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Chronic Absenteeism, Classical Ed. Master's Degrees, and the Misleading SAT Debate | Office Hours with Jeremy Tate

January 30, 2024 Classic Learning Test
Chronic Absenteeism, Classical Ed. Master's Degrees, and the Misleading SAT Debate | Office Hours with Jeremy Tate
Anchored by the Classic Learning Test
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Anchored by the Classic Learning Test
Chronic Absenteeism, Classical Ed. Master's Degrees, and the Misleading SAT Debate | Office Hours with Jeremy Tate
Jan 30, 2024
Classic Learning Test

On Office Hours with Jeremy Tate, a new segment of the Anchored podcast, Jeremy and Soren dive into the most recent, need-to-know news surrounding the education renewal movement.

Tune in to hear how: public schools are struggling to keep their students in school; Benedictine College is offering two new classical education master's degrees; and a New York Times article advocates for standardized testing as an equalizer in the face of GPA inflation, but somehow fails to mention CLT.

Show Notes Transcript

On Office Hours with Jeremy Tate, a new segment of the Anchored podcast, Jeremy and Soren dive into the most recent, need-to-know news surrounding the education renewal movement.

Tune in to hear how: public schools are struggling to keep their students in school; Benedictine College is offering two new classical education master's degrees; and a New York Times article advocates for standardized testing as an equalizer in the face of GPA inflation, but somehow fails to mention CLT.

Soren Schwab (CLT) (00:01.759)
Almost one in three public school students were chronically absent during the last school year. Is this due to the pandemic or is there another indicator of the failing education system in America? Our friends at Benedictine College are offering two new master's degrees in classical education as part of their Transforming Culture in America plan. And finally, the New York Times released a piece addressing the standardized testing debate, but also completely forgetting to mention CLT.

We're discussing more of this today. My name is Soren Schwab, and this is Office Hours with Jeremy Tate.

Soren Schwab (CLT) (00:41.559)
Welcome back to the Anchored Podcast, and thank you for joining us for episode three of our new series, Office Hours with Jeremy Tate. I'm here at CLT headquarters in beautiful Annapolis, Maryland, with none other than our founder and CEO, Jeremy Tate. Jeremy, how are you today?

Jeremy Tate (00:57.91)
Hey dude, Will, sorry, good to be with you.

Soren Schwab (CLT) (01:00.747)
Likewise, likewise. Well, let's start with this first story. There's actually a couple of articles just recently published about chronic absenteeism in schools. Now, I don't think that's a new issue per se, but it seems like it has intensified, especially throughout the pandemic. And just to throw some numbers at you and get your response, it seems like almost one in three public school students, about 15 million kids were chronically absent during the last school year.

4.7 million school kids. That is a large, large number. And that is across demographics, across states. Some of the leading states, it seems like, are Michigan and some East Coast states. But in general, just soaring absenteeism, which of course is contributing to learning loss at alarming rates, intensified, like I said, by the pandemic. You've been, obviously, you've been in the school system, you've been following this.

What are kind of your thoughts on that?

Jeremy Tate (02:01.918)
So when I was reading this, I was thinking back to my days working in New York City. And every day, every day at about 11 o'clock, 1030, truancy officers would show up with like 30 or 40 of our kids who didn't come to school. And they were just running around the neighborhood doing whatever, you know.

This has been an issue that's been going on for a long time and it is a disaster. Some of the school districts that they reported on, it's not equal. Some school districts not really impacted, but especially low performing and it continues to accelerate.

Soren Schwab (CLT) (02:36.963)
Yeah, and I mean, we've heard a lot about learning loss just in general throughout COVID. And of course, part of that was, well, kids were not in school. They weren't learning. Right. And now we're adding this, you know, chronic absenteeism to the scenario. And of course, it's going to impact, you know, lower income communities, you know, communities with maybe with single parent households.

where there is not as much support, understandably so, from home. What are you thinking? Are we gonna see more of this in the future? And what are maybe some responses that we can take to that you think might be helpful?

