• Advanced Placement U.S. Government and Politics Syllabus 2020-2021

    Instructor: Mrs. Cheri Abbage Buggs



    Course Description

    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 behaviors. Students 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.

    AP U.S. Government and Politics offers students the opportunity to see how individuals and their ideas can shape the world in which they live; it invites them to explore central questions of liberty and justice in practice. The Supreme Court opinions explored in this course are not museum pieces but deeply felt expressions. They all represent real choices and decisions with enormous consequences. We aim for students to read them and discuss them with openness and insight. The ideas at the heart of the American Founding remain as vital and urgent as they were more than 200 years ago.  The five essential principles of this course are: 1. Command of the Constitution lies at the center of this course, the touchstone for informed citizenship and scholarship. 2. Students are not spectators but analysts; they must analyze the documents and debates that formed our republic and animate public life today. 3. Knowledge matters; we define a focused body of shared knowledge while leaving room for the variety of state standards. 4. We can’t avoid difficult topics, but we can insist on a principled attention to the best arguments on both sides as students read and write. 5. Civic knowledge is every student’s right and responsibility. While this course framework is new, its aims are timeless and its roots deeply embedded in the American experiment and the intellectual traditions that animated our founding. Aristotle famously described humankind as a “political animal.” He argued that a person who lives without a political life is incomplete and alone, like an isolated piece on a game board. For Aristotle, participation in civic life is necessary to live fully. In more modern times, President Eisenhower declared that “politics ought to be the part-time profession of every person who would protect the rights and privileges of free people and who would preserve what is good and fruitful in our national heritage.”

    Project Requirement

    The required project adds a civic component to the course, engaging students in exploring how they can affect, and are affected by, government and politics throughout their lives. The project might have students collect data on a teacher-approved political science topic, participate in a community service activity, or observe and report on the policymaking process of a governing body. Students should plan a presentation that relates their experiences or findings to what they are learning in the course.

    Units of Study

    Unit I: Foundations of American Democracy (3 weeks)

    Unit II: American Political Ideologies and Beliefs (3 weeks)

    Unit III: Political Participation (3 weeks)

    Unit IV: Interactions among the Branches of American Government (4 weeks)

    Unit V: Civil Liberties and civil Rights (3 weeks)


    Government by the People by Magleby, Light, and Nemacheck

    Other Resources: 

    Constitution Center: Interactive Constitution (students may download free app for phone/device)

    Required Foundational Documents:

    *Federalist No. 10: The Same Subject Continued – The Utility of the Union as a Safeguard Against    Domestic Faction and Insurrection

    *Brutus No. 1: To the Citizens of the State of New York

    *The Declaration of Independence

    *Articles of Confederation

    *Federalist No. 51: The Structure of Government Must Furnish the Proper Checks and Balances Between the Different Departments

    *The Constitution of the United States (including the Bill of Rights and following Amendments)

    *“Letter from Birmingham Jail” (Martin Luther King, Jr.)

    *Federalist No. 70: The Executive Department Further Considered

    *Federalist No. 78: The Judiciary Department 

    Required Supreme Court Cases: LINK TO CASES: 


    McCulloch v. Maryland (1819) 

    * United States v. Lopez (1995) 

    *Engel v. Vitale (1962) 

    *Wisconsin v. Yoder (1972) 

    *Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District (1969) 

    *New York Times Company v. United States (1971) 

    *Schenck v. United States (1919) 

    *Gideon v. Wainwright (1963) 

    *Roe v. Wade (1973) 

    *McDonald v. Chicago (2010) 

    * Brown v. Board of Education, I (1954) 

    *Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (FEC) (2010) 

    *Baker v. Carr (1961) 

    *Shaw v. Reno (1993) 

    *Marbury v. Madison (1803) 


    Outside Reading from The Woll Reader and other sources

    Review Materials

    Suggested Resources:

    United States Government and Politics: Preparing for the Advanced Placement Examination by David Wolfford (published by AMSCO) Perfection Learning 2018-19 edition


    Section I: 55 multiple-choice questions (1 hour and 20 minutes)

    • 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, and behaviors



    Section II: Four free-response questions (1 hour and 40 minutes)

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

    Each section will count 50% toward the exam score.

    All five big ideas as well as the required content presented in all five units of instruction are subject to being assessed in Section II as a whole. At least one free-response question will assess one or more learning objectives that pertain to public policy. All four free-response questions are weighted equally; however it is recommended that students spend 20 minutes of exam time on each of the first three questions, and 40 minutes on the argumentative essay. In the argumentative essay question, students are given a prompt that can have more than one possible response. They will be asked to write a defensible claim or thesis that responds to the question and establishes a line of reasoning (the response cannot earn a point for simply restating the prompt). They must then cite and describe one piece of evidence from a list of foundational documents. To earn additional points students must identify a second piece of specific and relevant evidence, making sure they explain how or why both pieces support the claim or thesis. To complete their essay students must identify an opposing or alternative perspective, demonstrate a correct understanding of it, and refute, concede, or rebut that perspective.


    Sample Multiple-Choice Question 

    Which of the following actions by public school students would most likely be protected symbolic speech based on the precedent established by Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District (1969)?

