BUCKHANNON — Sixteen-year-old Hannah Gjolberg has a reason to be proud.
The daughter of St. Joseph’s Hospital administrator Skip Gjolberg and his wife, Donna, the Buckhannon resident was recently honored by the National Scholars Association for being one of the top five scorers on the Classic Learning Test 10, a new alternative to the PSAT for high school sophomores. Hannah was one of 105 students who recently took the test, which was administered for the first time ever in April 2017.
The CLT 10 was devised by test founders Jeremy Tate and David Wagner, who believe the PSAT, SAT and ACT all have a political and secular bias. The CLT 10 is a version of the Classic Learning Test, which 55 colleges currently accept as an alternative to the SAT or ACT, according to Tate. Hannah is home-schooled by her mother, Donna, through the Mother of Divine Grace School, a Catholic distance education program.
She was able to take the test online in the comfort of her home. It proved quite challenging, so Hannah was delighted when she found out she had excelled on the new test.
“It was a pleasant surprise,” Hannah said of the CLT 10. “It did feel hard, and I wasn’t sure if I scored well or not. I was really happy.”
So was her dad.
When Skip Gjolberg learned his daughter had one of the highest CLT 10 scores, he was thrilled.
“We’ve been blessed with some bright kids,” Skip Gjolberg said, “and their mom is the one who keeps them on track: they don’t move on until they master something.”
Donna Gjolberg has home-schooled all five of the Gjolbergs’ children, who range in age from 12 years old to 24 years old. She said Hannah will also take the PSAT, but the CLT 10 corresponds more closely with the methods her daughter has been taught as a student of the Mother of Divine Grace online school.
“Hannah has always been homeschooled through the Mother of Divine Grace School,” Donna Gjolberg said. “Not only is this an exceptional, accredited program, but it allows the parents the flexibility to design the best courses of study for their children. Since the classical method is fundamental to MODG, students focus on acquiring the art of learning instead of just accumulating a number of facts. Similarly, the Classic Learning Test seems to follow an analogous path of academic excellence.”
Hannah’s homeschooling doesn’t follow Common Core standards, and neither do any of the CLT tests, Donna Gjolberg added.
“Both homeschooling and the CLT are more pedagogical,” Donna Gjolberg said. “Literary excerpts are from classic literature. The ACT and SAT, on the other hand, are very much aligned with Common Core. [The CLT 10] isn’t a test you prep for; it’s either you know it, or you don’t.”
In an interview about the new test, Tate, one of the test’s founders, said he believes Common Core and public education just aren’t cutting it.
“We’re seeing on a big scale a failure in many ways of modern education,” Tate said. “The traditional point of education involving the cultivation of virtue and wisdom are foreign to the typical public education student. The idea that it’s (education) fundamentally about character development is pretty foreign to them. We’re trying to be a part of reintroducing that. Unfortunately, texts that deal with transcendent ideas and moral truths, those are avoided, but to even understand the U.S. Constitution, it’s helpful to access a Christian worldview—that’s the view that our Founding Fathers had of human nature, which is different from what kids are learning in mainstream public education today.”
Some examples of the works the CLT tests concentrate on include those by Charles Dickens, Friedrich Nietzsche, Jonathan Edwards and Immanuel Kant, according to Tate. Public education — and correspondingly, the SAT and ACT — don’t tackle moral and ethical questions or encourage students to wrestle with ethical literacy, Tate said. The CLT’s founders believe standardized tests should do both.
“We’re intentionally using authors that present kids with the big ‘why’ questions of life,” Tate said. “Why is avoided; the SAT and ACT have used meaningless texts for years and years, but we want them to answer the ‘why’ questions. We want to refocus education on the formation of the human person.”
The Gjolbergs opted to homeschool their children because they wanted them to receive a solid Catholic education, Skip Gjolberg said.
“A lot of people kept asking us about homeschooling at the various places we lived, so we thought God was trying to tell us something,” he said. “We tried it one year, and trying it one year led to two or three years, and we decided, ‘Hey, we’re committed to doing this.’ It’s not that the public school system is bad, but we wanted our children to get a good Catholic education, and some of the places we lived, they did not have access to that or we felt they were not robust enough.”
Hannah — whose strengths include math, grammar and Latin, according to her mother — said she’s planning to look for a strong liberal arts college to attend when the time comes.
“I have a few years to figure it out,” she said. “I’m looking all over the country.”
In the meantime, Hannah will further her education through MODG, while enjoying singing, playing piano, shooting guns and swimming in her spare time.
To learn more about the CLT 10 or CLT, visit www.cltexam.com.