C-SPAN in the Classroom Podcast: U.S. Supreme Court Essay Questions

By | December 17, 2022

For the College Board’s Advanced Placement (or AP) U.S. Government and Politics exam, students must know 15 required Supreme Court cases, stretching from the 1803 ruling in Marbury v. Madison to McDonald v. Chicago and Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission in 2010. Tune in this week as the team talks with former C-SPAN Classroom Teacher Fellow Ryan Werenka about the review resources that he developed this past summer that you can use in your classroom.

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[Music] Hi I'm Zach and I'm joined by my Colleagues Craig and Pam for the college Board's advanced placement or AP U.S Government and politics exam students Must know 15 required Supreme Court Cases stretching from the 1803 ruling in Marbury V Madison to McDonald V Chicago And Citizens United versus FEC in 2010. However the exam also requires students To engage in what is called a free Response question or frq that asks them To compare and contrast the information They already know about one of the Required cases with a non-required case The question which begins with a two Paragraph stimulus that describes the Background and holding for the Non-required case asks students to do Three things First part A often asks students to Identify constitutional clause or Principle that is relevant to both cases Second part B often requires students to Compare or contrast the two cases And third part C likely requires Students to apply the case's ruling to Political action or principle that sure Is a lot of content and prep work but Luckily for all of you we have a Community of teacher experts willing to Lend their expertise and insight to help Your students demonstrate their Knowledge of landmark Supreme Court

Cases In this episode we'll be joined by Former C-SPAN classroom teacher fellow Ryan maranka who will share some of the Reviews resources that he developed this Past summer for you to use in your Classroom with your students so whether You're already thinking about getting Your students prepped for this Spring's AP U.S government exam or you just want To deepen their understanding of the Judicial branch stick around we'll be Right back Joining us today is Ryan warenka a Teacher at Troy High School in Troy Michigan Ryan was a C-SPAN fellow this Past summer and he's currently a member Of our classroom Community cohort Ryan Can we begin today by sharing with our Listeners what you teach at Troy High School Sure thing uh thanks for uh for having Me today I really appreciate it um this Semester I'm teaching uh three AP US Government and politics classes and two AP comparative government politics Classes in the next semester I'll be Teaching all day five sections of AP US Government so it is my life Ryan Craig mentioned that you were a Part of our summer fellowship program Which for our listeners who are not Familiar with it is a program that's Open to social studies teachers in grade

6 through 12 who are familiar with C-SPAN television networks programs use C-SPAN classroom resources in their Classrooms and would like to collaborate With our team for four weeks in July to Develop new free resources for teachers To host on our classroom website each Fellow receives a one thousand dollar Stipend now can you talk a little bit About your experience as a fellow for Those Educators who are tuned in and Might be interested in applying yes and Probably the best piece of advice that I Can give to any person that's interested In applying is apply it was such a Phenomenal experience uh working with C-SPAN I would highly recommend it Um it was great that there were four Other phenomenal teachers in my cohort And we got to meet weekly and interact And collaborate with each other on our Different projects Um and so again it was just just a Phenomenal experience from from that end So I would definitely recommend it and Then the really great thing about it as Well was that C-SPAN really does give You Um kind of a nudge maybe in a direction To go so mine it was AP Government Because that's the focus of my teaching But then um they kind of give you Um you know okay so focus on AP Government they give you the flexibility

And the freedom to start looking at Where you want to develop resources and What type of resources you're interested In developing and so I I still have a Notebook full of ideas of things that I Think hey I could do this project or That project but the biggest Focus that I ended up with was review materials and Writing free response questions which I Was really happy to I think I have nine Of them completed at this point so um so That was my focus I definitely Echo About that subtle nudge that the C-SPAN Classroom team offers uh fellows for Instance when I was a fellow I focused On State history resources and a lot of Those resources have a dual role and That I was teaching South Carolina History so they were good for my Classroom but they're also useful in Other classes across the country for Other teachers whether it's teaching us Gov US history so on and so forth and What we've already heard Ryan from those Resources you developed this last summer A bunch of positive feedback so I was Wondering can you talk a little bit About what those free response question Resources or frq resources are and the Significance of using them with your Students yeah definitely so um for the For those unfamiliar with the AP U.S Government politics exam there are four Different types of free response