     (A) Leading prayers over the school’s public address system 

    (B) Publishing an editorial in the school newspaper 

    (C) Protesting a school board decision by disrupting a school assembly

     (D) Wearing t-shirts objecting to a school board decision 

    Sample Free-Response Question

     Develop an argument that explains which of the three models of representative democracy — participatory, pluralist, and elite — best achieves the founders’ intent for American democracy in terms of ensuring a stable government run by the people. 

    In your essay, you must: 

    ■ Articulate a defensible claim or thesis that responds to the prompt and establishes a line of reasoning 

    ■ Support your claim with at least TWO pieces of accurate and relevant information: 

    ♦ one piece of evidence from one of the following foundational documents: 

    – Brutus 1 

    – Federalist No. 10 

    – U.S. Constitution 

    ♦ one piece of evidence from another foundational document on the list above or from your study of the electoral process 

    ■ Use reasoning to explain why your evidence supports your claim/thesis

     ■ Respond to an opposing or alternative perspective using refutation, concession, or rebuttal


    Student Evaluation

    A student’s nine weeks grade will be computed according to the following formula:

    1. Unit  Exams and Projects  30%
    2. Daily Work: political cartoon interpretation, quizzes, timed writing, 

        seminars, quick writes, bellringers, video quizzes, etc. 70%

    Late Work:


    • Late assignments will be accepted only up to one week after the original due date.  Each day an assignment is late 10 points will be deducted from the total grade for that assignment.


    Re-Tests:  See AP Contract 

    Make Up Tests:

    All make up test must be taken within one week of the original test.  Students may be given a different test. Students who fail to make arrangements to make up tests within the week, may receive a zero as a test grade.


    Make up Work:

    It is the student’s responsibility to get make up work from the teacher before or after class the day that they return to school.  If students do not request work that day, they will receive a zero for the assignments they missed.  Make up work should be completed within 10 days of returning to school.  Make up work may be different from what we did in class.  Some assignments cannot be replicated, so an alternative will be given of equal difficulty and length. Students will be responsible for any material covered in class while they were out. Mrs. Buggs’ lecture notes/ppt are posted on her google classroom at the conclusion of each unit. 

    Expectations: In order to complete this course successfully, you will be expected to:

      • Complete the course requirements as outlined above
      • Come to class prepared, all required assignments completed, and ready to participate in the discussions/exercises/events scheduled in class.  
      • Good discussion doesn't happen when everyone agrees with each other and everyone thinks alike, it happens when different opinions are shared and discussed.  To this end, it is critical that everyone's opinion is respected.  Agree to disagree.
      • Be attentive, undistracted, and keep your mind on what's going on in class!  It is disrespectful to the Instructor and to the other students to be lax in behavior or language.
      • Confidentiality: Respect the confidentiality of others and their contributions to class discussions, which may, at times, be somewhat sensitive.
      • Be Punctual.
      • Be Honest. This course, as with every other AISD course is graded and adheres to the student handbook and classroom guidelines.  Plagiarism, cheating or dishonesty in any form will not be tolerated. Absolutely No EXCEPTIONS!!!
      • Take responsibility for your own learning. Exhibit a positive attitude towards learning. It is your education; please make the most of it!


    • It is an expectation that if you are signed up for this course that you will participate in any mock AP exams given by the instructor, and they may occur on a Saturday.  
    • It is an expectation that if you are signed up for this course that you will register for, and take the AP U.S. Government Exam in the Spring of 2020.
    • Demeanor:  Fortunately, most students understand what they’re here for and how to conduct themselves.  Unfortunately, some do not.  When I close the door to begin class, I expect that private conversations will end and I will have your attention for the duration of the class.  Among the things I expect you not to be doing in class: putting your head down or sleeping, talking to each other during class or generally being disruptive.


    • CELL PHONES and/or including ALL ELECTRONIC DEVICES (i.e. Ipods, earpods, earbuds, tablets etc…) ARE ONLY TO BE USED ON DESIGNATED DAYS/TIMES. These devices are only to be used for educational purposes during class.  See the signs in the classroom for the device usage for the day. IF TAKEN UP IN CLASS, YOU MAY HAVE TO PAY $15 TO GET IT BACK FROM THE FRONT OFFICE
    • For those students who are consistently absent, late, do not participate, or do not conduct themselves as adults in class, please note that problems will warrant notification of a parent(s), and the student may be referred to the appropriate administrator and/or be removed from class. 

    Every student is required to have these items daily:


    • A Copy of this syllabus including my contact information
    • One (1) composition or (1) 3 subject spiral notebook dedicated only to this course
    • A pen (A pencil for test purposes)
    • Multicolor highlighters



    OPTIONAL Class Supply List (These supplies will be donated for general classroom use):

         1) Kleenex (1 box)

         2) Hand sanitizer

         3) Dry Erase markers


    All students and parents and/or guardians are expected to read this syllabus and sign below.  By signing below, this indicates to me that we are all knowledgeable of expectations that are indicated above. I will keep the last sheet on file, and the remaining sheets must be kept with all classroom material.  The course materials being covered may be sensitive, but necessary to learn and discuss in this course.  Some examples are politics, racism, and crimes.  Some films/videos shown for educational purposes may be rated PG-13.  If at any time you feel your student needs to be excused, please contact me at your earliest convenience.

    I look forward to our future positive communications this year! Encouraging your child to keep a direct and open line of communication with me is a direct correlation for professional success in this course and further professional endeavors. 



    Cheri Abbage Buggs


    Student Signature _____________________________        Date ______________


    Parent Signature  ______________________________       Date ______________