Course Syllabus

Contact information:



Phone: (704) 290-1520


Course Overview:


AP U.S. Government and Politics provides a college-level, nonpartisan introduction to key political concepts, ideas, institutions, policies, interactions, roles, and behaviors that characterize the constitutional system and political culture of the United States. Students will study U.S. foundational documents, Supreme Court decisions, and other texts and visuals to gain an understanding of the relationships and interactions among political institutions, processes, and behavior. They will also engage in disciplinary practices that require them to read and interpret data, make comparisons and applications, and develop evidence-based arguments. In addition, they will complete a political science research or applied civics project.


PREREQUISITES There are no prerequisite courses for AP U.S. Government and Politics, however taking Civics and Economics prior to the course can be beneficial. Students should be able to read a college-level textbook, primary sources, court cases. Student should be able to critically thinking and apply knowledge. Students should be able to write grammatically correct, in complete sentences, analyze text and write critical arguments on documents.



Required Materials:


  1. Blue or black ink pens
  2. Three-ring binder
  3. MANY Note cards for vocabulary
  4. Composition notebook

Recommended Materials:


  1. Highlighters
  2. Post-it notes
  3. Note card holder
  4. Interactive Constitution App

Course Texts:



Wilson, James Q., and John J. DiIulio Jr. 2006. American Government: Institutions and Policies. 10th ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. Textbook





Course Assessment and Performance Measures:


Description of Assignments for the Course


Grading Scale

Unit Exams






























A = 90-100

Unit Vocabulary


B = 89-80

Reading Quizzes


C = 79-70


D = 69-60

Citizenship Grade- 1 reading quiz




F =  below 60








Change Notice:


This syllabus is subject to change based on the needs of the class.  Changes, if any, will be announced as soon as possible.  Students will be responsible for any modifications made to the course.


Grading and Extra Credit:    


All grades issued on report cards are cumulative in nature.  While I always remain open to questions and concerns, I am the final arbiter of all grades. Extra credit may be made available throughout the semester but is not guaranteed.  Extra credit is non-negotiable and will not be assigned according to personal need and/or desire.




Chrome books and other digital devices are EXPRESSLY prohibited for note-taking during class. (Unless, of course, you have a documented accommodation.) There is ample evidence that note-taking on digital devices drastically diminishes learning.

“In three studies, we found that students who took notes on laptops performed worse on conceptual questions than students who took notes longhand. We show that whereas taking more notes can be beneficial, laptop note takers’ tendency to transcribe lectures verbatim rather than processing information and reframing it in their own words is detrimental to learning.” (“The Pen is Mightier than the Keyboard,” Mueller & Oppenheimer,


Cell phone use is likewise EXPRESSLY prohibited during instructional class time. Cell phones are to be placed in students’ backpacks or face-down, underneath the student’s desk throughout instructional time. Violation of this policy will result in a student’s loss of class professionalism points, with repeated violations incurring more significant deductions.



Course Expectations & Policies:


  1. We learn from each other: This course is not one in which you will play a passive role. Instead, you are expected to take an ACTIVE part in your own learning and that of the class as well. In the AP classroom, discussions and demonstrations will supplement lectures so that we can learn from each other. Each of you brings something special to the course, something special that our class needs if we are to be successful.  Come each day ready to contribute by joining in on the conversation.


  1. Knowledge for application’s sake: In AP U.S. Government & Politics there is a considerable amount of content you must master. However, you must do more than memorize information provided by myself or other sources. You will be asked to apply this information to real life situations via class discussions or through concisely written free response questions.


