Florida’s public universities will likely be adding one more standardized test to be used as an entrance exam, adding to the SAT and ACT tests that have been accepted for years.
A committee of the state Board of Governors, meeting Wednesday at the University of South Florida in Tampa, approved the Classic Learning Test as an option for all 12 schools in the State University System. The public will have two weeks to comment on the move before the full board takes a final vote later this summer on whether to adopt the test.
The action aligns with a new state law signed in May by Gov. Ron DeSantis that authorizes school districts to begin administering the Classic Learning Test and allows it to be used in determining eligibility for Florida’s Bright Futures college scholarship.
The test, founded in 2015, is used primarily by home-schooling families, as well as some 200 colleges and universities across the nation, many of them religiously affiliated. It is rooted in the classical education model, which focuses on the “centrality of the Western tradition.”
The test has about 120 questions and takes two hours to complete. It differentiates itself from the SAT and ACT by placing emphasis on “meaningful pieces of literature that have stood the test of time.”
The company’s website features quotes from Marcus Aurelius and St. Augustine. Practice tests feature passages from “The Epic of Gilgamesh,” Plato’s “Republic” and “The Federalist Papers,” among others.
The test emerged as an option earlier this year after DeSantis became embroiled in an ongoing feud with the College Board, the company that administers the SAT and operates the Advanced Placement high school curriculum.
In January, DeSantis rejected AP African American studies as a course, claiming it violated state law and lacked value. The College Board later revised the course and faced criticism. DeSantis called out the company in news conferences and the Legislature introduced HB 1537, which introduced the new test.
In May, the board of trustees at New College of Florida in Sarasota adopted the test. Two members of the college’s newly appointed board — Christopher Rufo and Mark Bauerlein — also serve on the Classic Learning Test board.
Last week, the College Board and DeSantis renewed their feud after the organization said it would not remove material on gender identity and sexuality from its AP Psychology curriculum.
Jeremy Tate, founder of the Classic Learning Test, met with State University System Chancellor Ray Rodrigues earlier this year. Tate said in an interview he was grateful his company “happened to be in the right place at the right time.”
“Our understanding is that the governor and leadership were looking for alternatives to the College Board,” Tate said. “There’s a demand for a third option. Really, right away there was a lot of receptivity to the (Classic Learning Test) concept, initially in the home-school world for sure and the charter school world and the Catholic school world. But it’s really spilled over now.”
Follow what’s happening in Tampa Bay schools
Subscribe to our free Gradebook newsletter
You’re all signed up!
Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.Explore all your options
He said the test will help drive the curriculum in Florida schools, and that it places a greater emphasis on developing virtues as opposed to focusing on college and career readiness.
Jay Rosner, an admissions test expert and executive director for the Princeton Review Foundation, has advocated for states to drop testing requirements like the SAT and ACT because of test result gaps based on race, gender and socioeconomics.
While he’s not anti-test, Rosner said he believes the exams are problematic when a great deal of weight is put on them for admissions. But looking at the other schools that accept the Classic Learning Test, he said, he was less concerned about the expanded role it could play.
Most of those schools “are not that selective, which would mean the test would not play much of a role,” Rosner said. “I would venture to guess it’s to send a message about values.”
The State Board of Education is expected to adopt a rule in July that would allow high school students to use the test to meet their math and language arts graduation requirements.
As part of its action on Wednesday, the Board of Governors committee adopted the score equivalencies determined by the Classic Learning Test.
A sum of 38 on the verbal reasoning and grammar sections was said to equal a 490 on the SAT’s reading and writing section or 19 and 17 on the ACT’s reading and English section. A 19 on the Classic Learning Test’s quantitative reasoning was said to equal 480 on the SAT’s math section or 19 on the ACT’s math section.
Times Staff Writer Jeffrey S. Solocheck contributed to this report. Divya Kumar covers higher education for the Tampa Bay Times in partnership with Open Campus.