The Classic Learning Test, an exam that is said to be more rooted in Western classical and Christian traditions and is used in undergraduate admissions at more than 200 mostly Christian colleges across the country, can now be used as an alternative to SAT and ACT, for admission to all universities in the State University System of Florida, the system’s Board of Governors announced Friday.
“The system is pleased to add the CLT to reach a wider variety of students from different educational backgrounds. Not intimidated by controversy or critics, our focus is on the success of our students, and the State of Florida,” the Board of Governors said in a statement on the exam some critics have branded as controversial.
“Because we reject the status quo, today’s decision means we are better serving students by giving them an opportunity to showcase their academic potential and paving the path to higher education,” the board added. “As this assessment focuses on critical thinking skills, Florida will lead the way in filling our state and nation with bright and competitive students.”
The new test was launched in 2015 by former English teacher Jeremy Tate, who “questioned how American education had come to be so utilitarian,” according to the CLT’s website.
“He was working as an evening high school English teacher — and realizing transcendent, moral, and ethical ideas had been gutted from the classroom,” the website explained. “He came to the conclusion that high-stakes testing was partially to blame.
“CLT hopes that by offering a new standard that puts students in front of the thinkers and questions that have most meaningfully shaped our culture for the past two millennia, we can be a catalyst for renewal in education nationwide.”
The CLT was accepted by the board with a vote of 13-1, Inside Higher Ed reported, and Tate has been publicly celebrating the announcement.
“Breaking: It’s official. The Board of Governors in Florida just approved CLT. This means adoption at the University of Florida and Florida State and the entire public university system. I am grateful beyond words to everyone who worked to make this happen over the past 8 years,” he wrote in a statement Friday on X, formerly known as Twitter.
“We will never apologize for promoting classical education. America is in crisis because we have abandoned it. It is an education focused on forming young men and women of good character,” he added in another statement on X Monday. “It teaches them to appreciate rather than denigrate the great gift of Western Civilization.”
Amanda Phalin, a business professor at the University of Florida who was the only board member to vote against using CLT as an alternative to SAT or ACT, told The New York Times that she could not support the use of CLT in college admissions because it lacked “empirical evidence that it is of the same quality as the SAT or ACT.”
Anika T. Prather, a sought-after speaker on the topic of the relevancy of classical studies to the black community, who also serves as director of High Quality Curriculum and Instruction at Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy, and worked with the advisory board of Florida’s State University System, said in a blog post that she believes that CLT is harder than the SAT.
“It is a hard test, harder than the SAT, but more enjoyable. It is harder, because it does something that many of our schools do not teach … it makes the students think. We should ALL want this for our kids,” she said.
“The SAT and ACT are still acceptable, so just use those if you do not think your child is ready for a CLT Exam. OR you can begin to expose your child to classical learning so they can have the brilliance of MLK, DuBois, Douglass, Angela Davis, and James Baldwin, to really broaden their horizons … just a thought!”
She also noted that even though the test has the support of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Christian families and colleges, it was created through collaboration with a diverse group of partners and is quite apolitical.
“If we only use politics for the basis of rejecting something, then we may be causing our young people to miss out on an amazing educational experience. My hope is that this exam breaks into every single state in the USA. The CLT Exam was a group effort of blacks, whites, Christians, non-Christians, Muslims, members of the LGBTQ community, liberals, conservatives and so many diverse humans,” she said. “It simply is NOT what it seems. Some of the advisory board members (headed by the brilliant Angel Adams-Parham out of UVA) are Cornell West, me, Jessica Hooten Wilson (who is forever being called woke in the Christian community) and many more.”
Prather, who is also the founder of The Living Water School, which is described as “a unique Christian school for independent learners, based on the educational philosophies of Classical Education and the Sudbury Model,” also made it clear along with several other points that the CLT is not a Christian examination.
“I don’t know how that is possible, when people of different faiths and beliefs helped to create it. Christians were part of that process, but not the only voices,” she explained. “It is an exam created to be used in ALL universities and colleges, so it cannot be Christian.”