AP U.S. Government and Politics 

 

On-Line for 2012-2013 School Year

 

Teacher: Mrs. Rachel Califf

 

Email: rachelcaliff@comcast.net / thecaliffs@gmail.com

 

Exam Date: Tuesday, May 14, 2013 @8 a.m.

 

Required Class Materials: (Feb. 15, 2012 note: I am currently considering several online e-reader / e-text options, in place of the Wilson text, that would include embedded quizzes and other activities to aid comprehension, but I haven’t finalized this decision yet. Following are my text choices in the absence of such a change:)

 

·        American Government: Institutions & Policies by Wilson, DiIulio and Bose, 13th edition published January 2012, ISBN-10: 111183007X or ISBN-13: 978-1111830076 (approx. $160) http://www.amazon.com/American-Government-Institutions-James-Wilson/dp/111183007X/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1329346949&sr=8-3

 

·        2002 AP US Government Exam (released by the College Board and available through Pennsylvania Homeschoolers for approximately $5.00 + S/H)

 

·        Subscription to Americans Governing. (www.americansgoverning.com) ($25.00) Though the subscription is typically only 6 months in length, Americans Governing will extend it to an 8 month subscription for the purposes of our course only! DO NOT register for this subscription until the start of the course in September, or else your subscription may end before the class does. Subscription instructions will be sent at the beginning of the course. This subscription is non-refundable in the event of withdrawal from the course.

 

Optional Text: (I do not require supplemental texts and I will not be teaching or assigning from them. However, sometimes students find the additional practice necessary and beneficial. I recommend giving the class a couple of weeks before deciding whether or not your student may benefit from additional resources.)

 

·        Fast Track to a 5: Preparing for the AP United States Government and Politics Examination by David G. Benson and Karen K. Waples (to accompany American Government 10th and 11th editions by Wilson and DiIulio) ISBN-13# 978-0-618-95451-3 http://www.amazon.com/American-Government-Advanced-Placementprint-Eleventh/dp/0618954511/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1329348253&sr=8-1

 

Tuition fee: $425, plus course materials. Registration ends August 15, 2012. (Audit registrations are welcome any time throughout the year, after the class is full.) Early registration is encouraged. Our class size is large (and serves to encourage greater discussion and the variety of political ideologies/experiences represented), but I still end up turning students away. Once the class is full, students may be put on a wait list and audit the class in case of withdrawals.

 

Class Description:

 

The primary purpose of this class is AP exam preparation. In preparing for the exam, students will study and learn about the constitutional history of the United States Government, the various political beliefs and their history, political parties, elections, interest groups, mass media, Congress, the presidency, the bureaucracy, the federal courts, public policy, civil rights, and civil liberties. Students will study how these various mechanisms are organized, interact and are conducive to democracy.

 

The syllabus includes text and online supplementary readings; online quizzes; essay questions taken from previous exams; discussions; group projects (such as the drafting of a mock legislative bill); two class games; design-your-own-poll; article and political cartoon analyses; and a full practice exam that doubles as the class final.

 

Weekly political discussions with classmates (both academic and social) take place via message board, where we post messages (like a bulletin board) that can be read and responded to throughout the week. The activity is designed to encourage students to explore and engage current political issues with openness, civility and responsibility. This year, students with Facebook accounts will be able to join the class’ Facebook “group” page, where they will be able to share political articles, cartoons, links, etc. I anticipate that this group page will encourage greater interaction between students and with current events on a daily basis. (I also anticipate that this will encourage greater engagement with the course material, by linking it to what is usually distracting Facebook usage and turning it to productive usage!) Students do not need to “friend” each other or myself in order to access the group page. The page is, however, a “closed” group and so only students who are (or have been) enrolled in the course, will be able to access and view content there. (Students are neither required to have Facebook for this course, nor are they required to join the group page.)

 

As the instructor, I closely monitor and provide feedback and evaluation for all course assignments. In addition, a wide variety of opportunities for student-initiated discussion exist and while it is not always possible for me to be a part of every such discussion, my students are held to a high standard of respectful discourse and are encouraged to alert me to any conversations taking place that may violate discussion guidelines. I’m available to my students via website, email and phone to answer questions and concerns. I expect my students to complete their assignments by the assigned deadlines, take responsibility when they don’t and to maintain high levels of honesty and openness about their assignments with both myself and with their parents.

 

I anticipate that students will spend between 60 and 90 minutes daily on the course material and study time, Monday through Friday, with written assignments due on Fridays by 11:59pm. (Students who require more flexibility are welcome to read and work ahead on the weekends!) The course is asynchronous in nature, meaning that we do not meet online at any particular time or day for any required assignments. Rather, students can complete assignments as convenient to their schedules, as long as assignments are submitted by the weekly deadline and the student is demonstrating a consistently high level of retention. I do require that students check their email regularly and log onto the website daily to check for messages.

