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Va. Governor Proposes Tying Driver's License to Tests

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Gov. George F. Allen of Virginia has thought of a new way to drive home the virtues of homework to high school students. Under a proposal that the Governor plans to send to the legislature in January, any student who fails new standardized tests would be denied a driver's license.

Virginia is thought to be the first state to propose linking driving privileges to performance on a standardized test. Thirteen states have laws denying driver's licenses to students with poor attendance, Kathy Christi, a spokeswoman for the Education Commission of the States, said.

The state school board recently approved new academic standards, and it plans to devise tests based on those goals and to begin testing in 1997.

Governor Allen said his pass-to-drive idea is part of an effort to improve academic performance and boost test scores among the state's one million public school students. As of last week, there were no details regarding at what age students would be given the standardized tests. In Virginia, learner's permits can be issued as early as age 15 and driver's licenses at age 16.

"One thing that's a motivating factor for teenagers in high school is getting those wheels," Mr. Allen said at a news conference last month.

But some high school students say that tying the right to drive to academic performance is unfair. They argue that denying licenses to those who fail the tests would only make students more nervous during examinations.

But William C. Bosher, the state schools superintendent, said such anxiety can be constructive. "We have to make a statement to young people that performance on math and science tests is at least as important as performance behind a wheel," Mr. Bosher said.

--Jessica Portner

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