Tim Rockey teaches twelfth-grade A.P. Government and Politics at Sunnyslope High School. Located in north-central Phoenix, Sunnyslope straddles high- and low-income neighborhoods close to the city's center. The student population reflects the diversity in the surrounding urban communities: Roughly half of the students are minorities and many are recent immigrants. Sunnyslope sponsors a strong peer leadership program to enhance student interaction and build community life. Approximately one-quarter of the students at Sunnyslope elect to enroll in advanced placement classes, and there is currently a waiting list for students who want to attend the school.
Twelfth-grade government is a social studies requirement in Arizona, and Mr. Rockey structured the units in his class based on the advanced placement frameworks for teaching government. He began the year with a unit on the American electorate, which coincided with the national and local elections that were taking place that fall. Students participated in opinion polls for the governor, mayor, and state representatives. They also published a newspaper called The Voter's Guide. This involved studying the electoral issues on Arizona's long ballot, writing an editorial about one of the ballot issues, helping print the newspaper, and distributing it to every household in the surrounding communities. (The Voter's Guide gained such strong recognition in the local area that candidates actually bought ads in the publication.)
Following a unit on the American electorate, students studied the Constitution, policy-making, Congress, the presidency, and the judiciary. The class also participated in the state's mock trial. By the end of the year, when Mr. Rockey's students began the lesson on gender-based distinctions, they had a solid grasp of the different branches of government; the role of each branch in establishing, executing, and enforcing laws; and their own responsibilities as citizens of the United States.
In "Gender-based Distinctions," Mr. Rockey used civil rights legislation and court rulings to teach students how individual rights are established and protected, and promoted civil discourse of the controversial issues surrounding civil rights. The lesson concluded with group presentations and a class discussion. The class then moved on to the unit Comparative Governments, in which they compared American civil rights and laws to those of other countries.
Lesson Background >>