  1. AP students read: As AP students, you will be expected to read the textbook. You must show evidence of daily preparation by participating in class discussions, asking critical questions, making text-to-world connections, and bringing in notes from your reading.
  2. Preparation & Communication: Students will be required to come to class prepared every day. Being prepared for AP US Government and Politics class includes having their notebook, textbook, a pen/pencil, paper and homework, as well as any other materials we will be using that day.  Textbooks must have a cover at all times.  Students will be required to keep an organized and neat composition notebook that will be checked randomly throughout the semester.  The composition notebook will contain warm-ups and reflections for the day. Also, students will be utilizing the Canvas online learning platform as an enhancement to the learning environment.  Students should visit the Canvas site every day to check for class announcements, complete assignments, and connect with other classmates as well as check their school email for important updates.


  1. FRQ/Essay Writing:

 ■Concept Application: Respond to a political scenario, explaining how it relates to a political principle, institution, process, policy, or behavior

 ■ Quantitative Analysis: Analyze quantitative data, identify a trend or pattern, draw a conclusion for the visual representation, and explain how it relates to a political principle, institution, process, policy, or behavior

■ SCOTUS Comparison: Compare a nonrequired Supreme Court case with a required Supreme Court case, explaining how information from the required case is relevant to that in the nonrequired one

 ■ Argument Essay: Develop an argument in the form of an essay, using evidence from one or more required foundational documents


  1. Academic integrity, plagiarism, & cheating: Each student MUST adhere to the rules of academic integrity as outlined in the UCPS Student Handbook. Specifically, each student must submit his/her own ORIGINAL work. Cheating and plagiarism will not be tolerated. Cheating INCLUDES collaborating with another person at any time that collaboration is not expressly permitted. Cheating INCLUDES using, directly or indirectly, any other person’s work without attribution (citation). Any student who cheats will receive a zero for the assignment and/or assessment AND will be referred to the administration for disciplinary action in accordance with MRHS and UCPS policies. I will not provide any academic or other reference for any student who cheats in my or ANY OTHER teacher’s class.


  1. Late work: I do not accept late work absent a documented medical emergency (not an illness). You should plan accordingly.


  1. Attendance: Class attendance is critical to your ultimate success in this class and on the AP exam. Our semester-long presentation of the material moves very, very quickly. If you MUST be absent, please be sure you have viewed our slides, obtained the notes, and prepared any missed assignments as soon as possible.


  1. Discipline Policy: Any or all of the following consequences will apply to you if you choose to not follow the rules: verbal warning, loss of citizenship points, parent contact, after school detention, referral to MRHS administration.





AP Access and Equity Policy Statement


The College Board and the Advanced Placement Program encourage teachers, AP Coordinators, and school administrators to make equitable access a guiding principle for their AP programs.  The College Board is committed to the principle that all students deserve an opportunity to participate in rigorous and academically challenging courses and programs.  All students who are willing to accept the challenge of a rigorous academic curriculum should be considered for admission to AP courses.  The Board encourages the elimination of barriers that restrict access to AP courses for students from ethnic, racial, and socioeconomic groups that have been traditionally underrepresented in the AP Program.  Schools should make every effort to ensure that their AP classes reflect the diversity of their student population.


Assessments and Grading Policy:


Each unit of study will be assessed with an exam.  The unit exams will consist of 55 multiple choice questions and 3 free response questions and 1 argumentative essay.  The material assessed on unit exams is cumulative. Therefore, it is imperative that each student review their notes nightly.


AP Exam Information:



Date: May 4 , 2020

Time: 8:00 am

Location: Media Center

Format: The AP United States Government and Politics Exam is 3. It includes an 80-minute multiple-choice section consisting of 55 questions and a 100-minute free-response section consisting of 4 questions (scenario- content application question, quantitative analysis question, SCOTUS comparison question, argument essay question)



**All students enrolled in this course are expected to take the AP exam in May.  Because AP courses carry extra quality points, students are expected to take the AP exam for each course in which they are enrolled. Should a student elect not to take the AP exam, the final course grade will drop to the next grade level scale. For example, a student earning a grade of A (6 or 5 weighted quality points depending on the year the student entered high school) in the AP class, but not taking the appropriate AP test, will earn a grade of B (5 or 4.5 weighted quality points depending on the year the student entered high school).**


AP Exam Grades

The Readers’ scores on the free-response questions are combined with the results of the computer-scored multiple-choice questions; the weighted raw scores are summed to give a composite score. The composite score is then converted to a grade on AP’s 5-point scale:




AP Grade Qualification


Extremely well qualified


Well qualified




Possibly qualified


No recommendation



AP Exam grades of 5 are equivalent to A grades in the corresponding college course.


