CLT was recently joined by Tracy Gardner, a Texas mom of six and a professional psychometrician with many years of experience under her belt. She graciously agreed to chat with us about why she decided to join the company, and what it is she loves about education.
CLT: Thanks for sitting down with us. Well, first of all, what do you do at Classic Learning Initiatives?
TG: I’m the new Chief Operating Officer. I oversee most of the day-to-day operations of the business.
CLT: Have you always been interested in testing?
TG: Ever since I was a child!
CLT: What is it about them that intrigues you?
TG: I grew up in New York state, and began taking New York State Regents Exams as an eighth grader. One of the things that fascinated me about the Regents was that my father had taken the same exams back in the early 1960s, when he was in high school—in fact, we still had his study guides. It was remarkable to me that study guides composed nearly thirty years after my father took those exams were so similar to the ones of his day. It was during my high-school days of taking the Regents and college entrance exams that I knew I wanted to pursue a career that would allow me to work with tests.
CLT: What’s your own educational background? Were you classically educated yourself?
TG: No, I went to public school. I received a BA in Psychology from University of Texas at San Antonio, and an MA and PhD in Research Methodology from the University of Pittsburgh. As an undergraduate, some of my favorite courses were in statistics and developmental psychology, and that confirmed that psychometrics was the career path for me. Psychometrics is the field in psychology devoted to testing, measuring, and assessing knowledge, skills, abilities, and traits.
CLT: So how did you discover classical education?
TG: I’m a mother of six, and I first learned about classical education when we began homeschooling my two eldest children in 2013. We tried public school at first, but quickly determined that it wasn’t the right fit for our daughters. I yearned to send our children to a private Christian school—I had wanted the same thing as a child, actually—but we simply could not afford the tuition for the five children we had at that time. So I started exploring some homeschool options, and found a book titled The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home, by Susan Wise Bauer. This was my first introduction to classical education, and I became an immediate fan!
CLT: What is it that you value about it?
TG: I love the strong foundation, building up a whole edifice of knowledge through the stages of the Trivium. I also love the emphasis on reading great books to children. The classics on our reading list were so engaging to young minds, and they inspired a love of reading and a sense of wonder that I didn’t see elsewhere. About three years into our homeschool journey, I learned about Great Hearts Academy, which is a classical charter school network in Arizona and Texas. My children were accepted and started at Great Hearts Northern Oaks in the fall of 2017. They have thriven in this beautiful classical education charter school, and as a parent I’ve become even more invested in the classical renewal movement.
CLT: And what attracted you about the CLT?
TG: I was already working in psychometrics, but after reading The Well-Trained Mind, I started looking for positions that would allow me to combine my professional and personal passions of assessment and classical education. Then I happened upon an article about the CLT by Ashley Thorne in the Wall Street Journal, back in 2019. I was intrigued, so I started doing some research. I was moved by the mission, the content of CLT exams, and the people who supported this unique organization. I joined the Board of Academic Advisors in July that very same year, and advised the company’s leadership on some topics related to psychometrics and assessment. I finally joined CLT in April 2021.
CLT: You’ve spoken more than once about being deeply affected by CLT’s mission and the curriculum we promote. Can you say more about that?
TG: The mission of CLT—“Reconnecting knowledge and virtue”—has resonated with me since I first discovered the company. CLT believes the key to a sound education is to lead students toward the great questions that every generation, every person, tries to answer: What is good? What is true? What is beautiful? These questions, and the answers great minds have given them, are what motivate students to engage in learning with lasting enthusiasm. Our tests put the works of great philosophers, scientists, historians, and artists in front of test takers; we hope that this method of assessment will be one piece of a complex puzzle that will help to revitalize education throughout the country.
CLT: What are you most excited about when it comes to the future of testing?
TG: I’m personally passionate about classical education, civics education, school choice, and the importance of a rich curriculum. New opportunities are developing—so many parents are turning to classical texts now, and to alternative forms of schooling as well, from private Christian schools to home schooling to charter schools. It is high time to develop assessments that are better aligned to their needs. I’m optimistic that we can do that!
CLT: Ambitious! Lastly, do you have any favorite writers or books from our author bank that you’d like to share with us?
TG: One of my own favorites in our author bank is C. S. Lewis. My children are delighted by The Chronicles of Narnia. Our favorites also include Æsop’s fables, Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, Little Women and Little Men by Louisa May Alcott, and Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson.
Be sure to check out our weekly podcast, Anchored, where our founder Jeremy Tate discusses issues of education, policy, and culture with leading intellectuals.