The Tennessee Star Report: Noah Tyler of Classic Learning Test Talks About Their Alternative to the ‘Progressive’ Influenced SAT and ACT Standardized Testing


Live from music row on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 am to 8:00 am – Leahy spoke to Chief Strategy Officer Noah Tyler from Classic Learning Test about their new approach to standardized testing.

During the third hour of the show, Tyler explained how the CLT testing was a more rigorous alternative to traditional standardized testing moving away from the common core influenced SAT and ACT. He went on to describe that over 170 colleges nationwide accept the test and that their focus was on testing within the charter, parochial, and home school communities.

Leahy: We are joined now on the line by Noah Tyler who is the Chief Strategy Officer of the Classic Learning Test which is an alternative to the SAT and the ACT. Welcome Noah, thanks for joining us.

Tyler: Thank you. Good morning Michael, glad to be here.

Leahy: So tell us a little bit about the classic learning test or CLT. Why is it a good thing and why is it needed?

Tyler: Sure. There’s a little bit on the origin story and on the test itself that would be useful to the listeners. In about 2016 or 2015 was the announcement. The SAT made a hard turn toward the common core and away from an aptitude imported assessment test focusing on what’s actually happening in the public classrooms with the new common core initiatives.

And the parents who were not in that public district education system were left with their hands in the air. ‘Where’s our test? Who’s going to represent the children that we’ve specifically taken out of that system?’ So our founder Jody Tate he went looking for that test and not finding decided he would start one himself.

Leahy: That’s a classic American approach to solving a problem isn’t it? (Chuckles)

Tyler: Exactly. He’s got that entrepreneurial bug in a big way. But from there it was a matter of what’s going to be on this test. And so we looked at maybe Latin and maybe Greek but that wasn’t going to be general enough for the wide population. There are charter schools. Parochial schools.

Home schools of different models including independent home schools. In the end, it looks a lot like what you’d expect from an SAT but the math has been dialed back to the 1990s where those questions on the SAT where puzzles and it took a lot of mental creativity and mental gymnastics to puzzle your way through and hit a dead end, to use that in a clue to find another way.

Where right now the SAT is shifted to be completely prescriptive and algorithmic and there’s really only one path to the answer. And if you know the formula you get it. And if you didn’t study it that way in school you haven’t really got a shot at it. Our test gives a lot more room for different educational traditions.

The real beauty is on the two-thirds of the test that are English based. The writing section and the reading section. The passages are from the luminaries of the Western traditions. You can find Lucricious. You can find Sophocles. You can find the Dickens on the test.

So it’s still reading comprehension. You don’t have to have a familiarity with those authors directly. But we’re exposing kids to those thinkers and also rewarding those that are familiar with that style of discourse.

Leahy: Now you mentioned that you were here on Saturday at an event of Tennessee grassroots folks and you mentioned a couple of things there. One thing is that you’re going to focus on getting acceptance of this test, this alternative to the progressive SAT, ACT. Among Tennessee, colleges and high schools tell us about that and tell us who’s adopted it across the country so far and here in Tennessee.

Tyler: Sure. So, some of the bigger names in Tennessee would be Union and Lipscomb. There’s a lot of other ones like Johnson and Aquinas that have also adopted it.  There’s eight in total and those can be found on our website among the 170 colleges across the nation.

Leahy: Where is your website? How do we get to your website?

Tyler: is the website. And at the website you can find practice tests for those that are interested in that. You can register for upcoming tests. We have a couple of CLT even this week and next week. But the big one coming up in December on Pearl Harbor Day on the seventh. You’ll also see the author’s banks there.

A technical report for those who are interested in the specifics of the test. In terms of our initiative in Tennessee part of that came from legislative opportunities that opened up in August. I was down there meeting with many of the leaders in education on the House and the Senate and the education commission.

Along with our statistical team. And that opened up a possibility of bringing legislation allowing homeschoolers to avoid the SAT and ACT and still earn the Hope Scholarship in the state of Tennessee. Right now there’s a special exception excluding them from using the GPA.

Leahy: Really? So homeschoolers have to take the SAT or the ACT in order to qualify for the Hope Scholarship. Is that correct?

Tyler: That is currently correct. And there were many policy leaders in the room who were unaware of that. So we had to bring that to the floor and now we have to do some work to remove that restriction.

Leahy: Also, you mentioned that the SAT and ACT test which people think are sort of standard un-moving, in fact, has become how do you describe this, more and more progressive and less rigorous as the years have gone by. Is that correct?

Tyler: I think that both of those things are correct. Less rigorous and more progressive in some ways. The common core, the standards themselves, everybody says the common core standards are fine, but they have been twisted and they also create a uniformity that’s unnecessary.

If all math has to be learned in this particular way then there’s no room for the kind federalist model of competition across states that we see as a good thing. And in addition to kind of the watering down where we talked to Princeton University and they said, ‘Whoa, half of our students are within a margin of error of perfection.

And it really doesn’t give us much differentiation at the top whereas on the classic learning test we have never had a student with a perfect score giving a lot of room for the defined grade differentiation at the top of the bell curve there.’

Leahy: So the focus here in Tennessee again if somebody, if you’re in high school or if you’re a high school guidance counselor and you want your students or homeschooling parent and you want to take the CLT exam as an alternative to the SAT or ACT go to

Now, what if for whatever reasons parents look at the SAT which is run by the college board which is the same crowd that brought you common core. The guy who runs the college board now. And it’s kind of got a left-wing focus to it. A lot of parents say, ‘You know, why am I forced to take that test which is exactly counter to my world view and the world view we want our children to have.’

But they feel forced that they have to take it. And I guess what you’re saying is now with the CLT it’s possible to not (for your high school student) to take the SAT or not take the ACT and just focus on the CLT. If a student or parent chooses to go that route, there are some colleges for which they won’t be penalized and there are some that will. Is that correct?

Tyler: Well certainly there are 170 colleges nationwide who have said they will not penalize students for submitting a CLT in place of their previously required SAT or ACT. And many of those have scholarship dollars attached but the whole package is there.

So we hear of students who are not accepted to John Brown University and then they submit a CLT score and they gain acceptance and win scholarship dollars. And we love those kinds of success stories. In terms of taking the exam, we offer in-school testing.

So if a headmaster or principal wants to have their entire junior class take the test they can coordinate with us directly with us on that. We also have the typical Saturday dates where individuals can come to a test site that’s arranged and that’s the case on December seventh.

Leahy: So how have public schools responded to this when you make this offer. Do public schools say, ‘Oh, we’re delighted to have the CLT test.’ Or do they say, ‘No, we’re sticking with the common core influenced SAT tests.’ What kind of reaction do you get from public schools?

Tyler: I would say public schools are phase two of our target population. Truly we’re looking for those charter educated private parochial homeschoolers of various varieties. Those estimates range from 15 and a third percent all the way down to nine percent depending on how big that population is. Homeschoolers are obviously hard to track and we’re fine with that. But if we can encourage those folks to come out and take the test that’s plenty to actually garner universal college adoption. No college can say no to that large of a slice of the pie.

Listen to the full hour:

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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 am to the Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Photo “Noah Tyler” by Noah Tyler. 





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