Assistant Head­master Mike Roberts teaches history class. Courtesy | David Diener

Hillsdale Academy stu­dents are ranking high on the Classic Learning Initiative’s college entrance exams. Last month, Hillsdale Academy placed third in the Classic Learning Test’s national high school rankings by median score.

Classic Learning Ini­tiative was founded by Jeremy Tate in 2015 when the SAT com­mitted to return to the 1600 scale and align more closely with Common Core stan­dards. Tate said his main goal was “to chal­lenge the College Board, to put forth some­thing better.”

The CLT differs from other stan­dardized tests in length, format, and content. The test is two hours long and is usually admin­is­tered by local schools like Hillsdale Academy. 

Hillsdale Academy is now in its second year of admin­is­tering the CLT to all of its 11th grade stu­dents.

“I am incredibly proud of our teachers and our stu­dents whose hard work over the years has been rec­og­nized nationally by this accom­plishment,” Hillsdale Academy Head­master David Diener said. “This is a high honor to be on this list.”

Founded in 1990, Hillsdale Academy is a clas­sical Christian K‑12 private school that focuses on teaching primary texts. 

Diener is in his second year as head­master of the school and has been a speaker, writer, and edu­cator in clas­sical schools for the past decade. Addi­tionally, he is cur­rently on the board of aca­demic advisors for the CLT.

“I whole-heartedly support CLT’s mission and vision,” Diener said. “CLT’s vision of edu­cation and what it should be is inspiring, and I hope it con­tinues to grow.” 

Classic Learning Ini­tiative now offers three assessment tests: CLT8, CLT10, and CLT. The CLT8 assesses stu­dents before they enter high school, while the latter two are com­pa­rable to the PSAT and SAT. 

Cur­rently, 158 col­leges accept CLT scores for admission, but Tate said massive growth is on the horizon. 

“We do not want to exist as a niche product for just home­school stu­dents or clas­si­cally-edu­cated stu­dents,” Tate said. “CLT wants to have more stu­dents in 2029 to take the CLT than either the SAT or the ACT.”

The test is broken down into three sec­tions: verbal rea­soning, grammar/writing, and quan­ti­tative rea­soning. Each section has 40 ques­tions, each worth one point. 

The biggest dif­ference, however, is the reading pas­sages and con­cepts stu­dents encounter on the tests.

“The stu­dents say that the reading pas­sages here are more sub­stantive than those on the PSAT,” Hillsdale Academy Guidance Coun­selor Deanna Ducher said.

Diener said this dis­tinction has an impact in the classroom as well. 

“The SAT has unapolo­get­i­cally aligned itself with the Common Core. What the CLT has rec­og­nized is that testing drives cur­riculum,” Diener said. 

“The kind of ques­tions that are asked on the SAT and the skills stu­dents are expected to learn to have a real impact on what is taught in class­rooms. What the CLT has iden­tified is that those goals are at odds with the clas­sical approach to edu­cation.” 

Even though the achievement was note­worthy, Diener reit­erated that Hillsdale Academy is more than impressive numbers on paper. 

“Our high test scores are not what ulti­mately makes Hillsdale Academy a great place to learn and grow,” he said. “What makes us a great school is the cul­ti­vation of our stu­dents’ souls.”