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Classic Learning Test Adopted by Florida’s DeSantis Administration

Florida’s adoption of the Classic Learning Test (CLT) expands options for testing into public colleges and universities in the state. The test was created by an organization founded on the belief that testing should be changed in focus. However, it has faced criticism because of possible lack of academic rigor compared to other tests.

Florida’s Adoption of the Classic Learning Test

Ben Gibson, Chairman of the Florida Board of Education. Credited to the Florida Department of Education website.

Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida signed a collection of education-focused legislation into law on May 9, 2023. Included was House Bill 1537, which addressed several topics, including adoption of the Classic Learning Test. The Florida Department of Education claimed they were “the first state […] to formally adopt the Classic Learning Test as an alternative to SAT and ACT” for students. Sufficient scores would allow graduates to receive scholarships to public higher education “and establish concordant scores for graduation.”

The Florida State Board of Education approved rules that include the CLT as an option on July 19. This test is now “an option for high school graduating students to […] satisfy the test score requirement when qualifying for a scholarship” for Florida colleges and universities.

Origins of the Classic Learning Test

Jeremy Tate, President of the Classic Learning Test. Credited to the CLT Journal.

The CLT came about through the vision of Jeremy Tate, who was a school teacher. According to the organization’s website, Tate was trying to figure out how to teach English to high school juniors who had failed to previously learn the material. Considering the class material he was expected to teach to these students, he realized that it lacked any meaningful draw for them. His letter states the following:

“So I did something radical: I chucked […] [the material]. Then I sat the students down and made deal with them; no homework, no tests, no quizzes, no busywork, and no textbook.”

Instead, he would have them read classics as a group, then discuss it organically. “It was the most successful semester we ever had,” Tate claimed.

The classics Tate provided intrigued his students in a manner they had lacked before. They “had gone through an education system that neglected any consideration of religion, philosophy, ethics, or the nature of good and evil” previous to this.

Tate decided that “high stakes testing” created incentives to teach in a way that bored many students. They were being taught in a bland method, without any higher ideas being conveyed. The CLT was created to focus upon “important ideas, texts and subjects” students should be learning. The test’s standard is to have students engage with significant ideas and questions which have shaped the world.

How the Test is Structured

Ron DeSantis, Governor of Florida and Presidential Candidate. Credited to the Washington Post. Sourced from this Best Colleges article.

The Classic Learning Test has four different assessments meant to cover the range from 3rd to 12th Grade students. The first is the CLT 3-6, meant to be proctored to 3rd through 6th grade students. The second is the CLT 8 for junior high or middle school students. Both are described as “[d]iagnostic and summative exam[s] to track growth” in the test takers.

The CLT 10 is aimed at high school freshmen and sophomores, and is their equivalent to the Preliminary SAT. The CLT is for juniors and seniors. It functions similarly to the SAT or ACT as a test for college preparedness.

There are three required sections on the CST: Verbal Reasoning, Grammar and Writing, and Quantitative Reasoning. The first aims at demonstrating students’ “textual comprehension and analysis.” The Grammar and Writing section is focused on “textual editing and improvement”, and last is for “logic and mathematics.”

There is also an optional essay section. The required portion of the test typically takes around two to two-and-a-quarter hours to complete. The essay, if done, ought to last approximately half an hour. There are 120 questions in total, and the exam is scored from 0-120. Test takers “receive no penalty for incorrect answers and can share their scores for free with colleges and universities.”

The organization also makes it clear that the test is open to all students. It is not just for those who received a classical education. The term classic in CLT “refers to its use of the greatest and most enduring texts that have informed and shaped society.” The CLT aims at demonstrating students’ academic knowledge and abilities regardless of what school they attended.

The Classic Learning Test’s Acceptance

The Classic Learning Test site provides a list of the colleges and universities that will accept CLT scores. At present, more than 250 higher learning institutions will accept these scores. These institutions are spread across 44 states in the United States of America. Campuses in Alberta and British Columbia in Canada will also accept the CLT.

The organization declares that “with many colleges going test-optional, even colleges who do not partner with CLT will accept” students’ scores. It also notes that, even when test scores are not a requirement for an institution, they can improve an application.

It is encouraged that students with CLT scores seeking entry to institutions who do not accept them contact admissions. The organization claims that explaining how the CLT demonstrates one’s academic ability can convince admissions to accept the scores, as well as the test itself.

College Board’s Criticism

The CLT has drawn criticism about whether or not is its academically rigorous enough. For example, College Board released a fact sheet on July 13 raising concerns about the CLT’s ‘test concordance’ with the SAT and ACT. To clarify, this is whether or not the CLT is comparable in its academic content to the other two tests.

According to this fact sheet, the study comparing the CLT to the other two tests released by Classic Learning Initiatives, LLC, the test’s creator, is not sound. College Board notes that they were not involved, and that they are missing key information to determine whether or not the SAT and the CLT are comparable.

Specifically, the fact sheet raises issues about the test sample’s lack of information on the participants, as well as no control for the time between them taking the SAT and the CLT. Furthermore, it questions the reliability of self-reporting SAT scores, which the test sample included. It contrasts this to a comparison between the SAT and the ACT, where only official scores received by colleges and universities were used.

“A core requirement for a valid and reliable concordance between two tests is that they measure similar content at similar levels of rigor,” the fact sheet asserted. “Analysis of available information about the development and design of the CLT raises questions about the comparability” of the tests.

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