Phoenix teachers embody a high expectations and college-prep mentality, holding all students to an incredibly high academic bar. Believing that all students can succeed under high expectations, Phoenix teachers challenge students to attempt every problem, extend every argument, and overcome individual learning obstacles with grace and courage. With every student accomplishment, our teachers and fellows raise the academic bar, believing that scholarship can always be pushed to the next level.
That said, in Phoenix’s six years, our students have pushed us just as much as we have pushed them. We’ve found that our scholars can master the demanding content of our most rigorous classes. They have driven us to radically improve our academic curriculum and philosophy to include the following:
- AP for Anyone. Phoenix schools encourage all students to strive to take AP classes before graduation. Currently, 23 students are enrolled in AP English Language and Composition and AP Physics at Phoenix Chelsea.
- Phoenix Readers on Point (PROPs). Many of our students enter Phoenix schools several grade levels behind in reading; some students have said they have never read a book prior to enrolling at Phoenix. PROPs began in 2011 as a sustained silent reading initiative to give students more time to practice reading and to engage students in the reading process. Teachers of all disciplines lead 35-minute PROPs sessions four days per week. While most class time is spent reading silently, PROPs leaders encourage book talks and textual analysis assignments.
- High-Dosage Tutoring. Phoenix AmeriCorps Fellows are an integral part of Phoenix’s academic model. Currently, nearly 50 Fellows provide intensive 1-on-1 or 2-on-1 tutoring for over 100 students in 68-minute, daily sessions. Every student in our MCAS cohort receives tutoring from a Fellow, as do students who need support in remedial math or reading, study skills, or English as a Second Language. Fellows create and utilize rigorous curriculum aligned with Common Core frameworks in order to ensure that all students in tutoring have the opportunity to meet achievement benchmarks.
- Heterogeneously Mixed Classes. Our students enter Phoenix with a variety of skill levels and challenges. Regardless of age, skill level, or learning accommodations, all students learn together in the same classrooms. Phoenix schools employ an inclusion-based model for English Language Learners as well, meaning that in addition to ESL classes, ELL students take other core classes with English speaking students. Teachers are highly skilled in differentiating lessons, and many classes have Fellows who offer additional, push-in support.
- Categorized Classes to Ensure Framework Mastery. Across all disciplines, Phoenix classes are aligned vertically into Categories (I, II, III), guaranteeing all students master all high school frameworks prior to graduation. At Phoenix, students do not progress through curriculum based on seat time, but on the acquisition of specific skills that are determined by the students’ proximity to graduation. In a Category I English class, for instance, students would be expected to master the fundamentals of short, expository writing, whereas in a Category III class they would be expected to produce a research paper without extensive teacher guidance. To ensure college success, students are required to pass classes in each Category, in each discipline, prior to graduation.
- SAT and College Prep. The Director of College Services leads several initiatives to broaden academic support for students nearing graduation. While achievement in the classroom is critical for ensuring student access to college, the SAT remains an intimidating hurdle for many our students. SAT and college prep classes each quarter help provide our students the best chance possible for college acceptance.
- Dual Enrollment in College Courses. To help our scholars prepare for college, we encourage students nearing graduation to take a college-level course. These students remain fully enrolled at Phoenix but have the option of adjusting their schedule to include courses at local community colleges. Several scholars, such as Jose, have benefited from this opportunity, noting their appreciation of the supports at Phoenix and excitement about an academic challenge on a real college campus.
- Independent Lab-Based Learning. Phoenix Chelsea has a strong relationship with NuVu, a full-time magnet innovation center for high school students. NuVu provides students the opportunity to work collaboratively with experts, PhDs and alumni from MIT and Harvard as well as working professionals, to solve real-world problems in an intensive and fun studio environment. Each quarter, two Phoenix Chelsea students are selected to participate in NuVu as full-time students, and complete an intensive eight-week series of workshops, engineering projects, and professional presentations. See what Javier created this summer or what Daniel and his team dreamed up last spring.