Course Syllabus

AP U.S. Government and Politics Syllabus

This is not a self-paced course – students will be expected to participate during scheduled class times.

Course Description: What is this course about?

The Advanced Placement U.S. Government and Politics course is designed to teach American Constitutional government. This is an intensive study of the formal and informal structures of government, interpretation of original documents, political beliefs and behaviors, political parties and interest groups, national institutions and policy processes, civil rights and liberties, the foundations of democracy, and law.

Throughout the course your reading, research, and participation are intended to assist you in cultivating a critical perspective of government and politics in the United States. While the primary focus of the course will be on how the government functions today, we will also be examining the nature and historical developments of our system. We will look at both general concepts and specific case studies during the course with emphasis on evaluating, comparing, analyzing, interpreting, and documenting and supporting ideas. You will find that you will, on occasion, have to set aside your own views and opinions – an ability many of you will have to work to develop and which our written assignments, debates, and discussions should give you practice.

Like any Advanced Placement course, Government and Politics is a demanding college-level course. You will be required to read thoroughly not only the course text and assigned supplementary materials but also to augment this material through your own independent research. This you will critically apply to the political nature of current governmental policies and analyze the ramifications of those policies.

A word of caution to this tale: the tests WILL presume you have read and understood the text. All text content will not be covered in class. In class work will supplement and highlight but it is not a substitute for your reading and understanding of the text. You WILL see material on the test that was not covered in class but is in the textbook.

A primary goal of this course is to make sure students are exposed to all material that will be covered in the AP exam. In achieving this goal the academic environment needs to remain at a high level, fueled by students who are highly-motivated self-starters. Due to the structure of the North Carolina academic calendar, the AP exam will come about a month before the end of the school year. As a result we will need to move quickly through the text and material in order to be fully prepared by the second week of May.

The daily class will fluctuate. We will have lectures, discussions, analysis of issues and data, engage in critical writing, hold issue-related debates, collaborate on projects, and conduct simulations. In order for you to profit from what we do in class you will need to not only participate but also keep up with the required (text and supplemental), and voluntary, reading.

AP Government and Politics covers the following subjects:

  • Foundations of American Democracy [15-22% of AP Exam]
  • Interactions Among the Branches of Government [25-36% of AP Exam]**
  • Civil Liberties and Civil Rights [13-18% of AP Exam]
  • American Political Ideologies and Beliefs [10-15% of AP Exam]
  • Political Participation [20-27% of AP Exam]

*There are no questions about state and local governments on the AP Exam

**Note that this constitutes over a third of the exam


Course Literature: What will we be reading?

Primary Course Text:

American Government: Institutions and Policies, 16th ed., Wilson, James Q. , John J. DiIulio, Jr., Meena Bose, and Matthew Levendusky. Cengage, Boston, 2019. . ISBN 9781337615976

Supplemental Test Guidebooks and Flashcards (Available both in Bookstores and Online)

5 Steps to a 5: AP U.S. Government and Politics (2019), Lamb, Pamela K. (updated for the course redesign)

Highly Recommended. Several include strategies for understanding and successfully handling both the multiple choice and free response sections of the test, as well as a general course review. Older book editions should have a complete and solid basis of content, but will not reflect the changes made with the course redesign, which impacts the format of both the multiple choice and free response sections of the AP Exam.

Required Supplementary Materials

All of these materials will be provided digitally. You are welcome to secure a personal copy – all of the documents are public domain and are available for free online and in many print books.

Required Supreme Court Cases

For each of the following court cases, you are responsible for knowing the major details of each, the holding in the majority opinion, the constitutional principle used by the justices to support their finding, and the overview of the argument(s) by dissenting justices (if applicable).