AP Exam grades of 4 are equivalent to grades of A–, B+, and B in college.


AP Exam grades of 3 are equivalent to grades of B–, C+, and C in college.




AP U.S. Government and Politics Exam:

The AP U.S. Government and Politics Exam measures students’ understanding of the course learning objectives, disciplinary practices, and reasoning processes. Both sections of the exam will assess’ knowledge and ability to interpret the nine required foundational documents and 15 required Supreme Court cases. The following table provides a brief overview of the exam format and types of questions.


Exam Overview:


Section I: Multiple Choice — 55 Questions | 80 Minutes | 50% of Exam Score

Quantitative Analysis: Analysis and application of quantitative-based source material

Qualitative Analysis: Analysis and application of text-based (primary and secondary) sources

Visual Analysis: Analysis and application of qualitative visual information

Concept Application: Explanation of the application of political concepts in context

Comparison: Explanation of the similarities and differences of political concepts

Knowledge: Identification and definition of political principles, processes, institutions, policies, and behaviors


Section II Free Response — 4 Questions | 100 Minutes | 50% of Exam Score

Concept Application: Respond to a political scenario, explaining how it relates to a political principle, institution, process, policy, or behavior

Quantitative Analysis: Analyze quantitative data, identify a trend or pattern, draw a conclusion for the visual representation, and explain how it relates to a political principle, institution, process, policy, or behavior

SCOTUS Comparison: Compare a non-required Supreme Court case with a required Supreme Court case, explaining how information from the required case is relevant to that in the non-required one  Argument Essay: Develop an argument in the form of an essay, using evidence from one or more required foundational documents


My Approach:

I tend to use a hybrid approach to my teaching, balancing traditional methods such as lecture and group discussion with newly available resources like forums and social media, PowerPoint Presentation for note-taking and discussion.   


I am also a fan of audio and video supplements when they are appropriate and relevant.  The material in AP US Government and Politics is complex and our time is limited, so I do not intend to try and cover the material in detail.  I will focus on the “big picture” and look for connections among different theories and practices of government.


You are an AP student – I am expecting that you can take care of your own learning using the required readings and assignments.  My goal for each of you is to not only pass the AP exam in May, but also to further sharpen your critical thinking skills to be successful in college.  I base a lot of my class on what is provided by College Board and what you will see on the AP exam in May.  The FRQs you write in this class come from older AP exams, both released and unreleased.


Course Reading:


In order to make the reading of government and politics more satisfying and purposeful, you must make an effort. This means that you must have a general sense of the subject matter. You can't just jump into a text and expect to get much out of it especially if the subject matter is genuinely foreign to you. If you do just jump in, you will quickly become lost as the information presented will make little sense.  You will want to take notes from your readings. While this technique will improve your chances for greater understanding, you may find yourself spending a great deal more time on your assignments, perhaps more time than was intended or really needed. Ask yourself why the reading was assigned and work from there.  The best way to organize them is in outline format, otherwise you will just be rewriting the book and it will NOT be helpful on your reading quizzes. Students should expect to have unannounced reading quizzes OFTEN, whatever notes the student handwrites in their reading notebook can be used on the reading quizzes.


Unit Vocabulary:


You are required to define vocabulary terms for all units of study in this course.  There is a great deal of material to be covered this year.  Your vocabulary terms will help you review the content that was covered during the study of each unit.  Using note cards, you will define each of the terms listed, explain its significance. Typed vocabulary will not be accepted. You will also answer key questions for each unit. Vocabulary and key questions will be due the day of the unit exam.


