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