  • Marbury v. Madison (1803)
  • McCulloch v. Maryland (1819)
  • Schenck v. United States (1919)
  • Brown v. Board of Education (1954)
  • Baker v. Carr (1961)
  • Engel v. Vitale (1962)
  • Gideon v. Wainwright (1963)
  • Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District (1969)
  • New York Times Co. v. United States (1971)
  • Wisconsin v. Yoder (1972)
  • Roe v. Wade (1973)
  • Shaw v. Reno (1993)
  • United States v. Lopez (1995)
  • McDonald v. Chicago (2010)
  • Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010)

Other Supplementary Materials

Various (Digital) Handouts – from primary sources, such as government documents, Supreme Court opinion selections. To be read for directed discussion and/or written analytical responses. Others will come from critical articles on aspects of government and politics, such as different political viewpoints and perspectives.

News and Journal Articles – readings from these materials will serve as discussion points and illustrations of what you’ve learned about government and politics in action. Your knowledge of current events will be assumed as well as assigned. Be sure to keep up. Beyond what is provided in class, be sure to make use of multiple sources of broadcast, print, and internet sources on your own.

Data Sets – from political cartoons, maps, to polling data, to demographics and election results. Quantitative data analysis has become a more prominent feature of the new AP redesign so we will be thoroughly utilizing and analyzing collected information about American politics.

Broadcast/Online News Sources – we’ll use these in addition to print media. In addition to well-known sources, major news networks, C-SPAN, check out others online such as BBC News, Reuters, and Associated Press.

Also check out National Public Radio for the news: NPR – local station WFAE @ 90.7 FM

Other sources you may want to check out:


Course Evaluation and Assessment

This course will be graded using the total point system. You can keep track of your grades by adding up the number of points you earned on assignments and dividing the number by the total number of points possible. [i.e. 278 points earned/300 points possible = 92.6, or 93%]

Reading Logs are not required. However, you may submit them before/on the day of the test covering the material. Complete reading logs will add 5 points of EXTRA CREDIT to your test score. Incomplete reading logs will not be accepted and will have proven to be an exercise in futility. This is the only extra credit offered for this course.

Tests will cover the reading, primarily but will also cover material from the class. Not all questions will come from our classwork or your reading. Each test will include at least one free response question (FRQ – modeled after those appearing on the AP Exam), which might require you to use your knowledge to think and analyze in areas we have not covered. Writing and review of these questions will prepare you for the FRQ sections of the AP Exam. Points for tests will vary from 100 to 120. Test Rewrites/Corrections are usually an option because they are a very good learning tool. Tests are generally given on a weekly/bi-weekly basis.

Quizzes will be based on the reading, both from the textbook and supplementary. Expect a reading based quiz on the day you should have completed the reading and/or book chapter. You may use ANY HANDWRITTEN NOTES you take (on the reading) on the day of the quiz.

The Final Exam will be administered as a mock AP Exam prior to the actual AP Exam and will count as 25% of your final grade.

The AP Exam will not count toward your course grade but it is highly recommended that you take it. You’ll be doing a lot of work for this course so you’ll have earned the right for a shot at college credit. Otherwise, why are you here? The extra 2 quality points will only be awarded to those who take the AP exam. In other words, you’ll have done all that work and only get honors credit. Fee reductions or funding are available if the cost of the exam is a problem, even if you’re taking multiple exams. Guidance will layout deadlines for commitment to take the exam, payments, and collections of fees. A missed deadline may mean you missed the exam.

Discussion Seminars will be held based on your assigned reading and other inputs. Your grade for discussion will be based on the frequency and quality of your participation. Your input should be informed, incisive, and well-considered. (PREPARE) Students will facilitate some discussions, some will be online using the Canvas discussion forum. You’ll be notified well in advance so you can prepare. Seminar points will vary from 25 – 50 points.

Simulations We will attempt two all-class simulations: the Presidency and Congress. A fair portion of the research and preparation will have to be done outside of class. Your grade will be a function of your engagement and the quality of your research and the content of your input. Simulations will usually count upwards 100 points. [Note: these are dependent on class size]

Other Assignments Have the expectation of at least one assignment, other than reading, writing, and discussion participation, per unit. These assignments include group projects, research, presentations, and full-class activities (like Fantasy Congress) that lie outside the scope of Simulations. Minor assignments will usually count around 50 points, major assignments around 100.

