Course Syllabus

AP U.S. Government and Politics Syllabus

Instructor: Ms. Ann Tesar


Room and Office Hours: 610 / 8:15 – 3:45

Planning: 2nc Block

Canvas Course Link: 

704-296-3088 (7124) [School Voicemail]

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 first 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 onward), 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) [Note: No longer required, but knowledge is expected]
  • Shaw v. Reno (1993)
  • United States v. Lopez (1995)
  • McDonald v. Chicago (2010)
  • Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010)


Other Supplementary Materials

Various 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 (after the first one) will include Review Material, that is to say, questions from previous tests. 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 will be at the end of each unit.


Quizzes will be based on the textbook reading and can happen at any time and will be unannounced. Quizzes will be on a Pass/Fail basis and will be either multiple-choice or written. They are a tool to help you check your reading and homework habits.


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. It is not exemptible.


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 Moot Court. 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 and time available – some simulations may be post-AP Test activities]


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 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 giving a response related to course discussion.
  • Come Prepared to Work – materials you will need every day are:
    • Chromebook (charged or with charger)
    • Textbook
    • Pen (blue/black) and/or Pencil
      • on test days you will need both
    • Paper (3-hole punch)
    • Class Binder (1” – 2” recommended, with TABS)
    • Highlighter
  • 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.
    • Phones should not be out/in your hands during Instructional Time. I do not mind if you briefly check a message or listen to music during Independent Work Time but when your attention should be on in-class instruction or group work, your phones should be silenced and either in your bag or the middle of the table. Please do not have headphones in your ears with music playing when someone (your instructor or your group members) are talking to you.
    • Students are also expected to read the syllabus, required reading, and assignment directions in full. If you are currently reading this, this is a good sign! Let’s conduct an experiment. Go online and look for a meme of Senator Bernie Sanders, preferably the mittens one or the ‘once again’ one. Email it to me, with the subject line “I am once again asking you to read the syllabus.” At the end of the first week of class I will announce how many people followed instructions. Please do not tell your classmates; it will be more fun if we see how many people find this on their own.


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. If you need extra time for an assignment because of something going on beyond your control, talk to me about it before the day it is due. 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).



  • The use of generative AI tools (e.g. ChatGPT, Dall-e, etc.) is permitted in this course for the following activities:
    • Brainstorming and refining your ideas;
    • Fine-tuning your research questions;
    • Drafting an outline to organize your thoughts; and
    • Checking grammar and style.
  • The use of generative AI tools is not permitted in this course for the following activities:
    • Impersonating you in classroom contexts, such as by using the tool to compose discussion board prompts assigned to you or content that you put into a classwork or homework assignment.
    • Completing group work that your group has assigned to you, unless it is allowed by me, the teacher, that you may utilize the tool.
    • Writing a draft of a writing assignment.
    • Writing entire sentences, paragraphs or papers to complete class assignments.
  • You are responsible for the information you submit based on an AI query (for instance, that it does not violate intellectual property laws, or contain misinformation or unethical content). Your use of AI tools must be properly documented and cited in order to stay within CATA’s policies on academic integrity. Any assignment that is found to have used generative AI tools in unauthorized ways will receive a 0, contact home, and an office referral (same as my plagiarism policy). When in doubt about permitted usage, please ask for clarification.


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.