Gov. Mark R. Warner (D) said this week that Virginia needs to increase efforts to provide quality schools, teachers and state-of-the-art resources in every district.
During a speech before business leaders and Fairfax County school officials Tuesday, Warner said the state's schoolchildren performed well on the Standards of Learning exams, with more than three-quarters of public schools earning a passing grade. And he noted that the number of high school students taking Advanced Placement courses has risen.
But Warner said some schools, particularly those in urban Richmond and rural areas including Danville and Grundy, continue to struggle.
"We have to make sure every child in Virginia has access to the same tools our kids have," Warner said. "The notion that some schools just can't make it should be, and will be, unacceptable in Virginia."
The speech at the Hilton McLean Tysons Corner was Warner's third annual "state of education" address. The event was sponsored by the nonprofit Fairfax Education Foundation, which has donated nearly $20 million to Fairfax County schools since 1983.
No new initiatives were announced Tuesday, but Warner highlighted several state programs targeting low-performing schools.
Warner praised Project Graduation, a program aimed at helping high school seniors in danger of failing to graduate.
Last year, about 3,000 at-risk students participated in the program, Warner said, and 75 percent graduated with their class.
A pilot program of "efficiency reviews" also has been successful and will be expanded, Warner said. Under that effort, a state team has helped schools in New Kent County, Roanoke County and the city of Richmond identify cost-saving measures and redirect more than $2.5 million into classrooms.
School Board member Kaye Kory (Mason) said she encourages school officials across the state to consult Fairfax officials if they are seeking to develop a program or handle a new challenge. "We have such a wide variety of teachers and students in the system that we have lived through nearly every possible problem," Kory said. "They wouldn't have to reinvent it all."
Warner also touted his plans to make high school reform the centerpiece of his chairmanship of the National Governors Association. Last month, Warner announced that it will be easier for high school students to collect college credit because representatives of 63 of Virginia's universities agreed to honor credits earned in Advanced Placement courses, the International Baccalaureate program and community college classes.