 

I do offer, however, at least one (completely optional) weekly “study chat” (via a site-based chat client open only to students enrolled in the course) during which students have the chance to interact with each other, my teaching assistant and myself and go over the week’s quiz questions for review. It’s proven to be both an effective study tool and a fun way to get to know each other! Unless my schedule changes unexpectedly, I plan to offer these study chats on Thursday mornings at 9 am EST. They are, again, optional and not required. I only offer the schedule for those who wish to attend and will need to plan the coming school-year schedule accordingly.

 

Also, students and parents should be aware that I do not offer extra credit for any independent study groups or activities that take place outside of the classroom environment, though students may find them helpful and I’d encourage students to engage in whatever additional studies aid their retention of class content.

 

A secondary objective of this class is to encourage students to be thoughtful, informed, and passionate citizens. Through this class, students will come to understand the various avenues through which they, as citizens, have the opportunity to organize and communicate their interests and concerns. Students are therefore encouraged to seek out civic and political opportunities in their own communities during the class year, particularly through an extra credit Civic Involvement Project. This project is student-directed and centers on your individual student’s interests, time commitment and abilities. In the past, students have used the project as an opportunity to campaign on behalf of their favored candidate, write and submit editorials for publication, raise money for a favorite cause, collect food for a local pantry, launch a publicity campaign for a non-profit organization and volunteer hours in service to their community. In a major change from previous years, this will be one of the very few opportunities by which students may earn extra credit. I plan to streamline the course to make the main thing, the main thing.

 

Through weekly discussion questions and careful moderation by the instructor, students are also encouraged to examine the democratic process in historical context, in theory and as applied to a variety of current and historical events and issues. The interaction with classmates from a wide variety of political and experiential backgrounds, in an atmosphere of honest and respectful discourse, gives students a unique opportunity to (a) evaluate and research their own political beliefs and the values that form those beliefs, (b) communicate those beliefs in an intelligent and respectful manner, and (c) gain understanding about others’ political viewpoints. Students are required to be respectful in all communications and to have increased knowledge and mutual understanding as their primary and personal goals for any political discussion. While I moderate most discussion threads, many avenues for discussion exist beyond my monitoring ability, so I ask students to alert me to any discussions taking place that may violate these guidelines. Most such discussion is optional, with the exception of instructor-initiated curriculum-based weekly questions.

 

I also encourage students to maintain an awareness of current political events. My students should be aware that while I do not leave my political views and bias at the door of the classroom, they have no impact on my grading, as their political views are irrelevant to their written assignments and the Collegeboard Exam. I strive to teach students to recognize bias and thus believe in being open about my own personal biases from the start. My students will know my perspectives on some issues but will always feel welcome and respected enough to share their viewpoints as well. I will strive to demonstrate for my students how a person may hold strong convictions while simultaneously being respectful of others’ beliefs.

 

Parents should also be aware, before enrolling their student in this class, that students will sometimes discuss or be exposed to issues of an adult or controversial nature when it is relevant to current political events. This is sometimes a result of student initiation or a result of discussion about news threads online. As the instructor, I will require that students treat these topics with maturity and appropriateness, but I do not, in most circumstances, censor either controversial opinions or controversial topics simply because they are controversial. If you are concerned about the topics that may be discussed, I would encourage you, as a parent, to choose and remember your log-in passwords so that you can monitor the course as well as your student’s activity, progress and participation.

 

Lastly, the addition of the Americans Governing website to our course curriculum has added both depth and vibrancy to the material covered, giving students an opportunity to explore appropriate individual topics within each chapter with more focus and thought. I encourage you to visit the website (www.americansgoverning.com) and do the “tour” for more information.

 

Who should apply: Reliable Internet and email access is required. Homeschooled students grades 9 through 12 are welcome to apply. Academic performance must be average or above, and student should be very comfortable with communicating primarily via the written word. Students must be self-motivated, punctual with assignments and demonstrate individual initiative & responsibility. All political perspectives are wholeheartedly invited and welcomed.

 

Teacher Qualifications & Bio: This will be my 13th year teaching AP American Government & Politics. I am a Grove City College graduate with a BA in both Communication & English, and multiple credits in Political Science. I am also a PHAA homeschool graduate and a veteran AP online student-turned-teacher, from which I continue to nurture a long-time passion for politics. I’ve been contracted with various publishing companies over the past seven years to review and write ancillary materials for political textbooks. I spent 3.5 years working for a non-profit pro-life ministry in Ohio and am now a stay-at-home, homeschooling mama and military wife stationed in Albuquerque, New Mexico. My own personal views tend toward a conservative and Christian political outlook, but I always hope for a class full of varying political viewpoints!

 

3 - Highly Interactive

 

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