VA is pretty big but you are in Maryland so you might mean Northern Virginia? Technically speaking, Fairfax County is terrific, but parts of Prince William (over by Haymarket) are really good too. I assume Loudoun is good. And Arlington of course. I like these websites:
http://www.greatschools.net and http://www.schooldigger.com ... I just like really quantitative information and rankings, but keep in mind that this can be based on test scores which correlate to a large degree with socioeconomics (although a school with strong socioeconomics can rate poorly and a school with poor socioeconomics can do well - that's when you know you have strong leadership, great teachers, and a lot of parental participation).
I am a parent of 3 (27,18, & 6) & all of my children have attended Stafford County public schools. The oldest went on to attend a major university, my 18 year will be a freshman at another major university in the fall & my youngest will be in 1st grade this fall (as a side note, there are teachers at my 6 year olds school who were there when my 27 year old attended the same school, teacher retention means a great deal to me). Stafford also offers a wide range of outside activities (not associated with the schools). Lastly, our home is currently on the market (5bdrm/3.5ba, 3800+sqft msl# ST6731714) & we live in a great neighborhood which is very close to the elementary school. Good Luck on your search for a new home....
And while it's true that Realtors are really restricted in providing answers such as these (for instance, how do you define "best"?), parents aren't.
For instance, some parents might say that Fairfax County schools are considered desirable. And even Realtors will tell you that houses in Falls Church City are often command higher prices, from a school standpoint, than those outside the borders...even though outside its borders is Fairfax County.
Just a couple of small cautionary notes. And I'm speaking as a parent, not as a Realtor. On one of the sites that Jeff provided of Fairfax County schools, Robinson Secondary is ranked Number 7--reasonably high, but not at the top. My son goes to Robinson and, as a parent, I've been extremely pleased with the quality of education offered there. So, just because a school isn't listed in the top 2 or 3, don't rule it out. And don't get too hung up on size of school. Robinson is enormous--grades 7-12, over 4,000 students. But it's nicely structured, in a number of ways, to keep kids in smaller groups. It can work very well.
Another cautionary note: The quality of a school, especially a small one, can be greatly influenced by the principal. My son attended an elementary school with a great reputation--a small school, demographically upscale kids, good class size, great parent involvement. It was a disaster because of one person: the principal. I won't go into the details; they're not important here. But parents knew about the problem. And soon after she "retired" a few years ago, the school improved substantially.
So: Talk to parents. Look at the test scores. If your son has any issues requiring special attention, check with people who are familiar with that issue, and with the local school. Drive and walk around the neighborhoods. Wait outside the school at the end of the day and observe. Talk to parents active in the PTA.
Hope that helps.
Keep in mind that parent participation also plays a phenomenal role in the education process. I'm sure you'll find that schools that have high parent participation will also receive favorable recommendations.
Here are some websites that you may find helpful in ranking Northern Virgnia schools:
Hope this helps and welcome to the fun side of the Potomac
Is there a particular area in VA that you are looking at? I live in the Hampton Roads area - Virginia Beach to be specific. Below are some helpful sites to do research throughout the state. Let me know if you'd like a free no obligation quote in regards to the mortgage!