William Mattox: Florida is wisely welcoming new college entrance exam

Good Grade
The CLT gives particular emphasis to assessing students’ critical thinking skills.

Gov. Ron DeSantis caused quite a stir earlier this year when he suggested the College Board is wielding too much influence over American education.

“Who elected them?” the Governor asked soon after the Florida Department of Education rejected the College Board’s new Advanced Placement course on African American Studies (for including “queer theory,” “intersectionality,” and other “woke” content).

The Governor’s AP criticism earned him praise from unexpected places. In fact, one prominent African American “social justice” advocate called the College Board’s new curriculum “sub-mediocre propaganda.”

Still, many students, parents, and educators were left to wonder: How much can a state like Florida affect the College Board’s stranglehold over college equivalency courses and college admissions exams?

More than one might think, apparently.

Earlier this week, the Sunshine State took an important first step toward welcoming a new entrant into the college entrance exam process — the Classic Learning Test (CLT).

Specifically, the Florida House of Representatives adopted a measure that would give college-bound students the option of submitting CLT test scores (rather than SAT or ACT scores) when applying for a Florida Bright Futures Scholarship.

The Classic Learning Test is a college-entrance exam that measures student aptitude and achievement in reading, writing, and math. It began nearly a decade ago when founder Jeremy Tate started questioning the role that high-stakes testing plays in driving the secondary school curriculum.

Tate asked, “If teaching to the test is an inescapable reality, then shouldn’t the most important test engage students with some of the most important ideas, texts, and subjects?”

Drawing upon classic literature and historical texts, the CLT gives particular emphasis to assessing students’ critical thinking skills. Tate hopes that by asking questions taken from works that have meaningfully shaped Western culture, CLT can be a catalyst for education renewal nationwide.

Currently, the CLT is accepted by more than 200 colleges and universities around the country, including Baylor, Marquette, Hillsdale, and Clemson. Here in Florida, the list includes Stetson, Ave Maria, Saint Leo, and Palm Beach Atlantic.

The CLT is apt to become increasingly popular as the burgeoning classical education movement continues to spread. (The number of K-12 classical schools in the U.S. has increased 66% in the last five years — and home-school programs, such as Classical Conversations, continue to grow as well.)

Including CLT among the test options for Bright Futures Scholarships would no doubt please Gov. DeSantis. He previously lauded the rise of AP competitors — such as International Baccalaureate and Cambridge International — in the college equivalency course market. And DeSantis has pledged “to continue to work to expand” options for students.

Whatever one may think of the governor’s criticisms of the College Board, increased competition will be good for Florida families. Indeed, the College Board’s near-monopoly over entrance exams and equivalency courses has put it dangerously close to establishing a de facto national curriculum — an outcome which many Americans rightly resist.

So, kudos to the Florida House for making the Classic Learning Test an option for college-bound Bright Futures applicants. It’s great to see this emerging assessment being warmly welcomed in the Sunshine State.

Now, it’s the Florida Senate’s turn to follow suit.


William Mattox is the director of the J. Stanley Marshall Center for Educational Options at The James Madison Institute.

Guest Author


  • Publix Associate Millionaire Ed👍

    April 26, 2023 at 4:46 pm

    You will take CRT and queer theory or you will not graduate. Welcome these positive changes. Conservative kids and religious whackos need help with critical thinking.

  • Bert Stimson

    April 26, 2023 at 5:14 pm

    Mattox and JMI are blatantly partisan and Jeremy Tate and CLT are religious zealots looking to destroy public education in Florida and beyond.

  • Tom Mahomes

    April 26, 2023 at 5:50 pm

    Expanding options is a good thing. No student will be forced to take CLT. The reality is that SAT and ACT have not served families well, especially families outside of the public school. CLT is simply an option for those families and schools.

  • Soft Republican Ed👍

    April 26, 2023 at 6:57 pm

    CRT should be mandatory to get in.

  • ScienceBLVR

    April 27, 2023 at 4:01 pm

    Theres about 4000 degree granting post secondary colleges and Universities in US, so 200 that accept this “exam”, what’s that 5%? ACT tests are used by over 3000 institutions, and SAT exams at pretty much ALL of the 4000 listed. So if they were my kids, I’d opt for the most options…

Comments are closed.


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