Formal Debates will be held as our schedule allows. You’ll receive the requirements and format for verbal argument and documentation prior to the first debate. 80 points will be awarded for well-researched and aggressively defended positions and presentations.

Written Assignments will be given weekly to bi-weekly as a rule and will be at least partially based on your assigned readings. It is expected that you will access material outside of the notes and textbook in order to respond. If more than one day’s notice is given, these will be typed: Times New Roman, size 12, black, double spaced, no exceptions. These assignments may take the form of discussion questions, essays, Free Response Questions (FRQs) or time writings (unannounced).

Essays will be written in a formal style. In most cases, essay assignments will require you to defend a position with which you do not agree and/or to attack your own position. Items assigned in written assignments will include clarity of thesis, effectiveness of arguments, effective use of supporting details, organization, command of language and proper usage [grammar]. Written assignment point values range from 25 to 50 points.

*** Unexcused late assignments will not be accepted.***

Discretionary points may be awarded for outstanding work on one or more major assignments, such as a simulation, or a run of excellent well-written assignments.

Approximate percentage of a six-week grade:

Tests and Quizzes                          40%

Simulations                                     15% [second & third six-week periods]

Or Other Assignments                    15% [in lieu of Simulations]

Discussion Seminars                      10%

Debates                                          15%

Writing Assignments                       15%

Discretionary                                   5%

A note on time usage: You will experience a great deal of overlap in the workload. Budget your time carefully so your work will be completed promptly and be of good quality. Read ahead if and when you can! Remember, this is a college-level course and you’re getting extra quality points for it. Use it to plan ahead for heavier weeks or the demands of your own schedule.

Daily Requirements

  • Demonstrate Mutual Respect – if the teacher or another student is talking, you should wait your turn to speak (just like in Congress!). Likewise, the teacher will not interrupt students given a response related to course discussion.
  • Come Prepared to Work – materials you will need every day are:
    • Required:

      • Chromebook
      • Headphones (for in-person days – make sure they can connect to your Chromebook)

      Optional but Suggested:

      • Your Own Individual Paper/Pen/Pencil – for sanitation we’ll be using primarily computers, but if you prefer to use paper for notes please do not share your materials with other students.
      • Wipes (for your desk area)
      • Personal Hand Sanitizer

      Hand Sanitizer will be provided to classrooms by UCPS, but if you prefer your own make sure to check CDC guidelines.

      In lieu of donating our usual request of tissues to the classroom please try and have personal hand sanitizer, Ms. Tesar and your fellow students would be eternally grateful.

  • Come Prepared to Participateyou are required to ask questions!
    • This also goes for class time. Items like your Chromebook are helpful tools for you to use throughout the course. You should not be using them to do homework for other classes, to play games, or to browse the news (unless that’s part of a given assignment) during class. Lack of participation has a direct correlation to low unit and AP test scores.

Course Expectations

I expect serious approaches to all of your work in this class. Each day, all necessary materials should be brought to class. This includes printed material. You will not be allowed to leave class to print something that is due that day. Plan accordingly. If you have a crisis, tell me immediately so we can work something out. That’s the responsible thing to do.

Discipline and Tardies: I will abide by, and enforce, the guidelines as set forth by the County Board of Education and the school. The most important thing to remember is to be respectful of the rights and sensitivities of others.

In all classrooms, instruction occurs from bell to bell. If a student is not in class when the bell rights, a Tardy Pass or note from a teacher, will be required to enter class. Students who are in the hall after the bell, without a pass, will have to go to the front office to receive a Tardy Pass from the ISS Coordinator. Tardies are cumulative and will begin over the semester change. Penalties for tardies are in the Student Handbook. 

Plagiarism and Cheating: Plagiarism is presenting borrowed information as a student’s original work. This may involve complete essays or research papers or paraphrases, direct quotations, summaries, or translations derived from translation services or software. Plagiarism is a form of cheating and is usually dealt with severely in higher education, including a failing grade on the assignment, a failing grade in the course, or even academic probation or expulsion.

