Approximately 1.3 million students – 89% of all K12 school age children – attend one of 1,828 Virginia Public Schools. According to U.S. News and World Report, Virginia ranks 13th among all 50 states and District of Columbia. Of the 1,828 schools, 1,490 (81.5%) are fully accredited. Virginia per pupil expenditure is $11,745 (2017).  Eighty-one schools are designated “Blue Ribbon” schools.  Blue Ribbon Schools are schools that have been recognized by the U.S. Department of Education for achieving superior academic results.

While Virginia’s U.S. News and World Report public school ranking puts it approximately in the top 25% of the nation’s K12 schools, further analysis suggests that performance is not uniform across the state:

  • Virginia’s only top-100 high school is Thomas Jefferson (located in Alexandria, VA). For comparison, Arizona – a state of roughly similar size to Virginia and one with robust school choice programs – has nine schools in the top 100 and five in the top ten.
  • Of 324 Virginia high schools ranked, 31 are in the top 1000 in the country. Twenty-two of those are located in Northern Virginia. Three are in Henrico, one in Chesterfield, one in Richmond, one in Norfolk, one in Stafford, one in Williamsburg, one in Virginia Beach.
  • Virginia ranks ~20th in High School Graduation Rate (85.7%), but a large gap in graduation rates exists for Virginia low-income and disabled students
    • Virginia Ranks ~30th in Low Income High School Graduation (75.4%) (a decrease of ~5 – 8 spots from its 2010 – 2015 ranking and below the national average)
    • Virginia Ranks ~46th in Disabled High School Graduation Rate (52.6%) (38 th in 2010 – 2015 ranking and consistently ranked 12% below the national average)

Virginia Family Special Education Connection is a new website dedicated to providing comprehensive information on special education issues, practices and services to Virginia families who have children with disabilities. This resource was developed by the Virginia Department of Education, in collaboration with the Helen A. Kellar Institute for Human disAbilities at George Mason University.

Career and technical education programs in Virginia public schools serve more than 550,000 students in grades 6-12. These programs are designed to prepare young people for productive futures while meeting the Commonwealth’s need for well-trained and industry-certified technical workers.

Governor’s Schools give gifted students academic and visual and performing arts opportunities beyond those normally available in the students’ home schools. Students are able to focus on a specific area of intellectual or artistic strength and interest and to study in a way that best suits the gifted learner’s needs. Each program stresses non-traditional teaching and learning techniques.

The foundation of the Virginia Governor’s School Program centers on best practices in the field of gifted education and the presentation of advanced content to able learners.

School divisions can apply for grants to fund school-year or summer academies designed for rising  9th-graders and 10th-graders – including students at risk of disengagement and dropping out – with a focus on civics education, financial literacy, community service, preventive health, personal character development and leadership. Each academy provides active participatory experiences from community leaders and professionals it partners with, such as local governments, civic organizations, YMCA and 4-H. More about Governor’s Youth Development Academies.

Virtual education programs provide additional instruction choices for students in alternative settings through distance learning options. These online learning programs offer flexibility to students while providing instruction aligned with the Standards of Learning.  This option is limited to a number of Virginia school divisions and provide opportunities for their students to take online courses as a part of their regular course offerings.

VDOE’s Virtual Virginia program offers pre-Advanced Placement (AP), honors and AP classes as well as academic electives and world languages. Virtual Virginia is designed to meet the needs of students who otherwise would be unable to take these courses due to a lack of availability or scheduling conflicts within their school. Eligible students enroll in Virtual Virginia through their local schools. Annual registration for all courses (fall block, full year, and spring block) offered during a school year begins on the first business day in April and ends on the first business day in August.

The 2010 General Assembly directed the Board of Education to establish criteria for the approval of virtual school programs that provide instruction to students in multiple school divisions. The criteria and processes approved by the board in November 2010 provide flexibility for diverse learners and ensure that instruction provided by multidivision online providers is aligned with state standards and provided by highly qualified teachers.