Phoenix High Scores Big on State Math Test

, Posted: Thu, September 12 2013 at 7:03 PM, Updated: Thu, September 12 2013 at 8:04 PM

It looks like Phoenix High School is doing something right. State math scores have increased over the last four years from 47% to 74.6%.

Class is in session at Phoenix High School and lots of learning is underway, especially in Ms. Grahams classroom.

"I read the definitions in the book, and they're kind of scary right? So some of these are written kind of in my own language. You're going to have to decipher that," explained geometry teacher Cheryl Graham to her Phoenix High School class.

She and others in the math department saw big success on state test scores.

"We have gone up over the past four years from 47% to 74.6% in our math," said Principal Jani Hale.

The state average for math testing was 69% of kids met or exceeded expectations in the 2012-2013 school year.

"I'm really competitive so now we have to break the 74.6%," said Graham.

That competitive nature has spurred some creativity in the classroom to help make sure students learn.

"We have some really fun games we do," began Graham.

One of the games, a fly swatter game where kids have to run around the room and swat the answers to math problems.

She said she also likes to get the kids involved in different rhymes or songs, and they tell stories to illustrate math problems.

Graham said sometimes she even uses food to motivate her students.

"Of course there's some doughnuts, sugar always works at least it works for me."

She also makes sure to foster good relationships with her students.

"I have a lot of energy and kids like that. I appreciate their humor, so banter is a good part of our classroom."

But it's a true commitment to the students' success that keeps Graham going.

"The most important thing is if they know [...] that I care about them and i want them to be successful, then it's easier for them to buy in to the program of doing the math," said Graham.

And when you add some personality and passion...

"I've been crazy all along," laughed Graham.

"I'm really high strung, pretty passionate," she said.

"Bottom line [students] know when you care and they know when you don't care," said Hale.

Add all the elements together and you've got what staff say is responsible for the school's success.

One of Graham's accomplishments: creating a workshop for students to help them pass the state math test.

"I created a workshop, a full day workshop for kids and timing of that is crucial . We do it right after the second round of testing," she said.

But Graham doesn't take credit for the high math scores because she said it's a team effort...the teachers in the math department, other staff and students all working together.

"We couldn't have done it without everybody."

In addition, Hale said the school has seen improvements in reading and writing. They're above the state average in both subjects.

Meanwhile, Graham said the moment she lives for? When a student passes the test with a big smile on their face.

It's possible that staff and students should have a bigger smile though. Principal Hale said about 61% of the students at PHS qualify for free and reduced lunch and many students speak English as a second language. However, despite hurdles, the students and staff have come together to accomplish some very big achievements.

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