AP USH Course Policies

AP US History Course Policies, 2018-2019

General Overview of Assessment

This course is designed to hold students accountable for mastering the content as well as the critical thinking and written expression skills necessary to excel on the AP Exam (an all college-level courses in the future).  The goal is not just for students to learn facts, but to develop new abilities with respect to the analysis, management and evaluation of those facts with the context of historical argumentation.  In the process, students gain confidence in their intellectual and creative abilities, learn to rely on their own informed judgement, and learn how to use evidence persuasively in discussion and writing.  To accomplish this, I have created two distinct types of exams that students will see on a weekly basis: Sticky Term Exams and Essays.    

Term Exam Explanation and Scoring Scheme

On those days that you are assigned a “Term Exam,” I will give students one or two of the listed terms for a chapter at random.  You must identify those terms by completely explaining the term, how it fits within the historical context of its chapter or period, and how it connects with other terms from the same chapter (see “sticky terms” below).  A definition alone will not be adequate, so you should avoid “googling” for definitions.  I am looking for evidence that you have done your reading and will hold you accountable relative to the context offered in your Kennedy text book.

“Sticky Terms”

My goal is for students to recognize how the terminology and specific vocabulary of US History are interconnected – the more “sticky” you can make a given term, the more likely you are to understand its context and to retain that content.  That’s why Term Exams require three distinct tasks for each term: 1) DEFINE: you will be asked to produce a concise definition or explanation that clear places your term within an appropriate historical context.  2) CONNECT: Next you will be asked to connect the term to at least 2 other pieces of SFI (specific factual information) that are not found on your assigned list, and indicate how and why they are connected.  3) CONTEXT: Finally, you explain how that term fits into the broader historical context of US History by either comparing or contrasting it with another period or geographical region, or connecting it a particular theme or trend that recurs in US History.  This will require you to draw an inference rather than simply reproduce something you have found in your textbook.  To engage the broader context of a given term, you may also find it useful to ask yourself, “What does this term tell me about this period more generally?”  Imagine that the term is a “key-hole” through which you can see the contemporary events that have created or influenced it – describe what you can see through that “key-hole.”    

Term Exam Scoring Rubric

Scale Score

Description

Score

Level 5

Responses demonstrate impressive mastery of the terminology and broader context of the unit beyond the expectations of Level 4.

 

H5 = 100**

L5 = 95**

P5=92**

Level 4

Responses demonstrate content mastery by including specific historic context, at least 2 strong / thoughtful connections, and 1 strong / thoughtful context argument. Responses must exceed the Level 3 expectation.

H4 = 89*

L4 = 84*

P4 = 79* (need to earn at least a L4 on your next Term Exam or this drops to a 70)

*one re-test is earned for a previous exam

(re-tests may not be “banked” for future exams).

Level 3

Responses are complete, correct, and demonstrate content competency. At least 2 valid SFI connections and 1 valid context argument must be present. Responses must reflect the context provided by your text book and should be more than simple definitions.

H3 = 75

L3 = 70

P3 = 65 (need to earn at least a P4 on your next Term Exam or this drops to a 50)

R3 = 0-60 (your score on a re-test can vary depending on its quality, so study hard!)

Level 2

One or more responses is/are partial or contain major factual errors. Responses do not reflect student understanding beyond simple definition.

No credit, eligible to earn a re-test with a subsequent 4

Level 1

Response is partial, incomplete or contains significant factual errors or omissions.

No credit, eligible to earn a re-test with a subsequent 4


 
How do I get a 4 or 5 every time on Term Exams!

  1. PRE-READING: Take note of the terms before you begin to read the chapters and apply some simple pre-reading strategies: which of the terms do you already recognize; can you make an educated guess at what some of them mean?
  2. READ rather than HUNT: Use the context to identity each term, to explain its significance within a given period or relative to key historical phenomena, and record your impressions in your notebook.
  3. BUNDLE: after you read, review your notes and search for common threads, themes and connections among the terms.  Organize them into several bundles based upon their relationship to each other and create meaningful categories or labels for each bundle.
  4. REVIEW: give yourself the chance to go back and review the notes and study tools (bundling) your have created for this unit.  Even 5-10 minutes of review can be very worthwhile.  Repetition of review is more important that duration.  By cramming steps 1-3 into the night before your exam, you aren’t giving your self adequate opportunity to review – that’s why this is a 2 night rather than a 1 night assignment.  If you find yourself getting terms confused or blanking, it’s because you need more review.

What happens if I earn a 1 or a 2 on an Exam?

