THE NATIONAL LATIN EXAM CONTINUES TO DEVELOP AND GROW
The aim of the National Latin Exam is to provide every Latin student the opportunity to experience a sense of personal accomplishment and success in studying the Latin language and culture. Additionally, the NLE is dedicated to the promotion and advocacy of the teaching, learning and scholarship of the Latin language for all. These values have helped to instruct our growth and prioritize our actions.
Since its infancy, the NLE has promoted the study of the Latin language by giving recognition and awards for outstanding work and offering scholarships to those students who have excelled. Both of these aims have left a lasting impact beyond the reach of our assessments. Taking the NLE has motivated countless students to explore the benefits and contributions of the classical world and has stimulated further interest in others in learning and teaching Latin. Additionally, the NLE has been a visible presence for the past forty years at numerous professional conferences and workshops. Through scholarship opportunities, the NLE continues to support and fund opportunities for both students and educators who promote and encourage the study of the classics in their work. In fact, the NLE has been taken more than 4 million times across the country and around the world.
While many students have been delighted to receive a certificate or medal (and since 1985 even scholarship money), the NLE recognizes that we must do better as we strive to offer a positive and rewarding activity for all involved. In the past, the NLE has asked questions and included passages which made light of or misrepresented enslaved people and the institution of slavery, perpetuated prejudice against persons of color, portrayed women in characters and roles subservient to men, and sanitized as love stories myths containing rape. We realize this content has been hurtful and offensive, and for these transgressions we sincerely apologize.
Guided by our Diversity and Inclusion Statement of March 2019, the NLE continues to affirm our commitment to diversity and inclusion and is actively working to address concerns and enact positive and meaningful changes. The NLE is taking progressive steps to make our assessment more inclusive and available for all test-takers. We are working currently to review our recruiting goals to help us identify and cultivate a rich, diverse, and sustainable pipeline of future writers, readers, and committee members. It is our hope that in the future, our committees will better reflect the diversity of the field and also include a larger number of different voices in the teaching and pedagogy of Latin.
Supporting Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
- Formation of our DEI Committee: A committee of three Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion readers, Melissa Deokaran, Woojin Kim, and Skye Shirley, proofread every question and passage for the upcoming 2020 exams. This committee offered valuable feedback which directed our editing of the exams, and then again reread the edited versions. These readings resulted in discarding questions and even passages that would not affirm every child taking the exam. Because this experience was so successful, we will continue this process when writing future exams.
- Reaching out to others: We had an outside consultant, the late Dr. Keely Lake, review the on-line app on the NLE website and we have completed the process of editing or removing insensitive and objectionable questions that do not reflect the shared goals and beliefs outlined in our Statement. Furthermore, after the testing window closes on the 2020 exam, we will reviewing the 1999-2019 exams posted on the NLE webpage and in our publication Discitur Legendo and begin removing offensive and problematic content out of line with our Statement.
- Going forward: As we write future exams, the NLE will strive to be more aware of the issues of race, gender, sexual orientation, and social class through the creation, review, and editing process. Members of the Writing Committee are receiving on-going diversity training on these topics.
Creating Opportunities for a More Inclusive Future
In 2016, in addition to the 21 scholarships awarded to high-achieving students, the NLE was pleased to announce 5 new scholarships to be awarded to those striving to become Latin teachers. Re-named in 2019 after one of the “founding mothers” of the NLE, the Linda S. Montross New Latin Educator Scholarships offers $2000 scholarships for those on the path to becoming a Latin teacher. This scholarship opportunity is open to anyone from high school seniors to master’s degree students and is renewable for up to 5 years. This scholarship also includes informal mentoring and an opportunity to attend an ACL Institute in order for the recipient to begin the process of networking and collaborating with future colleagues. In an effort to cast the widest net possible, this scholarship opportunity is for all Latin students; one does not even need to have taken the NLE to apply.
Given the success of the program, and the continuous need to produce Latin teachers to fill the positions left by those retiring, just this past summer we have decided to award up to ten of the Montross New Latin Educator Scholarships beginning in 2020. These five new scholarships have been shifted from those previously given only to seniors earning a gold medal to those who intend to teach future generations of Latin learners. These repurposed funds are earmarked to reach all audiences. We continue to empower students and educators at all levels.
Helping Us Grow and Engage with the Community
How does one become a member of one of the various committees of the National Latin Exam? The NLE has grown by leaps and bounds since its inception in 1977. For the first 35 years of the NLE, writers had to live in a small geographic area so they could drive to afternoon meetings to develop the exams. With the advent of reliable electronic meetings, writing members can now be “virtually” present to read, discuss, and edit. Other members include consultants, an advisory committee, and scholarship committees whose members hail from all regions of the United States. We have periodically solicited applications for these committees in our newsletter and followed up on nominations received from peers. To ensure transparency in selecting future committee members, including those on the writing committee, we will have all prospective candidates complete an application before being interviewed for any position.
Committing to Doing More
We believe that the NLE should be available to everyone. The NLE is looking into the creation of a program which makes some funds available to economically disadvantaged schools or Title I schools on a first-come, first-served basis. This targeted assistance will be used to help economically disadvantaged students to take the exam on a free or reduced cost basis.
For the NLE, inclusion and diversity means bringing everybody in. Thus, we are aiming for the 2021 test administration to find out more about our audience. As such, we are committed to collecting select demographic data to identify and benchmark our test-taking audience. We are presently working with the leadership of the American Classical League and most recently met with a consultant to determine how we can collect this data sensitively and correctly in order to receive meaningful results. We hope to utilize that information to inform our own internal planning and to share that data with the greater teaching community, as an opportunity to reflect on our on-going diversity and inclusion work and as a way to be a conscientious steward in making consistent progress over time.
In conclusion, the National Latin Exam sees diversity and inclusion as vital to the future of the Latin language and its scholarship. We will strive to be an inclusive assessment for everyone in both words and deeds. With a future focus on collaboration and less on competition, we hope that these small efforts now will ultimately lead to a better NLE experience for both students and educators alike.
Mark Keith, Co-Chair
Patty Lister, Co-Chair
Members of the NLE Committee