AP Government Syllabus


Syllabus:  AP U.S. Government


COURSE LENGTH: 4 terms (meets daily, 50 minutes)                                    NUMBER OF UNITS: 6


GENERAL COURSE DESCRIPTION: AP Government is a college level introductory course on United States Government and Politics.   While the content of general US government courses varies from college to college, this course will focus on the Constitution; political beliefs and behaviors; political parties, interest groups, and mass media; the Congress, presidency, bureaucracy, and the federal courts; public policy; and civil rights and liberties.  Course material will be taught through a variety of means including: lecture and note taking, class discussion, intensive reading, group and individual projects, and current events.


COURSE REQUIREMENTS/OUTCOMES:  These are the general goals:

  1. Prepare students for the responsibilities of citizenship including voting and positive participation in the local community
  2. Prepare students for the AP Government exam
  3. Analyze the history and interpretations of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights
  4. Examine the roles, powers, and relationships between formal and informal institutions in the United States
  5. Recognize typical patterns of political processes and behavior and their consequences
  6. Know important facts, concepts, and theories pertaining to U.S. government and politics



  • Wilson, James Q. American Government: Institutions and Policies 11th edition, 2008.
  • Woll, Peter, ed. American Government: Readings and Cases. 19th edition, 2011. (This is a college level course, requiring additional resources.  This text is required as well as the school provided text from above.  Text can be purchased online at various sites)



  • Maryland State Department of Education Online Government Course (http;//msde.mdk12online.org)
  • MSDE School Improvement in Maryland (http;//www.mk12.org)
  • Classroom investigations.
  • Internet activities and research.


  • Woll, Peter, ed. American Government: Readings and Cases. 19th edition, 2011.  
  • Loose leaf paper
  • Folder or section of a binder

·     Note cards

·     Highlighter

·     Writing utensils


I. Constitutional Underpinnings of the US Government (chapters 1-3)

  • Formulation and Adoption of Constitution
  • Separation of Powers
  • Federalism
  • Theories of democratic government


II. Political Beliefs and Behaviors (chapters 4,7,8)

  • Beliefs that citizens hold about their government and leaders
  • Processes by which citizens learn about politics
  • The nature, sources and consequences of public opinion
  • The ways in which citizens vote and otherwise participate in political life
  • Factors that influence citizens vote and otherwise participate in political life
  • Factors that influence citizens to differ from one another in terms of Political Beliefs


III. Political Parties, Interest Groups and Mass Media (chapters 9-12)

  • Political Parties and elections (Functions, Organization, Development, Effects on the political process, Electoral laws and systems)
  • Interests groups, including political action committees (Range of interests represented, activities of interest groups, effects of interest groups on the political process, unique characteristics and roles of PAC’s in the political process)
  • Mass Media (Functions and Structures of the media, Impacts of media on politics


IV. Institutions of National Government: The Congress, the Presidency, the Bureaucracy and the Federal Courts (chapters 13-16)

  • The major formal and informal institutional arrangements of power
  • Relationships among these four institutions and varying balances of power
  • Linkages between institutions and the following: Public opinion and voters, interest groups, political parties, the media, sub-national governments


V. Public Policy (chapters 17-22)

  • Policymaking in a federal system
  • Formation of policy agendas
  • The role of institutions in the enactment of policy
  • The role of bureaucracy and the courts in policy implementation and interpretation
  • Linkage between policy processes and the following: Political institutions and federalism, political parties, interest groups, public opinion, elections, policy networks.


VI. Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (chapters 5-6)

  • The development of civil liberties and civil rights by judicial interpretation
  • Knowledge of substantive rights and liberties
  • The impact of the 14th Amendment on the constitutional development of rights and liberties


GRADING: Grades are determined according to Dorchester County Public Schools grading policy.


90-100%       A

80-89%         B

70-79%         C

60-69%         D

Below 60%   E



Classwork:                                20%

Homework:                               10%

Tests/Quizzes/Projects:              60% 

Final:                                       10%


GUIDELINES FOR SUCCESS: You will be issued a textbook to take home as well as required to purchase an additional textbook. In order for students to be successful in a college level course, it is essential that they maximize their time and complete all assigned readings prior to class discussions. The readings, lectures and discussions will figure prominently in the content of the quizzes and examinations. The students are expected to learn the basic material in their assigned readings. In class they are expected to apply their knowledge in analyzing and evaluating political issues based on their readings.  All assigned reading must be completed before attending class Expect about 2-3 hours of homework every week.  Readings of fifty pages or more per week will be the norm. In addition, essays, projects, presentations, and vocabulary will be assigned on a regular basis. It is essential that you master Government vocabulary in order to be successful on the AP Exam.  With that said you will be given a vocabulary test EVERY week.  On the first day of the week you will be given that week’s list and several homework assignments to complete in preparation for that week’s test.  The point of assigning vocabulary homework is that upon completion, very little actual studying for that week’s test should be necessary and the vocabulary will become a part of your personal vocabulary.  Participation and attendance are extremely important.  Students are responsible for turning in all work on time.  No late work will be accepted unless work is missed due to an excused absence or prior arrangements are made with the instructor.   Students are encouraged to read and watch the news daily. At least one major newspaper and news magazine is to be read every week.  These will include but not be limited to the “Washington Post”, “Atlanta Constitution”, “The New York Times”, “TIME”, “NEWSWEEK”, US NEWS and World Report”.  Students are evaluated on their understanding of quantitative and visually presented information, i.e. maps, charts, and graphs as they pertain to a given unit.  Data will be used in teaching political party coalitions, electoral results (popular vote & electoral count), voting patterns, campaign contributions, & confidence in our elected officials.  Students will be asked to examine and discuss polling data on voting rates from previous elections, compare statistics on members of Congress, and compare Presidential approval rates throughout history.  Suggested web sites include, but are not limited to, USATODAY.com, PollingReport.com, Census.gov, and Galluppoll.com.    * Handouts, transparencies, videos/films, etc. are determined by the teacher for each unit. 




Cheating: Plagiarism or dishonesty of any kind will not be tolerated! This includes turning in information from the Internet as your own work.  Consequences of plagiarism include earning a score of “0” on the assignment, involvement of the principal and your parents, possible suspension and/or failure of the course.


Unauthorized Electronic Devices: Cell phones, IPods, CD players, handheld games, etc. are to be kept off and out of sight at all times. A repeated violation of this expectation will result in a written referral.




If you are absent from class for any reason, excused or unexcused, it is your responsibility to get your missed assignments.  Go to the “Make Up” box and fill out a form for the day(s) you were absent and place it in the bin at my desk.  It now becomes my responsibility to gather your assignments and give them to you. If you miss a test, it must be made up promptly.  You need to schedule the make-up test with me in person.