First of all, it's not the end of the world.  In APUSH I ask that students work to "master" the course content rather than to simply demonstrate competency - which is the expectation in most high school level courses.  If a student earns a level 2 or 1 on any exam, s/he can earn an opportunity to re-test and replace that mark with a passing grade by scoring a level 4 or better on a subsequent exam.  The re-test will include the same two short essay questions that appeared on the student's original exam. 

How long do I have to exercise a re-test that I have earned? 

Students have until the day before the AP Exam (9 May 2018) to exercise any re-test that they have earned throughout the year (including those from the 1st 6 weeks grading period).  As re-tests are completed, I go back into my grade book, replace those marks and recalculate the 9 weeks average.  However, students are encouraged to exercise re-tests as soon as possible.


Essay Exam Explanation and Scoring Scheme

On those days that you are assigned an “Essay Exam,” I will give you one of the essay questions listed for the assigned chapter to write as an in-class, timed-writing.  You must construct a well organized and well argued response to the prompt assigned.  Use the scoring rubric below to guide your study and preparation.  The best way to prepare for these essays is to partially write or substantially outline them in advance, revise and edit as needed, then review the study product that you have created.  Putting all of these steps off until the night before is not an effective study strategy.

What’s a Thesis Statement?

A thesis statement is simply the introductory paragraph of your essay and, depending on the complexity of the prompt, maybe from 1 to 4 sentences in length.  The thesis provides your reader with a road map for your essay because it 1) clearly addresses each element or command implied by the prompt and 2) indicates what evidence will be presented in your argument.  A thesis is a preview of what main points you will argue, and how your will argue them.

What’s a Synthesis Paragraph / Conclusion?

To earn the synthesis point, your essay must include at least one of the following elements: 1) an argument that somehow modifies or extends your thesis beyond the original scope of the prompt (for example, if your prompt relates to political developments, you might explore the economic implications as well);  2) an argument that explores an alternate point of view or perspective on a given topic; or 3) an argument that shows how the essay’s topic relates, compares or contrasts to another period of US History.  Either of these approaches must be supported by SFI and IC that explains the “how and why.”  Typically, students are advised use their conclusion paragraph to address this task. 

Essay Scoring Rubric

Scale Score

Description

Score

Level 5

Exceed the requirements of a Level 4 response. Impress me!

H5 = 100**

L5 = 95**

Level 4

Responses are complete, correct, demonstrate content mastery and include more than 5 properly used pieces of SFI relevant to the unit and your argument. You should also include relevant connections to other periods or episodes of US History. Must include a valid thesis statement and synthesis paragraph / conclusion.

H4 = 90*

L4 = 85*

P4 = 80* (need to earn at least a L4 on your next Essay Exam or this drops to a 77)

*one re-test is earned for a previous exam (re-tests may not be “banked” for future exams).

Level 3

Responses are complete, correct, and demonstrate strong content competency and include no fewer that 5 properly used pieces of SFI relevant to the unit and your argument. Must include a thesis statement and synthesis paragraph / conclusion.

H3 = 75

L3 = 70

P3 = 65 (need to earn at least a P4 on your next Essay Exam or this drops to a 50)

R3 = 0-60 (your score on a re-test can vary depending on its quality, so study hard!)

Level 2

Response is partial or contains major factual errors, or includes fewer than 5 properly used pieces of SFI.

No credit, eligible to earn a re-test with a subsequent 4 or 5

Level 1

Response is partial, incomplete or contains significant factual errors or omissions.

No credit, eligible to earn a re-test with a subsequent 4 or 5


What do you mean by
SFI
?

SFI
means "specific factual information."  That includes, but is not limited to, any of the bold vocabulary words found in your textbook as well as any other specific person, event, development or historical concept that relates to a given period.  Specific dates are not considered SFI - while knowing the proper sequence of events is useful, memorizing things like dates or the amount of tea dumped into Boston Harbor is not a good use of your time.  Using facts and terminology is essential to historical writing because your conclusions must be supported by specific evidence.  So when you read and prepare for these assignments, mine the text for SFI that you can use to flesh-out your generalizations.   

General Policy for Course Grading

Please note that only the final grade for this course is recorded on student transcripts - 9 week averages and report card grades are not.  And while the 9 week grades are averaged together to produce the student's final grade at the end of each semester, please note that no 9 week mark is final in this course until the day before the AP Exam.  Students are entitled to earn re-tests and exercise those re-tests at any point between now and then to improve their 9 week averages.  As re-tests are completed, I go back and update those averages by replacing "0"s with the score from each re-test.  Therefore, even if a report card shows an "F" for a given 9 weeks, it is very possible to re-test and improve that mark to a C or even a B.