Admissions FAQ

What qualities does Phoenix seek in its candidates?
We seek bright, curious children who learn best in a hands-on environment in which they can be actively involved in exploring ideas and materials with children of different ages. We look for a match between the needs of a child and the values of the family and the mission and philosophy of The Phoenix School. We look for families who will engage in a mutually respectful partnership with us in furthering their child’s education families whose values match those of the mission of The Phoenix School.

What is Phoenix’s commitment to diversity?
The Phoenix School believes that a diverse student body is an important reflection of the world around us. We enroll children from a range of socio-economic, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds. Learning about the differences and similarities we share helps children build greater empathy for others as well as a broader understanding.

What makes the Phoenix different from other schools?
Instead of being separated in classrooms by grades, students in grades PK-8 work and learn together in a contemporary “one-room school- house” located on the edge of historic downtown Salem. Our home base is divided into learning centers that contain resources that may be used by children of different ages. Our flexible individual approach to learning helps to meet the needs and learning styles of students, while, at the same time, asks the students to make a commitment to a challenging and caring educational community.

How do Phoenix kids progress compared to students at other schools?
Our graduates leave us to become very successful in a wide variety of high schools and colleges. Standardized tests, given in grades 3-8, provide one benchmark of a student’s achievement. Recently, 100% of our students scored high enough to qualify for the Johns Hopkins Youth Talent Search (95%ile or above in math or English). Our objective, however, is not to develop test-takers, but to develop whole people who understand how to learn, ask questions, ask for help, lead, compromise and take risks rather than just attain a specific academic level.

What do you do for gym facilities, playing fields, and other resources that are not a part of your campus?
The world is our campus, and education takes place everywhere—just as it does in adult life. Our chosen location on the edge of downtown Salem lets us take advantage of the Peabody Essex Museum, RAW Arts in Lynn, the swimming pool and gyms at the Salem YMCA, Salem Common for soccer, the High Street playground, the public library, etc. Visits to nearby farms, conservation lands, Winter Island, Symphony Hall, the Aquarium, the Museum of Science, the Museum of Fine Arts and other resources in the local area enrich our curriculum just as longer trips support our view of the world as our campus. Students in grades 5-8 take a week-long travel-study trip to a place of scientific, historical, or cultural interest in March or April while the whole school takes a trip together somewhere in New England in May.

Is it hard for children to concentrate in such an open space?
The room is carefully divided into learning areas designed to separate small groups of children from other activities. Our students are very focused on what they’re doing, in part, because their immediate surroundings promote it and, in part, because curriculum is designed to actively engage them, to get them thinking, manipulating materials, drawing conclusions and preparing to exhibit their work to others.

How do four and five-year-olds and fourteen-year-olds learn together in a “one-room schoolhouse”?
The school is small enough that there is a strong sense of family to which children of all ages respond. Younger children can see their future—older students can see where they have come. They take their responsibilities for younger partners, their teams, and their school seriously. At each grade level, students are offered opportunities to exercise leadership. They are developing the ability to think and act effectively in an active and changing situation in the process of making a positive contribution to the life of the school.

If teachers are not standing in front of classes dispensing information, how do they teach?
Our teachers are facilitators of individual and cooperative learning and agents of team building. They have the flexibility to move from group to group, from individual to individual, to model leadership, to guide learning and to provide challenges. They are skilled in working with students of different ages, abilities, and learning styles. They are interested in learning themselves and in “opening doors “ for students.

In the absence of tests and quizzes, how do teachers assess skill levels and abilities and foster development?
Observation of process, review of materials produced, and interactions between students and teachers are all part of the assessment process. Teachers have a good grasp of traditional grade level expectations to draw on in assessing skill levels and planning appropriately for each student, but they are not limited by them. Each child is viewed as an individual. Children themselves are also asked to reflect on their own work and growth and to set personal goals in conjunction with their teachers and parents.

How will a non-traditional education prepare my child for a traditional world?
A better question might be whether a traditional education is preparing children for the world of tomorrow. More and more we recognize the need for people who can function as part of a team, who are thinkers and problem-solvers, who can adapt to change and who are not afraid to speak out and take creative and intellectual risks. These are the skills Phoenix students develop, the skills that will bring them success in the 21st century economy.

What secondary schools do Phoenix students choose when they graduate?
Phoenix graduates choose a wide variety of school: independent school, parochial schools, and their local high schools.