  • 1st Offense – Any student who is guilty of cheating or plagiarism will receive a zero for the work and will not be allowed to make-up the assignment. The parent/guardian of the student will be notified by the teacher.
  • 2nd Offense – A student who receives a second violation will result in two days of ISS. Any subsequent offense will result in up to a three-day OSS (out-of-school suspension).

Make-Up Work: Any time a student is lawfully absent from class, they will be given an opportunity to make up any class work, homework, tests, or examinations missed. In classes where the work missed was a one-time activity that cannot feasibly be reproduced (field trips, production work activities, and/or internships), the student will be given an alternate assignment in lieu of the original assignment.

Upon returning from an excused absence, students will be given two days to make up the work missed for each day absent. When arrangements are not made by the student to make up work, or if the make-up work is not completed on time, the student will receive no credit.

Students who have an out-of-school suspension and students with unexcused absences and tardies are encouraged to make up all missed work but are only allowed to make up major tests or projects (i.e. research papers) for credit and take semester exams.

Teachers will record zeroes on daily work for out-of-school suspensions only then when the entire class was required to do work.


Course Schedule

Use this schedule as a ROUGH planner Keep it with you at all times as it will likely be a working document, i.e. it will be changing as we go. As a result some topics may be accelerated and other stretched. Written assignments are subject to change. Outside reading will often be assigned as we go.


Primary Objectives/Discussion Points

Assignments & Activities


Jan. 5 – Jan. 8

Foundations of American Democracy

- Course Overview; Basic Goals

« Informed Citizenry Foundational to Democracy

« Speaking and Acting Substantively

« Social Compact

- Ideas of Democracy

« Concept

« Basic Ingredients

- Politicization

- Who’s in charge? (Who has the power?)

- Competing Theories


- Wilson/Dilulio. Ch. 1

- The Declaration of Independence

- The Articles of Confederation

- Federalist No. 10

- Brutus No. 1



- Discussion on Democracy and Power

- View: The West Wing: The Lame Duck Congress (time permitting)


- Quiz #1 (Ch. 1) – Thursday

- Canvas DiscussionFederalist Papers


Jan. 11 – Jan. 15

The Constitution/Federalism

- Government by Document

- Correcting the Weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation

« Theory, Debate, & Compromise

- Republic vs. Democracy

- Federalist/Anti-Federalist Debate

- Separation of Powers

- Checks and Balances

- Amendment Process

- Mindset of Framers & Enumerated Powers

- Liberty vs. Public Order/Safety

- Power-Sharing with the States

« Historical Overview of Federalist Periods

« Federal v. Confederate v. Unitary


- Wilson/Dilulio Ch. 2 – 3

- Federalist No. 51

- The Articles of Confederation

- The Constitution





- Quiz #2 (Ch. 2) – Wednesday

- Quiz #3 (Ch. 3) – Friday

- Written Assignment: Who Governs and to What Ends?

- Written Assignment: Political Self-Assessment and Position Paper


Jan. 19 – Jan. 22

Monday, 18 Jan, is a Holiday


The Constitution

 - Current Challenges to Full Faith & Credit

- Federal Grants and Mandates

American Political Culture

- Formation and Makeup of American Political Culture

Readings (Unit I):

- McCulloch v. Maryland

- U.S. v. Lopez

Readings (Unit II):

- Wilson/Dilulio Ch. 4





- Test 1 – Textbook Ch. 1-3 + notes & supplementals (Wednesday, 6 February)

