Virginia public schools report shows dropout rate falls

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Virginia's public schools are doing a good job in most areas but there are still some issues, a new report says.

The Virginia Board of Education's annual state-of-schools report was prepared for Gov. Bob McDonnell and state lawmakers ahead of the 2013 General Assembly.

"This report contains compelling evidence that our schools and our students are achieving at impressive levels," Virginia Board of Education President David M. Foster wrote in an introduction to the report. "At the same time, significant areas of need must be addressed if Virginia is to excel nationally and internationally. These include meeting the challenges presented by more rigorous Standards of Learning and closing persistent achievement gaps among student subgroups."

According to the report, 93 percent of the state's 1,836 public schools are fully accredited. The on-time graduate rate has increased by 7.2 percent in four years. The dropout rate fell to 6.5 percent for the Class of 2012.

Student achievement also has made gains. Virginia students performed higher than national averages on the SAT and ACT exams.

But there's an achievement gap between students of different ethnic, racial and socio-economic backgrounds.

White and Asian students tend to perform best on state assessments, while black and Hispanic students tend to perform at much lower levels.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch says the report also notes that some schools continue to struggle, including one in Petersburg that was denied accreditation for the seventh straight year.

"Continued investment in resources that are integral to improving student performance, closing achievement gaps, and graduating all students college- and career-ready is critical," the report says. "This is not simply a matter of putting more money into our schools; rather it is a matter of carefully and thoughtfully focusing all available resources where they can be most successful."