Cindy Davis of Highlands Latin School
Highlands Latin School of Indianapolis, IN achieved the highest national ranking on the CLT8 in 2021. We contacted Cindy Davis, the Upper School Director, to share her reflections on her school’s success.
CLT: Hello, Cindy! Thanks so much for speaking with us today. Could you share a little about what prompted you to adopt the CLT?
CD: At the request of several parents, we began offering the CLT to our high school students three years ago. The CLT yields a clear measure of the student’s ability to read and understand a piece of literature. It also measures their competence in geometry, advanced algebra, and trigonometry. Our students find the CLT useful for college application and acceptance, and for some students, it is the only college admissions test they take. We added the CLT8 to our testing regimen two years ago, because the standardized test used for first through seventh grade shows our students well above grade level, and we desired more detailed information about how our eighth grade students were progressing.
CLT: And how has your experience been with our suite of exams?
CD: The CLT has been simple to administer, and the results are clearly communicated with helpful reports. We continue to use the results of the CLT8, CLT10, and CLT to inform our evaluation of our curriculum and instructional priorities.
CLT: That’s great to hear. How would you compare the CLT to other standardized tests?
CD: The CLT differs from other standardized tests in that it evaluates the student’s ability to comprehend a passage of good literature and evaluate correct English usage. The CLT literature selections are carefully chosen and are worthy of reading and considering. The questions are thoughtful and designed to test overall understanding, rather than snippets of information. The CLT math section is robust and includes more geometry than the SAT or ACT. It tests mathematical reasoning as well as the ability to solve a problem. Students appreciate the straightforward format of 120 questions that are quickly scored, with results promptly reported. More and more colleges are accepting the CLT and recognizing its value to identify capable students who are ready for the next step in formal education.
CLT: We’re very glad you value CLT, and your school has distinguished itself as our top performer on the CLT8! In your opinion, what factors have contributed to this success?
CD: Highlands Latin School offers a classical, Christian education to students in grades K-12. The goal of a classical education is to develop the mind of the student through Latin and mathematics, and to develop wisdom and virtue through study and memorization of Scripture and a careful reading of the classics. In all of our courses we strive for continuity and mastery learning.
Classical education also focuses on teaching age-appropriate material through age-appropriate methods. We follow the classical trivium, which emphasizes memorization and accumulation of facts in the grammar school; evaluation, analysis, and integration of information in the logic stage or middle grades; and the articulate expression of ideas through the spoken and written word in the rhetoric stage of the upper school. Although we do not set our sights on test performance, nor do we teach to any test, the steady progress of our students through the Highlands Latin School integrated curriculum produces excellent test results. More importantly, it produces capable, confident students.
CLT: That makes a lot of sense. What would you say are the goals of your school?
CD: Our goal is to provide a classical education comparable to the high standards set by educators of the past. We strive to create an academic community of teachers and learners characterized by the highest expectations in scholarship and Christian character. The Highlands Latin School Mission Statement summarizes our goals: “In partnership with parents, and guided by the gospel, we seek to educate students to the highest standards of the classical tradition, so that they may grow in knowledge, wisdom, and the love of our Lord, and more ably use their gifts in the service of others, and for the glory of Christ and his Church.”
CLT: What does this sort of education mean to you?
CD: Education is the life-long pursuit of wisdom and virtue, pursued by careful reading of the Great Books, discussed in community. Education requires the formation of habits of the mind and will. The marks of a well-educated person include thoughtful consideration of great literature, philosophy, and art; gracious communication; and generosity toward others.
CLT: Would you describe your own students like that?
CD: Yes! Our students are engaging, fun-loving, courteous, and others-focused. Our house system and extracurriculars build camaraderie across the seventh through twelfth grades. Our traditional classrooms foster effective student learning. We offer a carefully designed curriculum through which all students progress. They anticipate studying The Divine Comedy in eleventh grade and fondly remember The Wind in the Willows from seventh grade. They enjoy making connections across the curriculum and can be frequently heard discussing their discoveries outside of class. We intentionally offer activities, intramurals, and shared experiences that all students can participate in. This allows for optimal participation and the opportunity to explore an area of interest that might not have otherwise be explored, such as debate, acting in a Shakespeare play, or paddling a kayak down a river.
CLT: What do you consider the best thing about your school?
CD: The best thing about our school is our Latin instruction, from grades 2-12. Students are excited to begin Latin with simple words and phrases, and as they advance through increasing levels of grammar forms and syntax, their powers of concentration, thinking skills, and expression continue to grow.
CLT: Interesting. Why Latin?
CD: Learning a challenging subject like Latin forms intellectual habits that prepare students to master other demanding subjects in the future. Ultimately their perseverance is rewarded when they can read beautiful and meaningful texts in the original Latin. This achievement produces students who are ready to face the adult world with a sense of what they can accomplish if they stick with it.
CLT: Wonderful. To wrap us up, is there a particular book that has been impactful to you or your school?
CD: Books are the centerpiece of the Highlands Latin School curriculum; it is difficult to select just one. As a teacher, The Seven Laws of Teaching by John Milton Gregory has made a lasting impact, informing my personal teaching and the way we coach the upper school faculty. From its first directive, “The teacher must know the lesson,” to its final guidance, “The confirmation of teaching must be made by review,” this book is a treasure trove of time-tested teaching principles. Many students mention Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, which is read in the sophomore year, as their favorite. Its beautiful story and unforgettable characters make a lasting impact on their thinking and feeling.
If you enjoyed this post, you might be interested in the essays produced by CLT’s highest-scoring students, on topics such as the historical debate over Richard III and his nephews, the social value of decentralization, and the anti-theology embodied by the title character of Macbeth. You might also enjoy our series on “the Great Conversation,” the millennia-long exchange of ideas in our culture among historians, scientists, philosophers, poets, statesmen, mystics, and more. And be sure to check out our podcast, Anchored, hosted by our founder, Jeremy Tate.
Published on 19th July, 2022. Page image of a fifteenth-century marble bust of Priscian, author of the standard introduction to Latin grammar used throughout the Middle Ages.