This summer I spend quite a few hours pouring over College Board guidance docs trying to get to know the four new FRQ structures. They are, in no particular order:
Each FRQ has an additional brief posting that has a link to the Prezi. You will find below the four videos and a copy of all of the FRQs I created for this project. Finally, there are several student back check rubrics at the end for you to use in class. I hope it helps you and your kids! Good luck!
College Board's attention to Supreme Court cases is about to get a lot more regular and consistent as students will be forced to make good on their briefs of hundreds of cases.
Veteran teachers can attest to the fact that we never really knew what to teach in SCOTUS cases... there were definite cases, sure, but we didn't know how the cases would be treated. Debate among teachers pitted the merits of briefing cases versus students just memorizing the outcomes of cases. Now we can anticipate that there is a regular and anticipated treatment of all 15 required Supreme Court cases. The standard practice still rewards teachers who choose to look at fan favorites or obscure gems, as students will need to know how to apply precedent established in the core 15 to unknowns.
In this FRQ, students have four points up for grabs across three components:
Check out the prezi link or watch the video for all the info on how to tackle this FRQ. What do you think? Fun assessment or just so-so? Leave a comment below!
College Board's Content Application FRQ is, in my opinion, the hardest and highest stakes FRQ. Even putting together this video was a bit challenging, but I do think that spending some time reviewing this sleeper of an essay prompt is really important.
Aside from the fact that the FRQ is worth THREE POINTS. That is it. This means that when factored so it is evenly weighted against the other three FRQs, each point on this FRQ is worth far more than the other three. Your kids have to have this FRQ down pat.
In essence, points are awarded for:
So kids will have to show mastery of up to three different scenarios, concepts, or processes. This requires close reading, clear and deliberate use of language, and lots of critical thinking. I envision a lot of 2s and 1s on this one.
For that reason, I used a prompt that was easy to goof up to show kids how to focus their attention in the video and prezi introducing this skill.
What do you think? Is this a piece of cake or a whale of a mountain? Feel free to leave comments below.
The longest FRQ on the AP Gov exam is the Argumentation Essay. Borrowing from essay structures in APUSH and APWH, the argumentation is an exploration into great writing skills in the college course. I have so many assignments that require me to take a defendable position with well reasoned evidence. I am very happy to see my students required to write this easy-to-do essay in the AP Gov classroom, too. Continuity in skill sets with AP Gov reasoning skills helps students achieve more, as well as introducing my rookie governerds to these written expressions.
This will probably require the most effort (6 points over four components) but has the biggest room for error, which I think is important to emphasize. Sitting down and taking a look at these skills, students need to:
A note about claim: If the claim is not a fully qualified and defensible thesis, meaning the student did not take a position, they are capped at earning one point: just B1. Another way of saying this: B2, B2, C, and D cannot be earned. This is a critical skill. If you need more suggestions on how to approach the claim, head to this article.
A note about evidence: One piece should come from the given docs, one can be from docs external to the prompt. While either approach is preferred by College Board, I try to teach my kids to use evidence for B1/B1 and B3 from off the list that CB provides. Why? Knowing how hard it is to score the FRQ, using the evidence incentivizes a deep understanding of the documents and hopefully will curry favor with a rater who does not have to find the unfamiliar example students cite. It goes without saying, there is NO PENALTY for giving external evidence.
I use the claim-evidence-commentary writing structure, as it is the standard in feeder courses like 11th grade US History as well as in English across my school. This is exactly like Assertion-evidence-commentary, but CB likes to call assertions claims.
I wanted to break down this in a manageable presentation, so I have included my prezi and a video discussion how to be successful on the Argumentation Essay. I hope it is helpful, and I wish you the best of luck! Here is another way of thinking about the essay.
Political Science is *shockingly* all about applying the scientific method to politics and governance. Concepts that we teach in AP Gov are someone's hypothesis, tested out with data... analyzed and triangulated to either support or refute that idea. It is tested over and over again, it is peer reviewed. That is how political scientist do their thing. That is why ideas like the Median Voter Theory or the Mandate Theory of Politics (NOT PROVEN) exist.
College Board is having us teach kids how to do the final steps of quantitative analysis... meaning data analysis, interpretation, conclusions, and application to content... in the Quantitative Analysis FRQ. I am stoked. It is a really, really great thing for political science.
