Florida seeks to replace SAT with CLT, following classical education trend

Creators of the Classical Learning Test (CLT) met with top Florida education officials last week as the DeSantis administration seeks alternatives to the SAT and AP classes.

Moving towards the CLT follows the trend of students clamoring for classical or Christian education.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ feud with the College Board is calling attention to alternatives in standardized testing methods, including the Classical Learning Test (CLT).

DeSantis began pushing back against the College Board, which administers the SAT entrance exam and Advanced Placement (AP) curricula, in January when his administration rejected the trial-run of the AP African American Studies course in the state of Florida.

Over the past several weeks, DeSantis has questioned the ideological agenda of the College Board in all its offerings and has suggested alternative methods for measuring the academic success of Floridian students, including the CLT.

Testing similar skills to the SAT and ACT, the CLT was created in 2015 and uses texts from the Western tradition as its metric for reading comprehension measures.

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Top officials in the DeSantis administration last week met with Jeremy Tate, the creator of the CLT, to discuss options for standardized testing in Florida, according to ABC affiliate “Wear News 3.”

Tate clarified on Twitter, “The difference between CLT and College Board is that [the College Board censors] people of faith. CLT does not. We test a students’ ability to read something they disagree with without having a meltdown.”

Instead of testing students on passages from obscure, dry texts, the CLT uses excerpts from key figures in the Western tradition, such as Plato, Aquinas, Montesquieu, and Twain. The CLT Author Bank also tests students on excerpts from Karl Marx, Toni Morrison, Fredrich Nietzsche, and John Maynard Keynes.

As a teacher, Tate struggled to elicit engagement from his students. “When you remove every transcendental idea from education,” Tate reasons, “students are right to be bored out of their minds. Give them something that deserves their attention, and they will respond. It’s human nature.”

The motivations behind the CLT also correspond to recent trends of students clamoring for classical or Christian college experiences. While most colleges are experiencing enrollment declines, institutions like Hillsdale College or Grove City College, which emphasize the Western tradition, are experiencing rapid increases in application rates.

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As Director of Admissions at Hillsdale Zachary Miller told Campus Reform, the essential questions of the Western tradition like “what does it mean to be human” and “how are we to order our lives towards the good, the true, and the beautiful” are never “going to be out of style and out of fashion.”

The Senior Chancellor for the Florida Department of Education, Henry Mack III, issued a statement on Twitter calling for the expanded use of the CLT.

Not only do we need to build anew by returning to the foundations of our democracy, but CLT also offers the opportunity for all our colleges & universities to rightsize their priorities,” says Mack.

Follow Gabrielle M. Etzel on Twitter.