Weekly Assignments:


Students will complete weekly assignments consisting of current events, document analysis, and discussion forums. Since this course has been redesigned with new requirements. The weekly requirements may vary. You should expect to at least do 2 current events.  Students will find at least two media sources each week that tie into one of the AP US Government and Politics themes. Students will complete a current events sheet for each source.  A blank current event sheet can be found on Canvas and on the wall on the classroom.  Students are not allowed to type out the current events. A technology malfunction is not a valid excuse for not completing this (or any) assignment. Students will also be required to critically analyze at least two primary or secondary sources per week. Sources can be found in the Bose book or on Canvas. Students are not required to print out the sources, only turn in the analyses. Other weekly requirements will be shared with students when necessary.


Required Foundational Documents:

Students in this AP course are required to analyze primary and secondary source material in order to deepen their understanding of the key concepts addressed by the textbook and to practice the required disciplinary practices. Students are not expected to conduct original research, but they should be introduced to scholarly political science research articles. All of the following Foundational Documents will be on the AP Exam. *Most of these documents were written in the late 18th century and contain some high level language. It is important for students to be able to read and accurately interpret these documents.*

-The Declaration of Independence

-The Articles of Confederation

-Federalist No. 10

-Brutus No. 1

-Federalist No. 51

-The Constitution of the United States

-Federalist No. 70

-Federalist No. 78

-Letters from Birmingham Jail


Required Supreme Court Cases:

For required SCOTUS cases, students should know the major details of each case, the holding in the majority opinion, the constitutional principles used by the justices to support their findings, and the overview of the arguments by the dissenting justices (if applicable). On the AP exam, students will need to apply this information to a real-world scenario or in a comparison to another case. Students should expected to be quizzed on these court cases periodically throughout the year.

The course Framework requires the analysis of 15 cases:

  • 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 State (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. FEC ( 2010)


Disciplinary Practices: Every AP exam question and FRQ will assess one of more of the disciplinary practices. The DP’s describes the tasks students will apply to the course content

*Detailed chart of sub practices can be found on College Board website*


Practice 1: Apply political concepts and processes to scenarios in context

Practice 2: Apply Supreme Court decisions

Practice 3: Analyze and interpret quantitative data represented in tables, charts, graphs, maps, and infographics

Practice 4: Read, analyze, and interpret foundational documents and other text-based and visual sources Practice 5: Develop an argument in essay format


Reasoning Processes: Every AP exam question and FRQ will assess one of more of the disciplinary practices. The RP’s describes the cognitive operations students will draw upon and apply when doing the DP’s.

*Detailed chart of sub processes can be found on College Board website*

Reasoning Process 1: Definition/Classification

Reasoning Process 2: Process

Reasoning Process 3: Causation

Reasoning Process 4: Comparison



Big Ideas in AP U.S. Government and Politics:

The big ideas described below are intended to illustrate distinctive features and processes in

U.S. government and politics as well as how political scientists study political behavior.


  1. Constitutionalism (CON)

The U.S. Constitution establishes a system of checks and balances among branches of

government and allocates power between federal and state governments. This system is based

on the rule of law and the balance majority rule and minority rights.


  1. Liberty and Order (LOR)

Governmental laws and policies balancing order and liberty are based on the U.S.

Constitution and have been interpreted differently over time.


  1. Civic Participation in a Representative Democracy (PRD)

Popular sovereignty, individualism, and republicanism are important considerations of U.S.

laws and policy making and assume citizens will engage and participate.


  1. Competing Policy-Making Interests (PMI)

Multiple actors and institutions interact to produce and implement possible policies.


  1. Methods of Political Analysis (MPA)

Using various types of analyses, political scientists measure how U.S. political behavior,

attitudes, ideologies, and institutions are shaped by a number of factors over time.


Course Outline:


Below is an outline of the major content areas covered by the AP Exam in United States Government and Politics. The multiple-choice portion of the exam is devoted to each content area in the approximate percentages indicated. The free-response portion of the exam will test students in some combination of the six major categories outlined below.




