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Hononegah teacher to rewrite AP test

ROCTON (AP) — All Advanced Placement courses end with a national standardized test. And, unlike the ACTs or SATs, high school students who do well on an AP test get college credit at most universities around the country.

A small group of high school teachers and college professors are tasked with writing the tests that determine whether or not a student has mastered the material of a college-level course.

Now, Hononegah High School history teacher James Sabathne will be part of that group.

Sabathne was appointed by the College Board to help rewrite the AP test for US History.

A group of educators has been redesigning the framework of the AP US History course for the last five years. The new course material will be published in October and taught in AP classes across the country. Sabathne, along with three other high school teachers and four college professors, will put together the new test.

"I never felt passionate about making tests or exams," Sabathne said. "I didn't say to myself as a little boy 'I want to grow up to write test questions.' I ended up doing this because the AP program has worked so well for my students."

Sabathne has taught at Hononegah for the last five years. He's seen the difference AP courses have on his students.

While they don't typically end up becoming historians, they learn how to write, research and think critically.

And when they have a clear goal — to pass the AP exam — they have a compelling reason to study a little harder, he said.

The college credit a high school student earns could mean more free time when they get to a university or it could save them some money on classes, or give them enough time to get a double major.

You can't just apply to become a test writer. Candidates are nominated by members of the College Board or representatives of the Education Testing Service. Sabathne has been grading national tests since 2001 and writing standardized test questions since 2004.

He wasn't a natural to history. The native of the Chicago suburbs didn't start enjoying history classes until he came to Rockford College as an undergraduate, he said.

"It was when we moved past 'this is what you're supposed to know,' to the idea that history is an argument or a discourse and what you're supposed to do as a historian is take a position and defend it using evidence."

Sabathne will work on the new test for at least the next year. It goes live in 2015.

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