- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 5, 2004

Virginia Gov. Mark Warner said yesterday, “The state of education is good in Virginia” — and that the commonwealth “is on the path to make it better.”

In his annual State of Education address, Mr. Warner stressed to business leaders the need to make meaningful improvements in high schools so students are better-prepared for college or the workplace.

“Education reform in high school has not been looked at in 100 years,” Mr. Warner said during a luncheon hosted by the Fairfax Education Foundation in McLean. “I think every student in Virginia ought to have the opportunity to earn a full semester of college education while still in high school.”

Mr. Warner said that 6,700 students participated in such a plan last year and that it saved their parents about $5,000 in tuition. The state worked with high schools and colleges to agree on course content.

Seniors who graduated in the spring of 2004 were the first to be required to pass proficiency tests. Mr. Warner said 3,000 students who were at risk of not passing were enrolled in Project Graduation, a state program that provides additional opportunities to earn credits toward graduation, and three-quarters of them did graduate.

“We have not retreated from those standards as so many states have,” Mr. Warner said.

Mr. Warner also reported improvements in half of the 32 low-performing schools enrolled in a special program called the Partnership for Achieving Successful Schools, which is aimed at helping schools failing to meet state test-score goals. He said six of the schools have graduated from the program and no longer face any federal sanctions.

“Those schools not succeeding can no longer say, ‘We have a tough student body,’” Mr. Warner said. “We will no longer tolerate failure in our students.”

Mr. Warner told business leaders that he applied a business strategy to the schools. If a business is failing, he said, the strategy is typically to look for a turnaround specialist, and he decided to apply that lesson.

Mr. Warner said 10 successful principals have been trained as turnaround specialists and will work to fix low-performing schools with the help of mentors at the University of Virginia.

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