Unit 1: Foundation of American Democracy

15-22% of exam

Unit 2: Interactions Among Branches of Government

25–36% of exam

Unit 3: Civil Rights and Civil Liberties

13–18% of exam

Unit 4: American Political Ideologies and Beliefs

10-15% of exam

Unit 5: Political Participation (Political Parties, Interest Groups, and Mass Media)

20-27% of exam


























UNIT 1: Foundations of American Democracy

The U.S. Constitution arose out of important historical and philosophical ideas and preferences regarding popular sovereignty and limited government. Compromises were made during the Constitutional Convention and ratification debates, and these compromises have frequently been the source of conflict in U.S. politics over the proper balance between individual freedom, social order, and equality of opportunity


Unit Overview


The study of modern politics in the United States requires students to examine the kind of government established by the Constitution, paying particular attention to federalism, the separation of powers, and checks and balances.


Understanding these developments involves both knowledge of the historical situation at the time of the Constitutional Convention and an awareness of the ideological and philosophical traditions on which the framers drew. Such understanding addresses specific concerns of the framers: for example, why did Madison fear factions? What were the reasons for the swift adoption of the Bill of Rights? Familiarity with the United States Supreme Court’s interpretation of key provisions of the Constitution will aid student understanding of theoretical and practical features of federalism, separation of powers, and checks and balances. Students should be familiar with a variety of theoretical perspectives relating to the Constitution, such as democratic theory, theories of republican government, pluralism, and elitism.




UNIT 2: American Political Ideologies and Beliefs

American political beliefs are shaped by founding ideals, core values, linkage institutions (e.g., elections, political parties, interest groups, and the media in all its forms), and the changing demographics of citizens. These beliefs about government, politics, and the individual’s role in the political system influence the creation of public policies.


Unit Overview


Individual citizens hold a variety of beliefs about their government, its leaders, and the U.S. political system in general; taken together, these beliefs form the foundation of U.S. political culture. It is important for students to understand how these beliefs are formed, how they evolve, and the processes by which they are transmitted. Students should know why U.S. citizens hold certain beliefs about politics, and how families, schools, and the media act to perpetuate or change these beliefs. Understanding the ways in which political culture affects and informs political participation is also critical. For example, students should know that individuals often engage in multiple forms of political participation, including voting, protest, and mass movements. Students should understand why individuals engage in various forms of political participation and how that participation may affect the political system.


Finally, it is essential that students understand what leads citizens to differ from one another in their political beliefs and behaviors and the political consequences of these differences. To understand these differences, students should focus on the demographic features of the American population and the different views that people hold of the political process. They should be aware of group differences in political beliefs and behavior. Students should also understand how changes in political participation affect the political system.



UNIT 3: Political Participation

Governing is achieved directly through citizen participation and indirectly through institutions (e.g., political parties, interest groups, and mass media) that inform, organize, and mobilize support to influence government and politics, resulting in many venues for citizen influence on policy making


Unit Overview


Students should understand the mechanisms that allow citizens to organize and communicate their interests and concerns. Among these are political parties, elections, political action committees (PACs), interest groups, and the mass media. Students should examine the significance of the historical evolution of the U.S. party system, the functions and structures of political parties, and the effects they have on the political process. Examination of issues of party reform and of campaign strategies and financing in the electronic age provides students with important perspectives. A study of elections, election laws, and election systems on the national and state levels will help students understand the nature of both party and individual voting behavior. Treatment of the development and the role of PACs in elections and the ideological and demographic differences between the two major parties, as well as third parties, forms an important segment of this material.


