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The Best Professional Development in Service

In part two of our three-part series on ACT content and fairness reviewers, Heather Prevosti—a high school English teacher for the New York City Department of Education—blogs for us on the benefits of this important role as it shapes the world she creates for her students. Read on and catch up on the first blog here.

As a content reviewer, I read passages, answer the questions, and provide feedback on content and fairness. On my first read, I answer the questions as a student might by identifying the correct answer key. On the second read, I read as an instructor, identifying any small content errors or inconsistencies in the question or answer keys. I became a content reviewer because I thought it would be a great opportunity to learn about and contribute to test development—to understand the nuances of a test that has such a big effect on my students’ lives. As content and fairness reviewers, we speak for our students. To a certain extent, educators know where our students come from and how they perceive the world. As content and fairness reviewers, we have the opportunity to determine what passages/questions/answer keys might be too ambiguous or present a bias against our students.

One unexpected benefit of content and fairness reviewing is that I am learning as much as I contribute. As educators, we consistently walk this tight rope of rigor and fairness. We try to challenge our students with material that is intentionally inclusive (or at least not exclusive). This is nuanced territory because there are few road maps for how to keep the bar high for our students while maintaining equity and access. I have been teaching for seventeen years, and there are still days where I struggle to push students while simultaneously ensuring all students have access to the learning. My role as a content reviewer helps me reflect on this balance in my classroom. As I consider content and fairness in the ACT units, I also begin to brainstorm ways to do this work more effectively in my practice.

One of my greatest goals is to teach my students that fairness and equity matter. My all-time favorite author, Toni Morrison, once said “Your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else.” I work to ensure that all students can free themselves, can achieve excellence in a world where there is not equal opportunity or access. And once they can achieve, I teach them to free others. I introduce my students to diverse authors by attending readings across our city. Pre-COVID-19, I coordinated an exchange program with a school in Spain. I write my own curriculum and revise it as necessary with student input about which texts they feel both reflect their experiences and help them see the world more broadly. When I read texts with students, we examine themes from multiple perspectives, considering author and reader bias. I can honestly say that my work with ACT as a content and fairness reviewer has helped me to sharpen my understanding of the balance between fairness and rigor. This work is truly rewarding.

We’re currently recruiting content and fairness reviewers for the ACT test (specifically for Reading and English). Interested in supporting the development of a fair and equitable test? Apply to be a content and fairness reviewer.