StrongMind Story: Valor Preparatory Academy of Arizona
240 students in grades 6-12
Accredited by Cognia
About Valor Preparatory Academy of Arizona
Valor Preparatory Academy of Arizona is a public charter and hybrid school located in Goodyear, Arizona, for grades 6-12. Founded in 2019, Valor Prep leverages the strengths of both technology and teachers to give students more flexibility and agency in their learning while still maintaining a structured and supportive learning environment. The school started by serving grades 6-8 and has since grown to serve over 240 students from grades 6-12.
Students attending Valor Prep have several exciting opportunities, such as free early-college classes at Estrella Mountain Community College and career training courses at West Maricopa Education Center campuses. Valor is also part of the Canyon Athletic Association, allowing learners to participate in sports.
Partnering with StrongMind
As a fairly new school in Arizona, Valor Prep came to StrongMind not only for a high-quality digital curriculum but for marketing services to promote the school and recruit new students. Students have the flexibility to work part of the day at home using digital learning with StrongMind, and part of the day at school collaborating with peers in small group activities and authentic project-based learning. In both environments, highly qualified and certified teachers provide personalized support.
StrongMind digital curriculum includes robust teacher resources that support the hybrid environment, saving teachers time with lesson plans that align to digital activities. Teacher Resource Guides (TRG) include course resources such as a complete scope and sequence; a graphic organizer library; activity-specific resources including lesson plans and grading/scoring information; and guidelines for authentic project-based learning.
According to Dan Mahlandt, principal at Valor Prep, their hybrid model leans heavily on digital content from StrongMind to “set an instructional floor.” Students learn basic concepts with StrongMind courses via text, graphics, recorded video(s), animations, interactives, and other digital materials, and demonstrate proficiency via assessments and performance tasks. Teachers then work with students in real time to help them “reach for the instructional ceiling,” which can include one-on-one work in certain areas or a push toward more challenging content. With StrongMind, Valor Prep confidently balances asynchronous and synchronous learning to support both teachers and students.
In addition to content, Valor Prep also turned to StrongMind to enroll students and grow their school. Beginning with a brand-new website, StrongMind helped organize and promote open-houses at their building in Goodyear, created and marketed social media content, and created print collateral — such as postcards and branded letters — to spread the word in nearby neighborhoods. In addition to enrolling students, StrongMind also supported Valor Prep in recruiting highly qualified, certified teachers. These efforts included print and digital flyers, website content, and social media posts. Since starting the school, Valor Preparatory Academy of Arizona has grown to an enrollment of 240 students for the 2023-24 school year starting this fall.
Students in grades 6-12 receive a tuition-free, high quality education that blends asynchronous and synchronous learning. Using StrongMind digital curriculum, teachers and learning coaches closely track all student progress and achievement, allowing them to spend more time personalizing learning and building meaningful relationships with students. Valor Preparatory Academy of Arizona offers students three different pathways for students.
- Guided Instruction — Monday–Thursday, students engage in station rotation. Teachers determine what content should be elevated based on progress within a digital curriculum. In-class learning is guided by application of knowledge using the 4Cs (communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creative problem-solving) held together by mindsets and dispositions. Personalized tutoring takes place on Fridays.
- Supported Instruction — with content delivered digitally, teachers can focus more on relationships in pedagogy. Monday–Thursday, students in grades 6-8 have face-to-face classes from 8:00–12:30 pm while students in grades 9–12 have face-to-face classes from 11:30– 4:00 pm. At 12:30, middle school students can choose to go home and complete independent work or remain on campus to work on projects or with teachers and/or learning coaches as needed. High school students have the same option, but may come to campus earlier than 11:30 for support or to work on projects.
- Modified Instruction — students complete regular check-ins with teachers but may complete their coursework (online) in the environment of their choosing. Students are "gradually released" into this pathway, with approval based on a combination of positive academic achievement and agency — students can navigate the LMS well, communicate with their teachers/mentors, collaborate with students, and engage with the curriculum.
In all three models, learning comes down to acquiring knowledge, gaining the skills to apply the knowledge, and practicing the mindsets/habits/dispositions to keep growing and adapting.
Students and teachers thrive at Valor Preparatory Academy of Arizona. The 2022-23 school year had many highlights:
- Valor Prep celebrated their first senior graduation with 12 students
- Students enjoyed their first senior prom, which was managed by the student-led Prom Committee and themed “Midnight in Paris”
- Yearbook Club published their first yearbook
- ABC-15, a local news channel in Arizona, visited Valor Prep during teacher appreciation week to hear what students had to say about their teachers
- Students participated in the first annual Science Expo, organized by science teacher Mrs. MacKnight
- More students began taking early-college courses at Estrella Mountain Community College and Western Maricopa Education Center
- Two students received their drone licenses
- Valor Prep is now NCAA-approved, with an enrolled student who is a nationally-ranked tennis player
- Another student is an international pianist who travels the world playing music while also successfully completing courses
Enrollment for the 2023-24 school year is up 31%, with 240 students enrolled compared to 180 last year.