A classical alternative to the SAT & ACT

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High school graduates who want to go to college nearly always have to take the SAT or the ACT, the college entrance exams that universities use to assess prospective students for admission and scholarships.

These tests do not measure knowledge, as such, as implied when teachers warn against “teaching to the test.”  Rather, they measure aptitude, a student’s academic skills.  Thus, much of the tests consist of having students read passages of various difficulties and answer questions about them designed to assess comprehension and analytical ability.  Other parts of the test measure vocabulary, logical reasoning, and the ability to do math problems.  (The math section is the one part of the test that depends on the specific content of what the student learned in high school, drawing on algebra, geometry, and some calculus and trigonometry.)

But content is also important.  Progressive education in general focuses on skills rather than knowledge, which fits the SAT and ACT.  But how can a student handle challenging content?  Can the student interact with great ideas?  Can the student understand works of literature, philosophy and history?  Or a scientific article?  Or a discussion of theology?

The new classical schools work on those kinds of questions.  Their curriculum–used also by many homeschoolers–is more challenging than the typical school that follows some version of progressive educational theory.  Their students generally do well on the SAT and ACT, but there has not really been a test to assess how well they do with what they have been taught.

But now there is such a test.  The Classic Learning Test (CLT) is an alternative to the SAT and ACT.  One of the developers talks about it after the jump.

Homeschoolers, classical charter schools, ACCS schools, and Classical Lutheran schools should take a look at this test.  Their students may still need to take the SAT or ACT, depending on what college they want to attend.  So far, 67 schools accept the CLA in lieu of the other exams.  (Concordias, why don’t you?)  But having their students take the CLA is also a good way for classical schools to see how they are doing.

Here is the CLA website.

From Mark Bauerlein, A Test for Classical Christian Students | Mark Bauerlein | First Things:

“No more teaching to the test!” is the battle cry of the growing anti-testing movement in primary and secondary education in America. But there is one area where we need more tests, not fewer—or rather, more choices of which test to take: college admissions. There, we have a two-party system, consisting of SAT and ACT. In the class of 2015, 1.7 million kids took the SAT, nearly two million the ACT. How many of these kids would have found the college application process less alienating and more authentic (and therefore a better gauge of their talents) if they had had more options from which to choose?

An alternative has been developed. It’s called the Classic Learning Test, a college entrance examination that tests for verbal and quantitative reasoning. I helped develop the project in 2015, because it looked so much more calibrated to the teaching I do in freshman classes than do the other options. The CLT resembles other standardized tests, except that it breaks the area of verbal reasoning (which other tests treat as one) down into four sub-areas: Philosophy/Religion, Natural Science, Literature, and Historical/Founding Documents. Those areas reflect the contents of a classical Christian curriculum. Whereas the SAT and ACT adopt a value-neutral approach, often because of “bias” fears, the CLT selects passages deeply and frankly value-heavy, ones that ask students to grapple with strong and often difficult moral implications.

The project is only a few years old, but 67 colleges have already agreed to accept scores on it instead of SAT and ACT if students submit them. More than 125 high schools across the country currently serve as local testing centers. Students can take the exam at one of the centers, receive their scores in less than a week, and have them sent directly to any of the colleges listed on the test’s web site. Students who have attended schools that assigned great works of Western civilization—or who home-schooled using a Great Books curriculum—will be pleased to find an exam that rewards them for the knowledge they’ve acquired.

[Keep reading. . .]

Illustration from Max Pixels, CC0, Public Domain

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