- Quiz #4 (Ch. 4) – Friday


Jan. 25 – Jan. 29

American Political Culture/Public Opinion

- Formation of Public Opinion

- Sources

« Cleavages of Opinion

« Characteristics of Opinion

« Media, Public Opinion, and Voting Behavior

« Policy Elites

- Measuring and Responding to Public Opinion

- Isolationism, Fragmentation, and the Future of Democracy

- Social Capital and Civil Society

- Political Efficacy


- Wilson/Dilulio Ch. 7 – 8

- Selections from Bowling Alone, Putnam





- Quiz #5 (Ch. 7) – Tuesday

- Quiz #6 (Ch. 8) – Thursday



Feb. 1 – Feb. 5

Political Participation/Political Parties

- Two-Party System

- Types and Role of Third Parties

- Modern Political Landscape

- Weakening of Parties

- Fundamental Major Party Positions [c/c with Fed/Anti-Fed Debate]

« Democrat & Republican Disagreements

« Democrat & Republican Consensus

- Political Coalitions

- Voter Behavior and Voting Patterns

« Turnout

« Gender, Race, and Income Patterns

« Low Voting vs. Low Participation


- Wilson/Dilulio Ch. 9





- Quiz #7 (Ch. 9)

- Test 2 – Textbook Ch. 7 – 9 + notes and supplementals


Feb. 8 – Feb. 11

The Media/Elections/Interest Groups

- Advantages of Incumbency and Impact on Democratic Process

- Media Influence and the Horserace

- Spiral of Silence

- Growth of Power and Interest Groups

- Nature of Lobbying – what it gains and what it doesn’t

« Clearing Up Misunderstandings

- Role of Money in the Process – Impact on Democracy

« Soft Money vs. Hard Money

« C/C Funding for Incumbents & Challengers

« Attempts at Campaign Finance Reform

« Federal Election Campaign Finance Reform Act and Rise of PACs

« Spending and the 1st Amendment

- Election Process and Campaign from Candidacy to Primaries to Convention to Election


- Wilson/Dilulio Ch. 11 – 12

- Shaw v. Reno

- Baker v. Carr





- Quiz #8 (Ch. 11) – Monday

- Quiz #9 (Ch. 12) – Wednesday



Feb. 15 – Feb. 19



- Structure of Congress [Great Compromise]

- Congressional Elections

- Apportionment and Reapportionment – Gerrymandering, Baker, Reno, Safe Seats

- Committee Structure – Power and Makeup of Committees

- Leadership Positions

- Legislative Process – Include Power of Congressional and Committee Staffers

« House

« Senate


- Wilson/Dilulio Ch. 10, 13

- Shaw v. Reno

- Baker v. Carr

- Citizens United v. FEC

- The Constitution





- Quiz #10 (Ch. 10) – Monday

- Quiz #11 (Ch. 13) – Wednesday


Feb. 22 – Feb. 26


- Power of Congress – Including Competition with and Oversight of the Executive

« Legislative

Non-Legislative [incl. casework]



- Wilson/Dilulio Ch. 14 (start)





- Test 3 – Textbook Ch. 10 – 13 + notes and supplementals – Wednesday, 13 March


Mar. 1 – Mar. 4

(Mar. 4th is a Remote Day, Mar. 5th is a Workday)

The Presidency

- Power of the Presidency

« Ambiguity of Article II

« Presidential Personality and Leadership

« President v. Congress

« Appointment Power



Mar. 8 – Mar. 12

The Presidency/Bureaucracy

- Techniques and Records with Congress

- War Power and Foreign Policy Power

- Electoral Process

- Electoral Coalitions

- The President and Policy Making – Overview

« Domestic and Economic

« Foreign and Military

- All the President’s Hats

- Executive Office of the Presidency (EOP)

- Power of Staff


- Wilson/Dilulio Ch. 14

- The Constitution

- Citizens United v. FEC

- Federalist No. 70





- Quiz #12 (Ch. 14) - Tuesday


Mar. 15 – Mar. 19


- Federal Bureaucracy and the Weber Thesis

- Department/Agency Structure

- Independent Agencies

- Regulatory Agencies

- Federal Agencies and Separation of Power

« Executive and Legislative Power of Agencies

« Impact of Activist Government on Growth of Agencies

- Federal Agencies and Congressional Oversight

- Iron Triangles and Issue Networks

- Civil Service

- Presidential vs. Congressional Control


- Wilson Dilulio Ch. 15





- Quiz #13 (Ch. 15) – Tuesday

- Test 4 – Textbook Ch. 14 – 15 + notes and supplementals – Friday, 29 March


Mar. 22 – Mar. 26

The Federal Judiciary

- Independent Judiciary (The “Safest Branch?”)