Questions uh there's concept application Which is basically tell us what this is And how it works there's a quantitative Analysis which is you know looking at a Graph or a chart or a map and then Gleaning information from it and using It to answer prompts there's the Supreme Court cases or frqs which are again Giving you a Non-required case and giving you Information and you have to relate it to One of the 15 required cases that you Are required to study and then there's a An argument essay which is a whole Different animal but it's definitely one That um you know there are a number of Different prompts it's writing a you Know a defensible claim and providing Other evidence from the documents and Things like that but Um with that I this past year in in 2022 I actually graded the Supreme Court frq For the College Board and Um was really you know a lot of the ones That I graded kind of surprised at how Many points students were missing and You know that kind of stuck with me and So then I looked back at AP classrooms For the resources that the College Board Had developed and there were a whopping Eight sample free response questions in AP classroom and then maybe a couple That were released from the previous Year's exams and so I looked at it and

Then when I was looking through c-span's Materials there are other prompts for Other types of essays but there really Weren't any for the Supreme Court free Response uh question and so my goal was I'm going to write as many questions are As many questions as the Apes college Board has in AP classroom and so now Actually with the ninth question C-SPAN Actually has more practice industry Response questions available then the College Board does that's fantastic so With relation to the cases how do you Determine the cases that you focus on in The frqs that you developed and how do You incorporate them into your units of Study in your classroom you know Typically what the College Board will do Is they'll give you you know there's There's certain list of of Clauses that I think are really important like Students will need to know you know the Commerce Clause or the the supremacy Clause or the equal protection clause And then there's other civil liberties That are represented so what I did is Sort of reverse engineer it I looked at Okay these are the 15 cases that we need To know and kind of what's the main Crux Of what the College Board would ask you About for each question and then once I Had that down I started looking at okay Well what are interesting cases that are Not required that students would have to

To read and interpret and understand but Then see how it's similar to those other Cases so I chose to write about a Variety of different ones I I know um You know truthy told one of my favorite Supreme Court cases I know this is very Nerdy one of my favorite Supreme Court Cases is McCulloch V Maryland which There was no practice free response Question on so I said I gotta write that Wrong and I wrote one about that and Then some other like non-required cases That I really enjoy that are our Favorites loving versus Virginia is near And dear to my heart so so in some Instances I did pick Um cases that were either fairly recent Like mono Area School District versus BL Or the masterpiece cake shop uh case and And you know so I did have those in mind As these would be interesting cases that The kids will enjoy but then being able To relate to some of the the important Clauses okay so speaking of cases that Are near and dear to your heart Ryan Let's dive into some of the resources You created and take a look at an Example of two and um the first one that We'll focus on is the landmark Supreme Court case loving the Virginia so we'll Play a portion of a clip that you Include in this frq resource that you Created that features The Washington Post Patricia Sullivan talking about it

Mildred was A black woman in rural Virginia who fell In love with a white man in the 1950s They were childhood sweethearts grew up Together and eventually she became Pregnant they got married uh this was a Problem because in those days Virginia Did not allow blacks and whites to marry Make a long story short she and her Husband eventually sued the state of Virginia Which resulted in a Supreme Court case which overturned Prohibitions against biracial marriages In the United States so in the clip we Heard about Mildred loving and the Impetus of the loving Supreme Court case Which ultimately overturned prohibitions Against biracial marriages with that Said Ryan why did you pair loving with The brown V Board of Education case for An frq Well ultimately loving and brown are Both cases about equal protection and so Again looking at what kinds of of Clauses and what amendments uh the Students need to know the College Board Tends to really like the 14th Amendment Um as do I uh you know I think the 14th Amendment is really important for them To know and especially the equal Protection clause and so Um you know I thought that was a really Kind of a of the sample cases uh simple Questions rather excuse me that I wrote

