Phoenix Middle School is one of five public middle schools in Worthington Schools, a suburban school district of Columbus, Ohio. Phoenix houses 80 seventh graders and 80 eighth graders, and is staffed by 13 full-time teachers, as well as various part-time staff and administrators. The school was conceived in response to a district-wide Request for Proposal opportunity in the fall of 2006. At that time, Worthington Schools was seeking not only to ease enrollment imbalance at the middle school level, but to include a “value-added” component to the curriculum as well. Nine middle school teachers and one administrator began meeting that fall to create a program that would become the blueprint for Phoenix Middle School. The proposal was selected and approved by the Worthington Schools Board of Education at the end of February 2007. A 7th grade class was selected by lottery from across the district by April 15, 2007, and the doors of Phoenix Middle School officially opened the following August.
Phoenix is based upon the integration of core curriculum with critical thinking, global education, fine arts, wellness, and community interaction. This is achieved through collaboration among the staff members, who work extensively to combine, streamline, and enhance traditional middle school curriculum to make each student’s educational experience as meaningful as possible.
The philosophy at Phoenix is guided by the Ten Common Principles of the Coalition of Essential Schools. Based on decades of research and practice, these principles reflect the wisdom of educators who have created and developed personalized, equitable, and academically challenging schools for all young people. The CES Common Principles are:
- The school should focus on helping students learn to use their minds well.
- The school should be shaped by the intellectual and imaginative powers and competencies that the students need, rather than by "subjects" as conventionally defined. The curricular decisions should be guided by the aim of thorough student mastery and achievement rather than by an effort to merely cover content.
- The school's goals should apply to all students.
- Teaching and learning should be personalized to the maximum feasible extent. School decisions about the delivery of curriculum and scheduling should be totally placed in the hands of the staff.
- The prominent pedagogy should be coaching (student-as-worker, teacher-as-coach), to provoke students to learn how to learn and thus to teach themselves.
- Teaching and learning should be documented and assessed with tools based on the students' demonstration that they have mastered real tasks that reflect core concepts. Students not yet at appropriate levels of competence should be provided intensive support and resources to assist them quickly to meet those standards.
- The tone of the school should stress values of unanxious expectation ("I won't threaten you but I expect much of you"), of trust (until abused) and of decency (the values of fairness, generosity and tolerance).
- All staff should be committed to the entire school.
- All resources should be dedicated to teaching and learning.
- The school should honor diversity and model democratic practices that involve all who are directly affected by the school.
Phoenix is based upon the integration of core curriculum with critical thinking, global education, fine arts, wellness, and community interaction. This is achieved through collaboration among the staff members, who work extensively to combine, streamline, and enhance traditional middle school curriculum to make each student's educational experience as meaningful as possible. The educational program at Phoenix will provide students with a "Place-Based" academic approach in six key areas:
The value of arts education is now firmly grounded in theory and research. The Phoenix school believes the every child has the innate urge and capacity to be artistically expressive. Creative Start allows students to draw upon and deepen their creative abilities. The benefit is that creative thinking, once learned early, lasts for a lifetime and can be applied in other endeavors.
One of the principal goals at Phoenix is to develop independent thought in our students. This skill cannot be too highly valued in a society in which students are flooded with information that includes great diversity of opinion and uncertain claims. Developing rational, independent thinking requires attention to the processes, quality and direction of one's thinking and the thinking of others.
Interdisciplinary thematic units build curricular connections and relevance in the students' learning experiences. In addition, integrated course projects allow students the opportunity to apply the skills and concepts mastered in class to real world problems.
Global Cultures at Phoenix is designed to enable students to view themselves and the world through the eyes of others in order to develop and cultivate a sense of empathy in students. As a dimension of education, empathy can transform the way students embrace uncertainty – exploring, adapting to, and eventually anticipating a rapidly changing world.
Mastery learning requires students to demonstrate all essential knowledge and skills of a specific course, as determined by district graded course of study. The underlying assumption is that it is more important to assess how well each student achieves the specific course goals rather than how much each student achieves in relation to the other students in the class. There is no extra credit or honor roll as all students will be expected to perform at mastery level.
Partnership between students, parents, schools, and communities can have a broad array of outcomes, ranging from increased student achievement and improved school climate to enhanced civic capacity for a variety of stakeholders. Parent/Community partnerships enable students at Phoenix to learn academic subjects while connecting to people and places in our community.