In order to help you tackle teaching the QA FRQ, I have created this 20 minute video that explains what Quantitative Analysis is, how kids use it in their own lives, and how College Board will assess that skill. There is an example included and tips on how to do the FRQ. Do you just want access to my PREZI? Check it out here.
Stay tuned for the remaining FRQs... the Content Application question (which is qualitative analysis), the Argumentation Essay, and the SCOTUS question.
Any feedback or questions? Leave them down below!
It has been a rough time for education in America, I am sure you are aware. From my side of the desk around Northern Virginia, students are stressed out from the demands of academics, family, sports, work, and college. Teachers are equally frustrated with the demand for innovation, helping students achieve more, and staying on top of their career. Today, the criticisms of students and teachers collectively voicing their opinions not to mention dealing with stress and pressure don't always fall on sympathetic ears.
It seems as though that pressure has fallen upon many educational partners that teachers sometimes love, sometimes hate. From threats to reduce the funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities to criticism of College Board's relevance in the educational landscape, people have opinions.
I want to reflect on College Board. There have been historical grumblings, like that time that Oklahoma wanted to scrap AP US History because it did not focus on the exceptionalism of the US OR the recent backlash in the AP World History community over their fourth redesign in five years due to pressure from universities not accepting credit for AP World... in part because it is one course that covers six credits in college. And don't even get me started on Dual Enrollment.
So why does this matter? How does this relate to civics education? I think that this is a pretty serious topic in both regards, and I want to talk to you from the position of friends over a cup of coffee, just talking about education. Look, this is my opinion. It's based on my observation of students as a teacher. It's based on my view on history and civics... and it's just my opinion.
So here's the scoop: I think College Board is pretty great, and here is why.
College Board is great for students!
Without getting into too much quantified data, I find that the perspective of Sidwell Friends and their compatriots pretty unimportant. As stated by Chester E. Finn, what do the actions of these eight elite private high schools mean to me at an area public school? My county is spending around $12K per student, which is a drop in the bucket compared to the $40K at Sidwell Friends. A tuition like that attracts elite families who want their students to go to elite colleges, and I would imagine that these schools are also able to pay for elite teachers to come up with elite lesson plans. These students, families, and schools are in no way typical. To be frank, I don't care what they do.
I care about the students in my classroom who have families who are struggling to live in my community, or maybe they are comfortable. I have both kinds of students. When you consider that average student loans hit $30K and so many of my students go on for advanced degrees, the importance of a cost effective approach to college is paramount. Taking an AP class gives these students leverage... maybe they pay around $100 (or less if you are free or reduced lunch) to take the test, and now they have options. Students can expedite their college career or they can repeat courses that they think are easy A's to boost their GPA. What is particularly staggering is that these options are something that three million students this year will be able to consider.
I also think that in a world where the Department of Education is in trouble for its continued functionality due to backlash against nationalist educational policies, it stands to reason that we have a problem in education with finding a way to standardize our product. I know that kids who move to my district often struggle to catch up to the rigor offered in my county's classrooms. Why? Because some states are better at educating their students than others for various political reasons. The only federal agency that tried (but failed) to standardize education through the controversial standardized test craze of No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top as well as Common Core is backpedaling from all of these initiatives. So how does a student from a low performing school district compete with students from around the country? The answer is, these students don't compete. But a standardized course with standardized tests and data gives students the ability to transcend these political landmines.
Think the answer is Dual Enrollment (DE)? Think again. There is no reputable organization comparing these community colleges. Knowing what I know about education, it stands to reason that community colleges have the same problems that public schools have. Some are better at teaching kids than others. (And hold that thought with community colleges, I am not done with them yet).
In summary, if the federal government is shrinking away from initiatives meant to standardize education at the federal level, I have no faith that the states will be able to do so on their own accord independently. Movements to localize education make it difficult to ensure that students are given adequate instruction and tutelage, This problem is compounded as our population becomes more transient. This is a problem that College Board helps to fix through a single, standardized assessment that examines how well students can employ critical thinking skills and content on multiple choice tests and written assessments. College Board is offering the same product across the nation to all students who desire to be assessed. This is kind of like the SAT, isn't it? Having a benchmark, a standard, enables the college and the student to make decisions that impact that student's future.
College Board is great for teachers!
Teachers are assigned their preps (courses) often with limited influence by that teacher. This is daunting for veteran teachers let alone new teachers. It's those new teachers I really want to focus on though. New teachers coming out of college are saddled with the fore mentioned debt; many of them need additional jobs to be able to make ends meet. This is not new news. The stress that goes into creating high quality, high caliber lessons on a daily basis is daunting, but good news is there are so many resources out there for high school teachers to improve their craft that are either provided by College Board or framed after College Board's course design. This enables newbie and veteran alike to be able to create an environment in which student mastery is possible.