Um one that I thought they would find Interesting Um loving is really great for federalism As well I think there's a lot of Relevance to it and there's relevance to It in the news recently with the respect For marriage act that was passed and Links to um obergafelvi Hodges so There's a lot of different things where Again I could see the students being Interested in loving Um and then again where they may have a Background or a knowledge of brown they Can see how the equal protection Clause Could be applied in a lot of different Scenarios whether it's About desegregating schools or about Being able to marry the person that you Love so Um and truth be told I'm in an Interracial marriage so that's part of The reason why loving is is near and Dear to my heart Um but I thought again the kids would Really be um kids would all across the Country and find that to be an Interesting case So for listeners who are just hearing About these resources that you've Developed you've set up your FAQs with Three questions that students are to Consider when they're comparing the Cases and you've listed each document With parts a b and c and I'm I have the

Questions in front of me in case you Need them but can you walk us through What it is exactly that you're looking For in the students responses When Comparing the loving case with brown V Board you know with writing these Questions one of the things that I Thought was really important was also to Include a rubric and again I tried to Create the rubric uh very much like how The the College Board would do this so Again I modeled them very much after the Um the rubrics that I had when I was Grading those and so again with the Um the prompts that you would look at For these typically the the first prompt Is again looking at what's kind of the The clause or the the main idea about This so again what I would hope for the Loving one is loving question is that You know students would know okay I've Got to know you know equal protection of The law so on the rubric it would Basically spell out if you've put Um you know that you're going to get the Point Um and then when we start getting into Some of the other uh prompts the the B Prompt is really worth um two points And so again that's demonstrating uh Specifics about each individual case and So you would have to know you know here Are the you know demonstrable things That you would have to have uh in order

To get the point and then um for the Third one that's one again where I Modeled it based off of all of the Sample prompts that the College Board Has given us Um which is you know knowing you know if You were from an interest group Um how would you you know handle this or If if you were to have an amicus brief Or if you were to have Um you know be a member of Congress how Could you respond to this so there's a Lot of different threads on all of the Different frqs Um in this one again it was uh the the Loving one it was about how Supreme Court Justices might Um interpret the Constitution so in that Instance Um you know again looking at you know Where they could have disagreements on How they would interpret the Constitution how they would interpret Differences with race and ethnicity and So again it would be a demonstration of Understanding you know the how the Supreme Court could could change uh Decisions on voting rights or on University admissions but but basically Race-based uh decision making and so Looking at the structure of the Resources and through your teacher lens Uh can you talk about the effectiveness Of this review review tool that you

Developed and in thinking about new Teachers who are listening to this or Teachers who might be new to these any Tips on how they'd be able to Incorporate this frq or introduce it to Their students yeah definitely I think You know the more My Philosophy has Always been with the the AP US Gov exam Um half of the students score is their Writing and so I've tried to put over The last 15 or 16 years a lot of Different sample prompts some of them Are ones that the college boards Released and some of them are ones that I write and I just want them to start to Understand here's the level of thinking That you have to hit and then also Understanding some of the basic rules For writing free response questions you Know I've learned little like tips and Tricks through through AP conferences Like one of them is you know I read up On the board remember apbs which they Kind of chuckle at because they think it Means something different but it means Answer the prompt and be specific so They want to know specific elements uh To the answers for the questions and Then another one is RSVP which is Restate the language of the question in Your answer and vanish the pronouns Don't just say you know they could do This or it does that the the College Board readers need to know who are you

