Lawmakers question changes to driver's ed program

Posted September 18, 2012

— Research showing that almost half of North Carolina high school students failed a written driving test caused lawmakers to blast a new driver's education program on Tuesday.

A study by the School of Government at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found that only 60 percent of the 477,313 tests given to driver's education students over the past two years led to a passing grade. The average score on all tests was 80.

Driver's education is required for teens who want to get a license before they graduate from high school, and it costs the state about $30 million a year to administer.

"The educational component of it seems to be rather questionable, at least in terms of passing the test," said Sen. Fletcher Hartsell, R-Cabarrus, who heads a legislative oversight committee evaluating driver's education.

Students were three times as likely to fail the knowledge test as the driving test, UNC researchers said.

Some lawmakers blame the new curriculum that the state Department of Public Instruction implemented a year ago.

Rep. Edgar Starnes, R-Caldwell, said his daughter did well in class but failed the Division of Motor Vehicles test twice. She finally passed it after studying the DMV handbook instead of her class notes, he said.

"I think DPI has failed miserably in creating a curriculum that adequately prepares these students to pass the test," Starnes said.

Driver's ed, teen driver Educators say DMV test too old for curriculum

Rep. Tim Moffitt, R-Buncombe, said his son had a similar experience.

"I just am curious as to why, when we're creating a curriculum, why are we not starting with the DMV textbook, if you will," Moffitt said.

Ann McColl, legislative director for the State Board of Education and DPI, said the new course does cover the DMV handbook. It also includes a lot of other issues, such as defensive driving and distractions, she said.

"We have a new curriculum that's based on the best thinking around the country about what teens need to be learning," McColl said. "We have an old DMV test. So, trying to match those up is an ongoing process."

Deputy DMV Commissioner Johanna Reese said her agency would work with DPI to see if the state's driver's license test needs to be updated.

"(We want) not just to align (it) with the DPI curriculum, but just to make sure that we are testing what we need to test to make sure we have safe drivers," Reese said.


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  • KermitDFrog Sep 20, 2012

    When I moved here I had to take the written test. I read the book and passed the test. The DMV handbook is not that complicated. Seems to me that some kids didn't bother to open/read the handbook.

  • Sick N Tired Sep 20, 2012

    I was surprised when my son failed the test after having PAID for the driver's ed class. When I questioned it at DMV and they directed me to the handbook and said what they learned in driver's ed was useless for the test. So...why do I have to spend money on something useless? Because our government dictates it. Next thing you know they will require me to pay for health insurance.

  • tarheelgrad1998 Sep 20, 2012

    Why don't they teach from the DMV textbook? Why don't they just go ahead and teach to the test, then? Or, better, just give them the answers???

    Parents: stop blaming someone else for your kids' failings.

  • BernsteinIII Sep 20, 2012

    "Educators" not educating correctly? There's a surprise. Some know-nothing comes up with the curriculum and then they wonder why kids don't pass.

  • rebelrabbi5771 Sep 20, 2012

    The ugly truth is that our schools are failing in all areas. This is simply what happens when the Schools
    are measured using objective criteria from an independent source.

  • Glass Half Full Sep 20, 2012

    Drivers ed teachers have 2 things to teach: the DMV handbook and How To Drive. They're very different. The handbook contains laws, penalties for various infractions, lots of other information dirvers need to know. Then there's the hands-on of How To Drive. We can't ask our teachers to just "teach the test". That's a big part of what's wrong with our education system as a whole. That's what our kids are used to. The written test tests ones knowledge of the content of the handbook. If these kids would pay attention in class, and then STUDY afterwards they'll pass the test the first time like my kid did. When it's time for the drivers test, that's different. The course provdies adequate material but there's a certain amount of responsibility on the part of the students as well. Just because some lawmakers kids failed reflects on the kids not the instructors.

  • Scubagirl Sep 20, 2012

    "Why is this surprising. Half of students fail everything they do. But their parents demand they pass. Thank you social promotion and the era of getting a trophy just for showing up - not actually accomplishing anything.


  • Scubagirl Sep 20, 2012

    Guess they look at the DMV test like school tests-they'll move up a grade even if they don't pass the test.
    Seeing some of these drivers every morning it does not surprise me many fail the test.
    Hope they fix it. I also think 16 yo is too young. Even though they are not supposed to have other kids in the cars w/ them they do

  • ezLikeSundayMorning Sep 20, 2012

    From the DMV's response: "(We want) not just to align (it) with the DPI curriculum, but just to make sure that we are testing what we need to test to make sure we have safe drivers," Reese said.

    Sounds like they are aware there is an issue and are working to fix it. I want the test to be hard, but I also want it to be testing things that matter in ensuring safe drivers.

  • I know some stuff Sep 19, 2012

    The test should be HARD. Based on observation, we have too many incompetent drivers on the road.
    The BOOK & classes should teach the best driving techniques, and back off the number of pages of penalties.
    But that's too much common sense, I guess.