. They listen to us to fulfill our needs at our community level.”

Gradient Learning provides the same robust level of coaching support to each of its partner schools across the country. Each school has a Leadership Coach who helps support them in customizing the system of resources to fit their unique community. 

“Deep collaboration and prioritizing local needs has always been and will continue to be the way that we operate,” said Nicholas Kim, Managing Director of Implementation Success at Gradient Learning. “Our job is to help schools take the tools, resources, and support that we provide and tailor them to meet the needs on their local campuses. We want to empower the local educators to make strong decisions on behalf of their students.” 

Over the past few years, McAdoo has worked closely with Leilani Jackson, an Instructional Specialist at Gradient Learning. Their collaboration has helped McAdoo provide new opportunities for his educators to continuously develop their skills and knowledge to best serve the whole student.

“It’s truly a relationship between us and Gradient Learning…they listen to us to fulfill our needs at our community level.”

“The support that Leilani gives me not only educates me, but it challenges my thought process as a leader to ensure that I’m thinking from all angles,” McAdoo said. “If I have a problem or a question, or anything really, she has been an immediate feedback resource. She’s also been a shoulder to cry on, if need be. She’s always there for us.”

One of McAdoo’s top priorities has been to increase the number of college associate degrees achieved by Pathways’ students to help set them up for success in life after graduation. In all, more than 200 students have earned their associate degree since the school began. That includes 76% of Pathways’ Class of 2023 (36 of 50 students), far more than the national average of 23% of middle and early college high school graduates who obtained an associate degree.

“We want to prepare our students for life, not just to get a high school diploma,” McAdoo said. “Being prepared for life means that not only am I qualified, but I’m capable of doing, handling, tackling, and overcoming all aspects of life.”

Chris McAdoo at the 2023 graduation ceremony for Pathways’ students.

McAdoo is not one to rest on his laurels and enjoys collaborating with other Gradient Learning partner schools that are working together to stay at the forefront of education. Kim said the connected community of passionate educators is crucial to Gradient Learning’s ongoing evolution and how it contextualizes its support for each local community.

“We are consistently considering our partners’ experience in how we design and think about strategy and we use it to directly inform adjustments that we need to make,” Kim said. 

McAdoo is excited to further his school’s positive whole-student culture by utilizing Gradient Learning’s coaching support with more of Pathways’ leaders on campus. When he thinks about how much more his school can improve in the years ahead, he shares another of his favorite “McAdoo-isms.” 

“If you raise the bar, kids will jump over it. But if you lower it, they’ll crawl under it,” McAdoo said. “Gradient Learning helps us raise the bar.”

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