Talking about what are you talking about So the more sample questions you can Give students the better and I get it There's a lot of times you'd say I don't Have the time to to you know grade I've Got 150 students coming up next semester I don't have time to sit and grade Multiple you know frqs with 150 students So sometimes I give them in in groups or Sometimes I might give them a portion of One of the of the answers instead of all You know all three prompts But just the more opportunity and we'll Do them in large groups too but the more Opportunities you can do to to give them Uh to see these questions and to see how To write them I've seen a translation in You know better scores for my students Just from having those practice Opportunities it's definitely critical To you know as you're developing these Frqs Um To allow for that flexibility for for Teachers however they they choose to Employ these resources so definite kudos To you and and being creative on on how To address these cases and but shifting Gears a little bit changing cases from One that's near and dear to your heart To another one you mentioned as we were Preparing for this episode that you were Working on the Cooper V Aaron case with Your students this week for our

Listeners can you just give us a general Gist and overview of the major tenets of That case you yeah so Cooper versus Aaron I think you know a lot of American History classes will be teaching the Crisis at Central High School in little In Little Rock Arkansas and again when We're talking about Brownlee Board of Education Um you know in those brown two which Talks about desegregating with all Deliberate speed there was the the court Order in Little Rock to desegregate Um Central High School and so basically You know the the governor of Arkansas Didn't want to do it President Eisenhower mobilized the uh 101st Airborne to escort students to school The nine black students that have been Admitted to Central High School and Basically at the end of the school year The 101st Airborne was was redeployed And the governor of Arkansas went back To the the courts and said hey this last Year was just crazy and it was super Disruptive and and you know the the Federal government's not here anymore to Uh to escort these students can we Effectively re-segregate Um our schools and then go back to their Initial plan which was they wanted to do This in a couple of years couple a Couple of further years down the line to Then uh desegregate and um and the

Federal courts basically said no Um and and so you know the the state of Arkansas doesn't have the ability to Re-segregate Schools Federal Law takes Precedence so Um you know giving students some of Those examples of here's where Brown Went right to a case like Cooper V Aaron I think is interesting but then it gets Into you know another really important Clause students need to know which is The supremacy clause so when there is That disagreement between the federal Government the States you know if There's a compelling National interest Which Brown B Board of Education was the Federal Government wins so it was uh it Was interesting to do that but then to Tie it into you know McCulloch V Maryland which again is another favorite Of mine and it's there's never been an Frq on that one yet but um on that case But again where McCulloch V Maryland was Very much about the constitutionality of The bank Um and the supremacy of the federal Government over the state of Maryland I Thought it was kind of an easy tie-in Between those two Excellent yeah so before we go any Further we wanted to quickly set up the Significance of that case McCullough V Maryland and uh to do so we have a clip From law professor Mark killenbeck of

The University of Arkansas and here is Detailing why the decision in McCullough Uh was significant in solidifying the Federal government's ability to take Actions not explicitly mentioned in the Constitution and the significance of the Uh of that decision in restricting State Actions against what is deemed the Legitimate use of federal power let's Listen well it's it's a core piece of The current constitutional landscape we Talked about that earlier in terms of The deference to Congressional judgments About what is wise policy uh certainly The the notion that the states may not Impair the operation of the federal Government By taxation or anything else is very Important uh it it's just a central part Of the assumption that we have a what we Call a compound Republic within in Certain areas when the exercises its Prior properly the Supreme Court has Told us that the federal government is Supreme Okay so uh Ryan when you assign This frq review to your students later This week uh two things come to mind What will you be looking for in their Responses and we were wondering how have Your students been receptive to the frq Practices are they finding them helpful Um you know can you speak to that a Little bit yeah definitely when um and I've started assigning you know we're