Students must also consider the political roles played by a variety of lobbying and interest groups. Important features of this section of the course include an explanation for why some interests are represented by organized groups while others are not, and the consequences of this difference in representation. Students study what interest groups do, how they do it, and how this affects both the political process and public policy. Why are certain segments of the population able to exert pressure on political institutions and actors in order to obtain favorable policies? The media are a major force in U.S. politics. Students are expected to understand the role of the media in the political system. In addition, the impact of the media on public opinion, voter perceptions, campaign strategies, electoral outcomes, agenda development, and the images of officials and candidates should be explored and understood by students. Understanding the often symbiotic and frequently conflictual relationship among candidates, elected officials, and the media is also important. Students should be aware of the goals and incentives of the media as an industry and how those goals influence the nature of news coverage. They should also understand the consequences of the increasing concentration of major media outlets in fewer hands, as well as the growing role of the Internet.



UNIT 4: Interactions Among Branches of Government


Because power is widely distributed and checks prevent one branch from usurping powers from the others, institutional actors are in the position where they must both compete and cooperate in order to govern.


Unit Overview


Students must become familiar with the organization and powers, both formal and informal, of the major political institutions in the United States: the Congress, the presidency, the bureaucracy, and the federal courts. Students should understand that these are separate institutions sharing powers and the implications of that arrangement. The functions these institutions perform and do not perform, as well as the powers that they do and do not possess, are important. It is necessary for students to understand that power balances and relationships between these institutions may evolve gradually or change dramatically as a result of crises. Students are also expected to understand ties between the various branches of national government and political parties, interest groups, the media, and state and local governments. For example, a study of the conflicting interests and powers of the president and Congress may help explain repeated struggles to adopt a national budget.





UNIT 5: Civil Liberties and Civil Rights

Through the U.S. Constitution, but primarily through the Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment, citizens and groups have attempted to restrict national and state governments from unduly infringing upon individual rights essential to ordered liberty and from denying equal protection under the law. Likewise, it has sometimes been argued that these legal protections have been used to block reforms and restrict freedoms of others in the name of social order.


Unit Overview


An understanding of United States politics includes the study of the development of individual rights and liberties and their impact on citizens. Basic to this study is an analysis of the workings of the United States Supreme Court and familiarity with its most significant decisions. Students should examine judicial interpretations of various civil rights and liberties such as freedom of speech, assembly, and expression; the rights of the accused; and the rights of minority groups and women. For example, students should understand the legal, social, and political evolution following the Supreme Court’s decisions regarding racial segregation. Students should also be aware of how the Fourteenth Amendment and the doctrine of selective incorporation have been used to extend protection of rights and liberties. Finally, it is important that students be able to assess the strengths and weaknesses of Supreme Court decisions as tools of social change.



*Public Policy*

Public Policy will be weaved into all of the other chapters to ensure that students learn about: The policy making process, economic policy, social welfare policy, foreign and military policy, and environmental policy


Public Policy Overview


Public policy is the result of interactions and dynamics among actors, interests, institutions, and processes. The formation of policy agendas, the enactment of public policies by Congress and the president, and the implementation and interpretation of policies by the bureaucracy and the courts are all stages in the policy process with which students should be familiar. Students should also investigate policy networks and issue networks in the domestic and foreign policy areas. The study of these will give students a clear understanding of the impact of federalism, interest groups, parties, and elections on policy processes and policymaking in the federal context. Students should be familiar with major public policies.







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As with any class in high school, there is only success when all three parties (students, parents/guardians, and teachers) work together for success.  As a high school student and also a member of an Advanced Placement course, only you are responsible for your own actions and your attitude.  A positive attitude will take you far in this class.  I look forward to working with you this semester in AP US Government and Politics.  I am available to answer your questions or to work one on one with you before or after school by appointment or during my office hours. Together, I know that we can have a successful semester.  Please remember that the keys to success are effort, enthusiasm, perseverance, respect, and responsibility.






I have read the AP Access and Equity Policy Statement and agree that I accept the challenge of the rigorous academic curriculum associated with AP United States Government and Politics as stated in this syllabus. I will keep this syllabus in my notebook at all times.




Student Signature                                                                     Parent Signature

Course Summary:

Date Details Due