ANNAPOLIS, MARYLAND — Ten years ago, Jeremy Tate never imagined he’d be the guy to take down the College Board as America’s top provider of college entrance exams.
Back then, Tate, the founder and president of the Classic Learning Test (CLT), was working as a guidance counselor at a private high school. There, he kept hearing college admissions officers complain about the SAT, which is administered by the College Board.
“I assumed an alternative was coming because everyone was demanding it,” he said. “In the course of researching who was making an alternative, the only people doing it didn’t seem to know what they were doing. I thought: ‘There’s an opportunity here.’”
Tate, 42, decided to make a better alternative. He understood where, when and why the College Board had gone off the rails from its original mission.
“The College Board is a pretty radical organization. They don’t try to hide it,” Tate told The Florida Standard. “They’re very much one-sided [politically]. Most of the source material leans heavily into 20th century progressives and they really ignore the Western intellectual tradition that was foundational for America.”
Demographic results of SAT scores that consistently show white and Asian students outperforming their black and Hispanic peers has led many on the Left to blame the College Board for these disparities.
Ibram X. Kendi, author of the New York Times’ #1 bestseller How to Be an Anti-Racist, argued in 2021 that “The tests, not the black test-takers, have been underachieving.” The accusations that the SAT was a racist test led the College Board to make significant changes.
“It’s very different from the test that it always was [historically],” Tate claims. “They got rid of every trace of aptitude testing. All the things that anybody who’s 35 or older remembers from the SAT – logic questions, analogies – totally gone.”
THE CLASSICAL EDUCATION MOVEMENT
Creating the test was not merely a reaction against the College Board’s ideological shift to the Left. The idea also coincided with a larger movement.
“A lot of people are calling it the classic renewal movement in education,” Tate says. “It’s characterized by a return primarily to the telos – or the goal – of education as it always was, traditionally.”
“The goal of education was always about human formation, especially the cultivation of virtue,” he added. “It’s why you educated the next generation. You’re passing down an inheritance. You’re teaching them integrity.”
The contemporary paradigm has gone astray from these ideals, according to Tate.
“That purpose for education has been lost in this age of credentialing. It’s just about college and career readiness.”
Aside from his personal interest in seeing his company grow, Tate believes a new standardized test must replace the SAT before a rebirth of classical education can truly flourish in America.
“CLT, or something like CLT, is necessary for the classical movement as a whole to scale,” he said. “So long as folks are beholden to the College Board, it’s going to be limited how much this movement can develop.”
EDUCATION REFORMS IN FLORIDA
While the classical education movement has been growing in states across America for years, Florida’s recent educational reforms have served to accelerate the growth like pouring gasoline on a fire.
Over the past two years, the Florida Legislature has passed bills providing universal school choice, strengthening parental rights, increasing curriculum transparency, weakening teachers’ unions, destroying DEI bureaucracies, banning the teaching of Critical Race Theory (CRT) and prohibiting discussions of gender identity and sexual orientation outside of health courses.
“I think there’s a lot of synergy between the state of Florida and CLT,” Tate said. “CLT is growing in the same direction that I think the state wants to go, in terms of, ‘Let’s get all the new, crazy ideology out and lets’ return to the tried and true: reading, math, arithmetic, founding documents.’”
CLT’s emphasis on religious and philosophical texts that have stood the test of time is one of its key distinctives.
“We want students reading the same kind of texts that were foundational to the thinking of America’s founding generation,” Tate says. “It’s not enough for students to just learn about the American Revolution and America’s founding. They’ve also got to have an immersion in the same kind of education. That’s what the classical education movement is doing.”
In January, Governor Ron DeSantis appointed six new board members at New College of Florida with the goal of transforming it into a “Hillsdale of the South.” Hillsdale is a private liberal arts college in Michigan that’s celebrated among conservatives for its championing of classical education. Two of DeSantis’ appointees – Chris Rufo and Mark Bauerlein – are also CLT board members.
BREAKING INTO PUBLIC EDUCATION
In May, the Legislature added the Classic Learning Test as an acceptable high school assessment test. The bill did not require public colleges and universities to use it as an admissions standard, but Tate is confident that will happen soon. The University of South Florida has already done so and Tate expects Florida State University and the University of Florida will do the same.
“The conversations so far have been great,” he said. “We met directly with [UF] President [Ben] Sasse. He’s a big fan of what we’re doing.”
While the vast majority of test-takers have been homeschoolers or students from private schools up to this point, Tate says more public schools are coming on board. He recently participated in a “a giant zoom [call] with every school district in Florida.”
COMING FOR THE COLLEGE BOARD
Tate says CLT’s goal is to one day replace the College Board as America’s top provider for standardized testing.
“That’s a 20-year kind of goal, but we feel like we’ve got better technology, we’ve got a whole lot more fire and we’ve got an incredibly passionate, enthusiastic team,” he said. “At the end of the day we feel like we’re championing a kind of education that is timeless – that any parent wants for their kids over this modern progressive secular nonsense that’s being pushed on them.”
This ambitious goal feels much more attainable these days.
“When we first started saying that people kind of laughed,” he said. “Now, with Florida, it’s a lot more real.”