Near the end of our semester here but One of the things that I look to through All the different types of frqs that I Assign Um are they making progress with their Writing are they understanding those Rules are they able to make those Connections uh do they understand you Know how many points each question is Worth and Um I've Just Seen tremendous growth from My students and it's really neat to just Hand them back that paper and then when They see those additional plus marks Maybe on that that first frq that I give Them they get maybe one or zero plus Marks indicating that they got the point And now at this point in the semester They've really kind of have gotten down And a lot of them are in a really good Writing Rhythm and they they are Understanding kind of the depth of the Um specificity that they have to hit on These cases and so you know yeah you Would expect that okay hey today we're Going to do a practice you know free Response question that there would be Groaning and eye rolls and you know Things but they actually I think Legitimately look forward to it so Um and I think again they know that These are going to help them and and That's really all that my students are Interested in that they if they

Understand if it's going to help me uh To be better prepared they're all for it Well I'm speaking about Um preparing students we currently have What you mentioned the eight frq Practices from college board influence With C-SPAN clips and then the Additional one that you've developed in The last few weeks Leads me to this next question are there Any other frq practices that are in the Hopper that you are planning on working On for us to feature on our future Resources page There definitely are Um with uh with our break coming up here Um after this Friday so I'll be on break For the next two weeks Um yeah there definitely are I've Thought about some for uh maybe Baker Versus like a gerrymandering one uh Baker versus Carr there's a there's a Few other things that I'll look to of The mandatory Supreme Court cases and See which ones are there you know maybe Not questions for either on C-Span or on Um on C-Span or on the College Board and I will try to fill those gaps so yeah I'd love to get a couple more done Probably two or three more done still This school year prior to the AP exam Wow yeah and Ron as we start to wrap up This week's episode we wanted to give You a final word so are there any other

Related resources you've found useful With your students that you'd like to Share with our listeners yeah definitely From from the um C-SPAN classroom if I Can toot the uh the Horn of C-SPAN Classroom there are definitely a lot of Um really great Bell ringers Um that are there I know I've used those In my AP US gov class and in my AP Comparative gov class I know um that's Been a really nice find to be able to Use some of the the comparative gov Things because again there's not a ton Of resources uh you know from even the College Board on that so uh being able To use those has been really helpful but Um those have been really helpful Um the the lesson plans always give Really good ideas Um and then again there's just some Other things in in each of the um you Know the AP government's uh page on C-Span classroom There are a lot of really beneficial Lesson ideas the classroom deliberations Are a really great resource as well Which again I think is is something That's an underutilized resource and one That I you know had told myself at the Beginning of the year I really want to Use those more Um but that's something that that Unfortunately hasn't happened this Semester but

Um I actually have had my my classes Working pretty extensively on their Student Camp projects and again that That would be another thing I would Recommend looking into for for other Teachers the C-SPAN student cam Documentary competition is a really Great opportunity for students to to Really put together basically an essay But in Um in video form and I've actually found A lot of really great links between the Student cam rubric of what the students Have to produce with the argument essay That they have to write for the AP usgov Exam so that was kind of one of the easy Selling points to my students like I Know this sounds crazy this is going to Help you to also be a better writer for That for that question and we're going To be re you know introducing all of Those elements coming up after after we Come back from our holiday break but Again having worked on the student Camp Project for the past several weeks I Think they'll be really in a good space To do well on those right that's Terrific and yeah we really want to Thank you again for being such a Wonderful member of that classroom Community and we appreciate your time Today oh it's my pleasure thank you so Much for having me from analyzing the Prompt to planning a response and from

Writing the explanation to proofreading For accuracy a lot of Blood Sweat and Tears often goes into preparing for and Completing the AP US government exam Both for the teacher and for the student But we hope that the resources we shared In this episode will prove fruitful to You and your class this spring and Beyond Make sure to stay on the lookout for Upcoming AP US Government and politics Cram for the exam review show which Typically airs the Saturday before the Test And you'll find all the resources we Highlighted in this episode and more on Our featured resources page at Www.cspan.org classroom and if you would Ever like to connect with our team to Learn more about what we have to offer To teachers and students please email us Anytime at educate at C hyphenspan.org And that's it for this this week please Remember to like and follow our podcast Wherever you listen so you don't miss Our next episode until then thanks for Joining us