Oh the joys of springtime. Flowers, warmer weather, and standardized tests. As the school year comes to an end each year, students and teachers at government schools kick the anxiety meter up to 11. Teacher salaries, school funding, and student scholarships are all dependent upon a mere few days of standardized testing. This reality raises a multitude of issues. Who determines what is standard? Do students who perform well on these tests actually learn or know anything worthwhile (and if it is, will they remember any of it?!)? Should teachers spend time in class drilling students to perform well on these particular tests?
It seems that Hogwarts and the rest of the wizarding world agree with government schools that the answer is yes. Rowling writes of Harry and his fellow Hogwarts fifth-years, “Their teachers were no longer setting them homework; lessons were devoted to reviewing those topics their teachers thought most likely to come up in the exams” (706). Rowling succeeds in making palpable the anxiety that Hogwarts students feel during this season of the school year, yet she does not seem to make any comments that suggest the practice is out of place. Rather, this anxiety and exhaustion in preparing for tests and the teacher’s complete abandonment of lessons in favor of test prep are presented as the norm.
At a classical Christian school, there could be a place for standardized exams, especially as such exams can have an impact on student scholarships and college admissions. But I would hesitate to devote significant class time to specific standardized test prep. Could a mention within a lesson that something similar might come up on the ACT be appropriate? Certainly. Maybe even a whole class period could, in certain occasions, be appropriate to prepare students for success on such an exam if the preparation is done with wisdom. But the complete abandonment of lessons to help students cram for an exam seems entirely out of place at a classical Christian school.
And with this final thought on exams, we conclude our 10-part series on Educational Insights from Hogwarts. I would love to hear from you about any or all of these posts. What has been helpful or insightful? With what do you disagree? How does your school handle things like teacher evaluations or standardized tests? You can comment on the posts or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.