Jeremy Tate (03:15.894)
Yeah, I think the articles we read to her were a couple of things that were missing. One is the classical schools we work with, the Catholic schools we work with, they have a position about parental involvement that's totally different than what I experienced working at Progress High School in New York or even working at Broadneck High School here in Maryland. They believe that the parent is the primary educator, the first and primary educator of their own kids, parental buy-in. This whole breakdown, this whole attitude of we're the experts.

educate your kids, that has eroded parental involvement from taking ownership as the primary educators. Even if what you're doing as the primary educator is selling the value of school, talking about it, talking about the importance of being on time, what we're seeing now, this generational impact of essentially outsourcing parenting, right? The formation, which is what education is, can never be outsourced. We've tried to do that and now we're kind of reaping what we

that aren't showing up to school, I think the other thing soaring that's behind this is the lack of wonder. We've heard Michael Ortner, our dear friend here at CLT, describe a lot of schools as soul-crushing, crushing the wonder, beating the wonder out of students. When students genuinely love to go to school, when they can't stop talking about it, when they go home, when their imagination, when they're growing their moral imagination, they're going to have good attendance rates.

like I saw in New York, let's just get more truancy cops to round these kids up and bring them to this place that they hate. It's a band-aid solution.

Soren Schwab (CLT) (04:55.419)
Yeah, it was interesting because one of the articles was talking about that some schools have turned to private companies now for a quote reimagined version of the truant officer And another quote unquote solution not at all in line what you're saying Is that because of these challenges more than 900 public school districts across the country have introduced Get this a four-day school week to combat this issue

Jeremy Tate (05:20.745)

Soren Schwab (CLT) (05:22.815)
So kids are not coming to school, so let's just make it official that there's only a four day week. So at least one of those days, we don't have to count them absent, right?

Jeremy Tate (05:32.338)
Yeah, you know, I thought there was a parallel here. We talked about, you know, post-COVID, a lot of companies were trying to figure out, we had what they called the great resignation, kind of in the middle of COVID, where a lot of people who had been in companies for years said...

I'm done, I'm out of this. So employers were thinking, how do we engage? How do we retain? And they tried all kinds of creative things, even the four day work week. And none of those really worked. What they found out was that engagement and buy-in and meaning, right, if students believe that they're being formed in the right ways, if they believe that this time is invaluable, that is going to impact attendance rates. And I think that's what's being missed by kind of the mainstream education approach to fix this crisis.


Soren Schwab (CLT) (06:17.343)
on really well said. Well let's get to our second topic a bit more hopeful, a bit more exciting. Two, yes Benedictine, I know you've I've had the pleasure of visiting, I know you not too long ago visited Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas. They announced that the college will offer two new master's degrees in classical education, accepting applications now for enrollment in summer 2024. One of them is a master's

Jeremy Tate (06:23.038)
Yes, Benedictine!

Soren Schwab (CLT) (06:44.455)
of arts in classical education for teachers. The other is a master of arts in classical leadership for school administrative leaders. So I guess your response to that, what does it say about One Benedictine? What does it say too about just our classical renewal movement?

Jeremy Tate (07:00.914)
Yeah, so, you know, at first I am just so excited about all things Benedictine. I think the college president, one of the ones I've been most impressed with is President Menace at Benedictine. He's been in the role now for 20 years. When he came, Benedictine was about 800 students. Now it's about 2400 students. You get on campus and it is everyone, student, faculty, are all missionally focused. I mean, it is absolutely beautiful.

Jeremy Tate (07:31.188)
and the educational patrimony of the church, which is classical education. I think that's what is kind of part of this. It's so interesting about launching these new programs. So a lot of conversations, and we've been part of these in the Catholic world.

Are we behind classical? Should we call it classical? Should we call it the liberal arts? What exactly is this? And of course, the story is that the church played an invaluable role in preserving and passing down the texts that everyone enjoys now in the classical renewal movement. Benedictine is really stepping up as a leader and owning this, which I think is so exciting. The other part is when you tour schools and you visit more K-12 schools than I do, but what do you hear? You sit down with the head of school and see what are your greatest needs?

you up at night. It's staffing. They need great teachers. And we've met with people, I think of Keith Nix, our dear friend at Veritas, right? Says that sometimes having a teaching certificate is actually a liability, right? From some of these ed schools, it means that the teacher has ingested a bunch of bad ideas for four years. They're not ready to go into a classical school. And so Benedictine is meeting a dire need and others before that. And we should give a shout out here, of course, to our dear friends at Gordon.

at the University of Dallas, Templeton, that have been stepping up to fill this need in a big way.

