Growth in classical education

MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: It’s Thursday, August 2nd, 2018. Good morning, I’m Megan Basham.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. First up on The World and Everything in It, the resurgence of classical education.

Heightened interest in classical education is evident in both homeschools and Christian schools. For example, the Association of Classical Christian Schools reports a 20 percent increase in the use of that curriculum over the last four years.

BASHAM: Big charter networks, like Arizona-based Great Hearts, are even bringing classical education to the secular public school environment. 

All this interest in classical education means change for standardized testing. Here’s WORLD Radio’s Leigh Jones.

LEIGH JONES, NEWS EDITOR: For decades prospective U.S. college students have prepared to take one of two major college entrance exams—the SAT or the ACT. Both are designed to test what students have learned in traditional public school classrooms.

That creates challenges for a growing number of students graduating from classical schools—especially after the College Board revamped the SAT two years ago to more closely align with Common Core standards.

TATE: There was, uh, an immediate demand and kind of a backlash to that, especially in the homeschool world, where, where parents, in particular homeschool parents were wanting a third option…

That’s Jeremy Tate. He used to run a company offering SAT prep courses. When he realized nobody else had plans to create that third option, he decided he would. He based his new test on a classical curriculum because of its growing popularity, especially among homeschoolers.

TATE: And you can imagine as a homeschool parent, if you’ve immersed your son or daughter in a classical curriculum for 15 years, um, and then the test that they’re going to take a, it’s kind of the ultimate high-stakes test is totally disconnected from their academic formation that that would inherently be problematic.

The test is called the CLT—short for Classic Learning Test. In its first year, 47 students took the exam. Three years later, during the 2017-18 academic year, 10,000 students took the CLT. This coming school year, Tate anticipates 35,000. Although it’s designed as a college entrance exam, classical high schools also use it to check their students’ progress. Right now, they account for a majority of students taking the CLT.

But 117 universities—most of them Christian—now accept the CLT instead of the SAT or ACT. Cedarville University—a Christian college in west-central Ohio—is one of them. Administrators there had never heard of the CLT until parents, especially from homeschooling families, started asking about it.

Matt Dearden is Cedarville’s director of undergraduate admissions.

DEARDEN: What really attracted us to the CLT was that we felt that it actually tested a person much more holistically than the ACT or the SAT. The test at once both broadens kind of student engagement with the test taking process, but also focuses their attention on subjects, issues, methods, whatever you want to call it, that, that really matter.

So far, only a few Cedarville students have submitted CLT results. But based on the growing number of applicants with a classical education, Dearden expects to see more.

DEARDEN: It’s really interesting because of how global a trend it’s becoming and you can’t point to just one like religious group where it’s popular at or one a certain denomination. It is coming from so many different places. And so I think CLT is trying to capitalize on that and colleges are certainly trying to capitalize on that. So, we’re just trying to stay ahead of it. That’s why we adopted it pretty early.

David Goodwin is president of the Association of Classical Christian Schools. He sits on the CLT advisory board and cites the test as evidence of the classical model’s growing influence.

GOODWIN: The test really is an artifact of a bigger trend, which is that classical education seems to be plowing a whole new category of education. And so that means that we’ve had to replace the conventional systems that are out there for public schools.

Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Leigh Jones.

(Photo/Facebook, ACCS)

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