From a different perspective, I really dislike the idea of moving towards DE or other similar products. I can only speak to what DE looks like in my community to illustrate my point. DE can only be taught by someone who has a masters in that content area, and the course is offered at a high school. Even in my relatively upper middle class community, I don't run into many teachers who have a masters in a content area. If teachers have masters, they are often in education, pedagogy, instructional practices, administration, tech, reading literacy, etc. Therefore, there is a really limited number of people who are capable of doing DE. The difference between the instruction of an AP teacher and that DE teacher is around $24K. I am currently getting my masters in political science, that is the sticker price. How many teachers have access to $24K? Especially in high poverty communities? These teachers are a rarity. Rural and urban school districts will probably have a hard time finding these teachers, and if DE begins to cut into AP courses, we will have whole segments of the population without access to college prep courses. That is unless state legislatures loosen up some of the requirements... which means we are back to teachers doing the instruction without any universal standard. Why not just have the high school teachers teach at the community college? You still need a masters in your content area in my community.
We are stripping teachers who are fully capable of teaching college level courses in America's diverse communities and making these courses far less accessible to sensitive populations in urban and rural areas. We still have not solved the problem of determining whether or not these individuals are truly college ready coming out of America's community colleges, as there is no objective measure other than the SAT of college readiness.
This does matter. In my content in particular, America has a real deficit in civics knowledge. There is no real focus on civics education that correlates to STEM education, other than C3 from Common Core and the pantheon of non-profit educational outlets that care about civics education like iCivics, Center for Civic Education, the National Constitution Center, the James Madison Fellowship Foundation, We the People, and OMG a million others. Thank you to all of these great outlets. The purpose of this blog is to advocate for civics education. It may seem like a homage to College Board is out of place, but I am so thankful for an organization that transcends the political push-pull over which level of government is the most appropriate level to determine educational policy. As a non-profit, College Board offers a system that is standardized, affordable, resourced, and accessible in all kinds of communities, not just elite communities. And these days, I am more concerned about the educational opportunities for the beautiful students of these sensitive communities than I ever will be for the students of Sidwell Friends.
It's officially that time of the year. AP Review time. This is the time of the year where exhaustion is constantly creeping into my life, as class time begins to multiply and divide, add and subtract as if I were in some kind of string theory nightmare. I would go on about this, but look... you and I, we're both in a hurry. So I am going to cut through the crap and get right down to it.
In order to achieve that inner glory, it takes a ton of planning and using resources that already exist. Let me help you find those resources.
Plan it out
Figure out how many days you have and what resources you have at your disposal. If you are a singleton, approach your review with reference to how much you can take. I have taken the approach of Thursdays after school for an hour (I am there no matter what; these are our office hours) and Wednesday nights at 9 pm. (I teach an online course for my school district on Blackboard Ultra, so I just sign off at 8:55 and then resign on to continue on to review with my online and face to face students) I like Blackboard Ultra because it is free and it records the sessions. If you don't have that, there is Google or Facebook or a hundred other Facetime like apps. I have uploaded a schedule I think is capable of capturing my face to face and online kids so that all can benefit with their crazy work/sports schedules.
Beg, Borrow, and steal (okay, not steal... but)
So many of our peers in the field have culminated wonderful resources to use throughout the year. I use these at the end of the year to help mitigate the heavy lifting.
For instance, I love using games to interplay with one-on-one review. For each content unit we review, I am working two days back to back on FRQs and on reviewing old tests. This means I need to get my kids engrossed in something enriching.
I use iCivics games to capstone our learning, and ask my kids to complete Google form questions that force them to apply content to the iCivics games. To be clear, I do not ask them to summarize the game, but to look at how they can apply content from our units to the games. These are discussion questions for small groups to talk about regardless of whether or not they finished the full game.
I also rely on digital breakout games. Kellye Sluder Self of Hoover High School in Hoover, Alabama is amazing at making these digital breakout games. Want to know how to find out more? Join the AP Facebook group for educators. (Be prepared! We ask questions to verify that you are indeed a teacher!) I will say some students like them better than others, and therefore I give them options. I have board games like Constitution Quest and The Presidential to help support the kids interest.