Soren Schwab (CLT) (08:53.803)
Yeah, yeah. Amen to that. I mean, you're right. I mean, I visit a lot of K-12 schools and that's the number one, right? Like, so where do I go to hire teachers that get it? You know, they want it and they get it. And you're right, sometimes going to teacher colleges, teacher certifications doesn't really help the cause. And so I love that obviously from a business standpoint, I think it's brilliant from Benedictine, right? They're meeting this demand, but also one of the top Newman Guide schools,

um great catholic higher education institution saying Classical education is what we should serve and support, you know in the long term I think it's just a really positive message that they're sending to catholic education in general So very excited about that. Um, and then for our third story. Oh, go ahead jeremy

Jeremy Tate (09:30.177)

Jeremy Tate (09:38.346)

Oh, and one more note on this, we just talked yesterday, so we're into our dear friends over Benedictine, and they're actually hosting this coming summer, ICLE, our good friends over the Institute for Catholic Liberal Education, and they really do wanna make Benedictine a leader in this movement, and that's why they're hosting this, and I think for folks that are attending that, you're gonna learn a lot more about these two new programs as well, which really are designed for teachers even already teaching. You can get this Master's of Benedictine and Classical Education,

as a current teacher and get that master's degree.

Soren Schwab (CLT) (10:14.251)
Yeah, and of course we'll link some information in the show notes as well for folks that want to learn more about this. And then lastly, interesting New York Times article. I think the CLT office that went around in the Slack channels and we were kind of torn because it was a good article, but also left out some important things. So it's a New York Times article called the misleading SAT debate. And obviously, Jeremy, we have talked about this a lot, even on office hours about test optional, right?

and the pendulum kind of swinging, are tests racist? Should we get rid of SAT, ACT? What is CLTL's role in all of this? This article is actually kind of in defense of standardized testing. And the author kind of leads with that higher education has a standardized testing problem, but it's not that it requires tests. Actually, the problem is that it stopped requiring tests and that high school grades do not always, right? GPA doesn't always provide enough information.

especially because of great inflation throughout the pandemic. So interested in your thoughts about the article and CLT's place in all of this.

Jeremy Tate (11:21.366)
You know, I thought one thing that was also left out here is what has happened with grade inflation and how it is completely connected to test optional, right? And, you know, I remember those students, kind of the helicopter students and their parents, that, you know, you put a one mark off in the grade book and they're at your desk saying, what did I do, Mr. Tate? Show me exactly where I messed up here. If all of the pressure is on GPA and there's nothing external to anchor the GPA or to affirm where the student is at academically,

It really accelerates grade inflation right now. And on the private school front, this is actually a much bigger challenge because folks can choose. There are schools that I know of in Baltimore. People go there because they know it's really easy to get that 4.5, right? And they're sending their kids there in ninth grade for that reason. And schools that are trying to hold the line, it would be a big relief to them if colleges go back to requiring a test. So I think we're just at the beginning as well.

for seeing some of the consequences. And essentially what we saw happen soaring during COVID was this kind of flip. We were at about 30% of colleges were actually test optional even before COVID. In 18 months, we went to 92% test optional. Now we've already gone back to about 90% test optional. So the pendulum is swinging a little bit back in this direction, but I think it's gonna continue to accelerate. And what we need are some leaders. MIT already stepped up.

And you read this and I read this as well. They went back and some of their reasoning, the rationale for why they're requiring tests is precisely because it benefits the affluent, well-connected students more than the underprivileged students once you get rid of a test. And that to have a test is a great equalizer, right? To access a test prep book, to read great books, something that almost every student in the country can access.

Soren Schwab (CLT) (12:48.505)

Soren Schwab (CLT) (13:16.535)
No, yeah, that's a really, really good point. And I experienced that myself, and I'm sure you did too when you were in the classroom. But the idea that testing in itself, right, it's only benefiting kind of the privileged. Well, if you get rid of the testing, and everyone, great inflation, right, everyone, I mean, my school had a 5.0 scale, because AP was at a five-point scale, Honor is a 4.5 scale, right? So all of a sudden, everyone is a 4.0, 4.5, whatever it might be. Well, then you're looking at extracurriculars.

