Florida Poised To Authorize Conservative-Favored College Entrance Exam

September 8, 2023

Florida's public university system is poised to authorize a new entrance exam that emphasizes classical Western thought and has been used mostly by private and religious colleges, the latest move by the state to make education more conservative.

The Board of Governors of the 12-campus State University System of Florida will consider the adoption of the Classic Learning Test (CLT) on Friday. The test, which would be accepted along with the more traditional SAT and ACT exams, is already authorized for use in the state's public elementary and secondary schools as a way to assess learning.

"The CLT places a strong emphasis on classical education, which includes a focus on reading, writing, and critical thinking skills," Chancellor Ray Rodrigues said in a statement. "It is designed to align with a classical liberal arts curriculum, which some educators and institutions believe provides a more well-rounded and meaningful education."

The test's adoption would mark the third time that Florida governor Ron DeSantis (R.) has taken on the nonprofit College Board, which administers the SAT, or Scholastic Aptitude Test.

DeSantis, who is seeking the Republican nomination for president in the 2024 election, previously banned the College Board's new Advanced Placement high school curriculum in African American Studies. He also tangled with the organization over the inclusion of LGBTQ+ material in a psychology course.

The College Board has pushed back against the new test, criticizing as flawed a study meant to compare students' scores on the CLT with scores on the SAT.

Priscilla Rodriguez, who runs the SAT program at the College Board, said the CLT emphasizes a particular type of learning and content, whereas the SAT is aimed at pinpointing the fundamental skills that students have developed in reading, writing, and math.

As a result, lucrative scholarships and coveted spots at university could go to students who have studied the content emphasized in the CLT, even if they had lower overall reading and writing ability than some students who took the SAT, she said.

Jeremy Tate, a former high school teacher and college counselor who developed the CLT in 2015, said in an interview he was aiming to reflect the intellectual rigor and focus on Western academic thought found in Jesuit and similar educational traditions.

While Tate tends to be conservative, his test is not political, he said.

Even so, it appears to be part of a broader reaction among many conservatives against what they see as a de-emphasis on parts of the Western canon.

Tate said his ultimate goal was to restore the primacy of Western thought in education by developing tests that reward familiarity with Western philosophers and thinkers such as Thomas Aquinas or Dante Alighieri, along with authors such as the black abolitionist and thinker Frederick Douglass and Southern U.S. female writer Flannery O'Connor.

(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein in Sacramento, California; editing by Grant McCool)

Published under: Florida