There are other resources that I have peppered into our review sessions that are available only up on the Facebook group, like the Court case spoons games. More reason to join.
Review Content quickly and effectively
I have several online and review books that I splice into our reviews. They include:
... and just keep reviewing
Keep it up, friends. I would give you more of a pep talk... but I have more reviewing to do. And so do you! Good luck!
Today was a good day in my classroom. Interwoven between the busy hum of kids being kids... socializing, texting when they are not supposed to, talking about the upcoming baseball season or what they are doing after school... I had some really amazing and insightful conversations with kids about something 'ancient' and contemporary at the same time. The cherry on the top was that my students were genuinely interested in what we were doing. So what was I doing? Engagement model instruction, featuring a very special guest --- Virtual Reality.
There has been a mission in our school's professional development this year, and I am grateful for that focus. My gratitude is principally because I have not had time to keep up with new innovations in (social studies) education due to my own continuing education. But the word on the street has been all about using the Engagement Model to reach, motivate, and facilitate learning in the classroom.
Engagement Model is pretty simple in its premise, and it seeks to change your core instructional techniques. Here, we are not so much talking about PBL or C3 instruction... we're talking about how you use that class time. Taking kids out of the passive reception of information and into a more dynamic conversation that seeks to couple your content in ways that are motivating enough to drive curiosity, originality, and connecting these thoughts to others around them. There are many ways to do Engagement Model, but I chose a large group instruction format that allowed for little drifts of conversations. Here is what I did.
Taking on American Identity: Immigration Policy
I started with a topic that is super relevant to today... which is Immigration policy during the Progressive Era. Any lecture I do is going to dull connections that I hear in the background of our group discussions... my students are really curious about what it means to be an American, how to tackle our history in a way that both celebrates our victories and acknowledges are failures. My students are diverse; immigration is something that impacts our community in so many varied ways
I started with a question: How do the buildings erected by the Federal Government convey America's prevailing opinions about immigration?
This takes us to physical places at different points in history; forces us to examine how place and space impact emotions.
Last year, I was awarded by the Virginia Council for the Social Studies the Loraine Stewart Mini Grant to purchase a class set of cardboard VR googles. (I ended up settling with KnoxLabs V2 cardboard googles... cheap, simple, and just requiring a smart phone with VR functionality... most of the phones could do this). I had used them a couple of times, but this year my department and I are searching out ways to bring place and space into the classroom and VR is a great way! Coupling my class set and the NearPod Ellis Island lesson (which has a very small cost to the educator) we were able to magically walk into a 360 degree VR presentation of a detainment cell at Ellis Island. From here we asked some quick and easy questions.
Were students engaged?
Yes. I have two different classes; one very quiet first thing in the morning. They are a tough crowd, mostly because they are still waking up. But my kids had quieter, but just as engaged conversations about how we talk about immigration today. Questions and comments centered on connecting President Trump's proposed wall, the debate over chain migration or family reunification, and portrayals of minorities in the media. My more vocal and active class was just as engaged, but more outwardly seeking input... asking questions about challenging vocabulary, trying to put immigration on the East and West coast in context in the 1800s. and President Trump's wall.
VR is a great way to get kids to be creative and curious, engaged in discussion about the serious (Why does the sign read Welcome to Ellis Island, Island of Tears?) and mundane (why is there a UFO in the Hudson Bay?). Students took risks, talked about the American narrative, and were given opportunities to explore America and her huddled masses. This was all because of some funny cardboard headgear and a really good question.
Looking for other VR lesson ideas?
Back in 2007 when I first joined the ranks of public school teachers everywhere, I had a mentor. He was a lovely older gentleman who also taught government to high school seniors. He was very wise and came from a family of committed teachers with a sizable reputation in my county. I looked up to his impact on education in our community. Anywho, he introduced me to the idea of becoming a National Board Certified Teacher (NBCT). He was one, and when he talked about the number of teachers across the county who were also NBCT, I was impressed. These individuals were often leaders in our curriculum, as well as other folks I looked up to.
This process also appealed to my innate drive... see, waaaayyy back in the day, I was a NCAA student-athlete. If you ever want to know why I do the things I do, I would tell you that I really responded well to the idea of goal setting and self improvement. It was, after all, what I was trained to do for close to 16 years of my life and it afforded me the opportunity to earn a degree. But by 2007, I had traded in my goggles for a baby bottle. I spent quite a bit of time momming so hard while holding doing a mediocre job of teaching government to high school seniors. It was more than enough. I also had finished my M.Ed that year, and I was ready for a break. An additional wrinkle in this story is that the County I worked for stopped helping individuals pay the $1975 it takes to even apply to become a nationally board certified teacher, and between diapers and daycare... it was too rich for my husband and I.