Well, what if you're more affluent? Do you have more opportunities to get to certain extracurriculars? If you don't live in poverty, do you have more time to go out and volunteer? All these things that then become more of a factor when you get rid of the test. So obviously, it's a bit more complex. But the case that the article was making, especially about MIT, is that if you really just want to look at diversity, then you

Jeremy Tate (13:46.946)

Soren Schwab (CLT) (14:13.387)
they said that the first class after they reinstituted SAT, ACT back at MIT was actually the most, quote unquote, diverse class that they've ever accepted. So I have to mention that, of course, the article totally fails to mention CLT. And so if CLT had been mentioned, Jeremy, where do you think it would fit? And what are some lessons for CLT and other colleges that have embraced CLT?

Jeremy Tate (14:22.708)

Jeremy Tate (14:34.298)

Jeremy Tate (14:43.946)
Yeah, I wasn't shocked, Sorin. I wish I could say I was. I mean, this is after even the Wall Street Journal editorial board came out, huge supporters of CLT and having this third option, understanding that this does have an impact on curriculum, what happens in the classroom. We always say here at CLT, the testing ends up driving the curriculum as well. I do think over time, even if kind of mainstream higher ed, doesn't love what CLT stands for, doesn't get the whole classics thing,

and families and school districts opt to CLT, it's going to be increasingly hard to leave out of the conversation. So that's our future hope and we need to make sure that we get in all those articles in the future.

Soren Schwab (CLT) (15:26.839)
Awesome, wonderful. Well, before I let you go, I've first got to ask you, I know you recently finished a book by Russell Kirk and I would love to kind of get your thoughts on it, share that with our audience if someone wants a book recommendation.

Jeremy Tate (15:42.602)
Oh man, yes, you know, so have you read this already?

Soren Schwab (CLT) (15:46.899)
I went to Hillsdale. I think everyone that's gone to Hillsdale has read the conservative mind, yes.

Jeremy Tate (15:49.234)
All right, The Conservative Mind. So a month ago, Dr. Angela Adams-Parm, our board president, she used to say, I really think we should go to this 70th anniversary, the Russell Kirk Center, of The Conservative Mind. I say, great, I've heard of this book. I've seen quotes from the book. And I go there and the whole night I'm having conversations and I'm thinking, everybody I'm talking to has read this book at least once and I've never read the book. So I dug in. I did an audible sore and I did kind of cheat, but I listened to a lot of it.

Soren Schwab (CLT) (16:16.451)
It's okay.

Jeremy Tate (16:18.438)
more than once. And a couple of the takeaways for me, one is just that in some ways he's responding to what I would call kind of like a reactionary kind of conservativism, which is both within the academy and outside of the academy. And essentially reactionary conservatism is like, you know, these liberals taking our traditions and our customs away and whatnot. It's upset. It's not visionary and it's not institutional. It's not institution building.

a foundational rooted conservatism is rooted in a commitment to timeless things. And in fact, this is kind of an overarching theme of the book, and especially the last 20 pages, he really hammers this home. And one of the quotes that I love so much, he says, you know, there are kind of two kinds of people, those who are defending timeless things and those who are tearing them down. And I thought, man, what a great way to focus our work here at CLT and the work of the whole movement.

Jeremy Tate (17:13.64)
things in an age when a lot of people want to rip them down. I can't recommend it high highly enough. It is a book that really, really will change you. I think in how you view history, he essentially traces it from the end of the French Revolution, Edmund Burke, all the way through T.S. Eliot, where now I'm digging into Eliot's sort of then the wasteland like four times since finishing The Conservative Mind. And it's just an incredible long poem, so I'd recommend that as well.

Soren Schwab (CLT) (17:40.779)
Wow, amazing. Well, and thanks to you, Jeremy, for your leadership. I think you're absolutely right. The tearing down is easy, right? I think what CLT is doing, aligning with some of the thought leaders in this movement, is to cast a positive vision for recapturing education. What should it look like? What did it once look like? And bringing it to the 21st century. So kudos to you and, of course, our team at CLT for kind of being some of the leaders in that movement. Jeremy?

A pleasure as always. I know you're just across from me in the other office, but it's always good to chat with you and look forward to episode four here.

Jeremy Tate (18:14.758)
Hey, I love doing these conversations so and thanks so much brother

Soren Schwab (CLT) (18:18.819)
Appreciate you.