« Appointment

« Structure and Levels of the Judicial Branch

- Judicial Review

- Extension of National Power

- Bringing a Case – Procedure and Standing

- Strict v. Activist Interpretation of the Constitution

- Federalism, National Power, & the 14th Amendment

- Landmark Decisions


- Wilson/Dilulio Ch. 16

- Federalist No. 78

- The Constitution

- Marbury v. Madison





- Quiz #14 (Ch. 16) – Wednesday


Mar. 29 – Mar. 31

1 April is a Workday, 2 April is a Holiday

The Federal Judiciary


-          Landmark Decisions not covered previous week

-          Anything that needs additional time.




Apr. 5 – Apr. 9


Spring Break Holiday


Apr. 13 – Apr. 16

Monday, 12 April, is a Remote Day

Civil Rights/Civil Liberties

- Overview of the Civil Rights Movement

« Failure in Congress

« Success in Courts and Media [Brown v. Board of Ed.]

« Civil Rights Act of 1964

« Voting Rights Act of 1965

« Renewals

- Women’s Rights

« Equal Rights Amendment

« Women’s Movement

- Demographic Changes

- Other Identifiable Minorities

- Equal Protection of Law

- Bill of Rights and State Law – Federal Courts and the 14th Amendment


- Wilson/Dilulio Ch. 5 – 6

- The Constitution (Bill of Rights)

- Engle v. Vitale

- Wisconsin v. Yoder

- McDonald v. Chicago

- Roe v. Wade

- Brown v. Board of Ed.

- “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”

- Schenck v. United States

- NY Times v. United States

- Gideon v. Wainwright





- Quiz #15 (Ch. 5) – Tuesday

- Quiz #16 (Ch. 6) – Thursday


Apr. 19 – Apr. 23

 Civil Rights/Civil Liberties/Final Exam

Supreme Court and Civil Liberties

(cont. anything left from before Spring Break)

« 1st Amendment Issues

« Rights of the Accused

« Civil Rights Decisions

« Privacy and Reproductive Rights


- SCotUS cases not covered last week





- Final Exam – Mock AP: FRQs Thursday,  Multiple Choice Friday


Apr. 26 – Apr. 30

Public Policy – AP Exam Review

- Otto von Bismark – Laws & Sausages

- In terms of Power: Who Pays, Who Benefits, Process and Power

« Majoritarian

« Client

« Interest Group

« Entrepreneurial

- Social Policy – Majority Rule v. Minority Rights and Opportunity

- Economics – Equality of Opportunity or Equality

- Security v. Liberty

- Limits on Budget Process and Spending

- Healthcare

- Social Security

- Economics and Foreign Policy

- Environmental Regulation and Business


- Public Policy Group Project

- Student Self-Guided Review Sessions

- Final Exam Post-Mortem


May 3 – May 7

AP Exam

Monday, 3 May @ 8:ooam

- Discussion of Post-Exam Activities

- Viewing and Discussion of Hot Coffee

- Project Work Time

- AP Exam, 3 May @ 8:00am

- FRQ Post-Mortem (once released)

- Revisit Who Governs?/To What Ends?

- Celebrate


May 10 – May 14

- Viewing and Discussion of The House I Live In

- Project Work Time



May 17 – May 21

- Presentations of Current Political Issues Final Project



May 24 – May 28

Final Exam Week

- 1st Block Exam, Mon. 24 May

- 2nd Block Exam, Tues. 25 May

- 3rd Block Exam, Wed. 26 May

- 4th Block Exam, Thurs. 27 May

- Make-Up Exam Day, Fri. 28 May

Presumably, your non-AP Finals!



Course Summary:

Date Details Due