Harry Potter and the Quest for Higher FCAT Reading Scores

Students from Sarasota High School made the trip to the University of Florida to particiate in a research symposium. Their reseach posters were on diplay in the Reitz Union.

A special aspect of teaching at a big university like the University of Florida is that the campus has so many interesting activities and events going on — both those related to UF classes and activities related to special events and field trips.

Today as I was walking through the student union on my way from a meeting back to my office, I walked into a hive of activity.

Probably about 50 students were busily attaching posters to the walls and special display stands. These posters are the modern-day version of science fair projects. The poster describes the research and findings, following the model of poster presentations that are central to many academic conferences.

I watched a group of students working together in putting up their posters.

I must admit that what caught my attention for that particular group was the title of one of the posters:
“Harry Potter increases FCAT reading scores”

FCAT is the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, the statewide standardized testing. I couldn’t imagine that Harry Potter could have made it through the levels to be approved required reading in the public schools — a more complicated process than navigating the maze in the Triwizard Tournament in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

I identified the researcher for that project and asked her to tell me about her research.

She had surveyed and interviewed students to find out if they had read any of the Harry Potter books and, if so, how many of the books. She then found out their 8th grade FCAT scores in reading.

Her results: The students who had read Harry Potter had higher FCAT reading scores than those who hadn’t read Harry Potter.

The whole group of students joined in on the discussion of getting permission for interviewing subjects for a research study and discussed which of them would be making presentations about their research in addition to having their posters displayed.

As they left with their teacher for the opening assembly for the conference, I told the Harry Potter researcher, who had read all the Harry Potter books herself, that I was sure J.K. Rowling would be pleased by those results.


  1. Natalie Olson, Sarasota High School · · Reply

    I recently found this, thank you for the interest in my project!


    1. Natalie – I realized after taking the photo that I should have asked your name. I did a Google search for the paper and Sarasota High School, but I didn’t find you. So great that you found the post and me. If your paper is online, please send the URL, as I’d be interested in reading it? You have a great concept for research and for analyzing what motivates students.


  2. Natalie Olson, Sarasota High School · · Reply

    My paper is not online but I can email it to you if you would like!


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