Lagging behind their counterparts in the District and Maryland, private schools in Northern Virginia this year have accelerated drives to attract minority students, especially blacks, to their campuses.

Minority students account for 7 percent of the private school student body in Virginia, according to the Virginia Association of Independent Schools.

They represent 13 percent of the private school student body in Maryland and 14 percent in 73 non-Catholic private schools surveyed in the Washington area, according to regional school associations.

Nationally this year, 11.2 percent of students in 815 private schools surveyed are minorities, according to a recently released report by the National Association of Independent Schools.

Some Northern Virginia schools this year used a wider range of recruiting methods than in the past, visiting predominantly black churches, holding teas at the homes of parents whose children are enrolled in private schools, conducting letter campaigns and scheduling school open houses hosted by black families.

The headmistress at St. Agnes Episcopal School for girls in Alexandria met with parishioners in the predominantly black Episcopal church in Old Town.

St. Stephen's Episcopal Day School for Boys in Alexandria recruited from a South Arlington YMCA, where boys from the school tutor disadvantaged children.

At the Burgundy Farm Country Day School in Alexandria, school officials sent recruitment letters to Alexandria and Fairfax public school students.

Black parents held Sunday afternoon open houses at the Potomac School in McLean for other black parents.

"When I was involved, I felt real good about it and our children felt good about it," said Horace Brooks, whose two grandchildren attend the Potomac School.

School officials there also have targeted a few predominantly black public schools in the District, sending letters to parents and asking school officials or others with contacts in the community to refer students.

It is a method that is used with discretion, said a Potomac School official, because public schools may consider it a raid of their best students.

"We're looking for new {recruiting} angles," said Wanda Hill, a black member of Potomac's governing board.

Private schools in Maryland and the District have actively recruited black students for more than 20 years, said Barbara Patterson, executive director of the District-based Black Student Fund, which refers black students to private schools and works with the schools on recruitment.

Their success stems in part from the fact that more affluent black families in those areas have sought out nearby private schools, she said.

But recruiting methods in Maryland and the District, including healthy "I think it has to start with the people who work here. It's to the benefit of our students to have students from different backgrounds. Noblesse oblige is no longer it."

-- Diane Dunning Trunzo, St. Agnes Episcopal School

scholarship funds generated by local fund-raising and donations, have often been more aggressive than those used in Northern Virginia, she said.

"The commitment in Arlington and Alexandria is more recent," she said. "Their budgets {for scholarships} have not been built up."

While praising the recruitment of black students, some black educators fault area private schools for not addressing the small number of black faculty members.

Of the 2,712 part- and full-time private schoolteachers in the Washington area, 100, or 3.6 percent, are black, according to the Association of Independent Schools of Greater Washington.

Nationwide, the percentage is about the same: 3.5 percent, the National Association of Independent Schools reports.

That association sponsored national conferences this year in Reston, the District and Wellesley College in Massachusetts to help minority teachers and administrators form networks to recruit others and to help private schools address possibly racist attitudes among their staffs and students.

Soon the association is to complete a guide to be used by private schools to evaluate the racial atmosphere at their schools.

In Northern Virginia, some schools are trying a similar evaluation.

The Black Student Fund has been invited to conduct numerous workshops for teachers and administrators on racism and on how to work multicultural issues into a school curriculum. At St. Agnes, the meetings were mandatory.

"I think it has to start with the people who work here," said Diane Dunning Trunzo, director of admissions at St. Agnes, where 4 percent of the 512 students are black.

"It's to the benefit of our students to have students from different backgrounds," she said. "Noblesse oblige is no longer it."