Schooled Reporting on education

Capitalizing on classical education

Education | Growth in the classical model has created the need for a new set of educational support structures—including standardized tests
by Leigh Jones
Posted 8/01/18, 05:50 pm

The Association of Classical Christian Schools has seen a 20 percent increase over four years in the number of campuses using a classical curriculum. During the last 10 years, the number of students attending ACCS member schools has grown 30 percent. Homeschoolers have also flocked to the classical movement, as have university-model Christian schools. And big charter networks, like Arizona-based Great Hearts, are even bringing classical education to the secular public school environment.

David Goodwin, president of ACCS, describes the classical movement as “plowing a whole new category of education.” But that’s created some challenges for classical school graduates transitioning into a more traditionally structured learning environment—especially when they go to take a college entrance exam.

Both the ACT and SAT are designed to measure what students have learned in traditional public school classrooms. When the College Board announced plans in 2015 to revamp the SAT to more closely align with Common Core standards, parents of classically educated students, especially homeschoolers, started looking for an alternative.

Jeremy Tate, who at the time ran an SAT prep company, sympathized.

“You can imagine as a homeschool parent, if you’ve immersed your son or daughter in a classical curriculum for 15 years and then the test that they’re going to take—the ultimate high stakes test—is totally disconnected from their academic formation, that would inherently be problematic,” he told me.

Tate now runs CLT, a company offering an alternative college entrance exam geared toward classically educated students. The CLT is designed to test aptitude, not just the acquisition of a certain set of facts.

“Our hope with the CLT is not only to offer a better standard to put kids in front of really, really good rich content, but also to have a test that can help to refocus curriculum on the humanities,” Tate said.

During the 2017-18 school year, 10,000 students took the test. Next year, Tate expects 35,000 to sit for the CLT. Many of those will take it as part of a high school assessment process, but they can also submit it to any of the 117 universities that now accept the test as an alternative to the SAT or ACT.

Administrators at Cedarville University, in west-central Ohio, agreed to accept the test after hearing about it from homeschool parents. They quickly realized the test offered a completely different perspective than the traditional assessments.

“I think that 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,” said Matt Dearden, director of undergraduate admissions at Cedarville. “And it at once both broadens student engagement with the test-taking process, but also focuses their attention on subjects, issues, methods, whatever you want to call it, that really matter.”

Only a handful of prospective Cedarville students have submitted CLT scores so far, but Dearden expects that number to grow, based on the number of applicants with a classical education.

Dearden called it a global trend.

“You can‘t point to just one religious group where it’s popular or one denomination or even one kind of thought model,” he said. “But 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.”

Associated Press/Photo by John Locher Associated Press/Photo by John Locher Students in a freshman biology class at Lake Mead Christian Academy in Henderson, Nev.

Shifting private school demographics

The students who attend private schools and the type of private schools they choose are changing, according to a new study from Education Next charting the shifting demographics of private school enrollment in the United States. The study found that families with children in private schools tend to be wealthier and are moving away from Catholic schools to those with different religious affiliation—or no faith affiliation at all.

Researchers Sean Reardon of Stanford and Richard Murnane of Harvard found that while the percentage of students enrolled in private K-12 schools held steady between 1965 and 2013—about 1 in 10 students—the percentage attending Catholic schools dropped sharply. Catholic schools once educated the vast majority of all private school students but now enroll just 42 percent. Among middle- and low-income families, non-Catholic religious schools, primarily Protestant and Jewish institutions, picked up the difference. Enrollment in non-Catholic religious schools rose from just 8 percent in 1965 to 40 percent in 2013.

But overall, the percentage of middle-income families choosing private schools dropped. While the number of high-income families held steady, they increasingly chose secular schools. Enrollment at non-religious private schools grew from 4 percent to 18 percent, almost entirely due to interest from high-income families.

Private school attendance also varied by region and lifestyle. Families from cities more often enrolled children in private school than families from the suburbs, even accounting for income differences.

While the researchers did not study the causes of these changes, they did suggest several possibilities. The widespread closure of Catholic schools spurred the biggest changes. Many Catholic schools suffered funding cuts, as some dioceses dealt with sexual abuse lawsuits, and many dioceses also faced a decrease in clergy and nuns available to teach. Catholic schools not forced to close increasingly raised their tuition, making it harder for them to serve the low- and middle-income families that have historically represented most of their students. —Rachel Lynn Aldrich

Associated Press/Photo by David Jordan Associated Press/Photo by David Jordan Students in military fatigues on the campus of Norwich University

Free market student loans

Norwich University is the latest college to launch an income-sharing program for students who want to avoid education loans. The private military school, in Montpelier, Vt., announced the program in July. Income-sharing programs, first proposed by economist Milton Friedman in 1955, gained new prominence in 2016 when Purdue University adopted the “Back a Boiler” plan. Now, nearly 30 public and private universities have some form of the program. Critics don’t like the programs because they “discriminate” against students getting degrees in fields that don’t pay much. Students should consider that an early introduction to the free market economy. —L.J.

King James version of schooling

More than recess: Pro basketball star LeBron James opened a new public school in his hometown of Akron, Ohio, on Monday. The I Promise School operates year-round, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and offers resources to help parents as well as students. —L.J.

Face facts

Could facial recognition technology be the solution to school security? One New York school district thinks so. It’s the first in the nation to use its security system to scan for potential threats, including expelled students, disgruntled employees, sex offenders, and some weapons. —L.J.

Under house arrest for hazing death

The only member of a Penn State fraternity to plead guilty in the hazing-related death of a pledge last year was sentenced Tuesday: three months of house arrest. Ryan Burke’s lawyer called the punishment fair, noting Timothy Piazza made free choices that contributed to his own death. Prosecutors and Piazza’s parents disagree. —L.J.

Leigh Jones

Leigh lives in Houston with her husband and daughter. She is the news editor for The World and Everything in It and reports on education for WORLD Digital.

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