Kids grow up, daycare ends, and fiscal situations for employers improve. In the spring of 2016, my employer advertised that the school board was willing to support a cohort of teachers financially and logistically in their quest to obtain NBCT. I checked my schedule: I only had three kids, a husband, a dog, a cat, baseball practices and games, basketball practices and games, swim practices (coaching and driving), girl scouts (I am a troop leader to a bunch of juniors/cadettes), boy scouts, music practices, room momming, working 40+ hours as a teacher, and my first two Master's degree courses on my plate. (I am in the course of getting my M.A. from Virginia Tech in Political Science.) It seemed like a perfect time.
I point this out because when opportunity knocks, don't we all say I am too busy? Everyone is, it's not a competition... but the point is that if you really want something, you have adequate support, background knowledge, and experience, and you plan well, you can make it happen... And if any of those things are missing, you make goals and work towards them. You may not get all of your goals, but you will end up with a few!
Flash forward to the end: at 12:24am on Saturday, December 16th, 2017 I was notified by National Board for Professional Teaching Standards that I had achieved NBCT status. I want to tell you how I did this, with the assistance of some near and dears.
It takes the reflective professional in me to realize that this achievement is less about me and more about my students. I can say that this was more meaningful to me than my own Masters in education; I had expertise and experience in the practice that I had not had when I was getting my M.Ed. I had also forgotten about a lot of the things I learned during the M.Ed. This was my opportunity to make my education and my experience line up. I have found myself thinking critically about many of the things I ask my kids to do in class... is this fair? Does it promote learning? Will my kids be challenged and have adequate skills to do what I ask? Will this help them feel accomplished and learn meaningfully?
The goal-setter and competitor in me has to take a back seat and realize that the reason I look up to masters in my profession is not because of the window dressing on their resume, but because these professionals are making meaningful strides in educating and impacting students in their classroom. Students are learning, thriving, and finding meaning through the process of education. I can turn my sights towards thinking of myself less as a competitor, and more as that coach on the sidelines... investing effort and time into each of my students as I done that critical role as mentor. And that is the right reason to do anything.
Good luck to you and your endeavors! I hope you consider this to be a worthwhile goal to set in your near future.
If you read closely in the new AP Government and Politics revision, there is a new form of written assessment. It is the argumentation FRQ (essay?), one that I am assuming will be similar in format to essays found in AP courses.
I am pretty excited about it, as I think one of the missing links in my own instruction of AP Government is the incorporation of written assessments more rigorous than the standard FRQ.
As educators, you and I know essays replace multiple choice exams in college studies of political science. While the AP Gov multiple choice questions are rigorous, nothing shows mastery of concept like having to formulate an argument that requires the incorporation of multiple variables in order to successfully persuade the reader. As it stands in AP Government, there was no great incentive to educators to work on argumentation, or even long form essays requiring a thesis. So good bye to that with the new rewrite. And I am excited.
In order to get ready for this new essay, I stuck with the tried and true debate structure in order to keep student engagement high.
The structure for this assignment is as follows:
The Argumentation FRQ is a big change for the course. You will find two FRQs at the back of the resources provided here. College Board has given us ideas of what the FRQ should look like. I am teaching my kids to overwrite the FRQ by just a smidge to guarantee that my kids get the point. I have spent a lot of time talking about how to write the FRQ and how to tackle its pesky thesis elsewhere on this site, and will pull together a discussion about how my kids did in the not so distant future. If you are looking for support, you have it here.
Walk aways? Students were engaged, and really had show their understanding of how parties used election and voter law to be able to manipulate the outcome of elections, while taking a nice review through the 10th Amendment and the various suffrage amendments in a relevant and interesting format.
I want to start by thanking Mr. Snowden and Mr. Greenwald for their uncompromising dedication to giving the NSA violations air time and transparency. I wanted to share some of the most important things I have learned from this book bef...
tagged: nerdcation and to-read
tagged: nerdcation and to-read
tagged: nerdcation and to-read
by Bill Bishop
tagged: nerdcation and to-read
I lovgov. LOVE IT! I love teaching government, learning about it, debating, discussing, asking questions about government. And not the standard boiler plate questions, but the hard ones that are NOT in the books.