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2019 High School Essay Contest: Information for Teachers

SEPARATION OF POWERS, CHECKS AND BALANCES, 2019 High School Essay Contest

2019 High School Essay Contest:
Information for Teachers

This guide provides information for teachers as to how the essay prompt aligns with the Florida high school curriculum standards and how teachers may promote the essay contest to their students.

The contest rules, submission requirements, and deadlines are available on the Middle District’s website at www.flmd.uscourts.gov.

Promoting Student Participation and Interest

We hope you will encourage your students to participate in the 2019 essay contest. The top three winners’ teachers will receive a $500 classroom grant. Accordingly, if your students participate, they may ask for your contact information to include in their online contest entry form. In promoting the essay contest to your students, you may want to review with them or direct them to the contest rules, regulations, and deadlines, and emphasize the following benefits:

  • Cash prizes for the top ten winners.
     
  • Classroom grants for teachers of the top three winners.
     
  • Recognition ceremony in the ceremonial courtroom at the Bryan Simpson United States Courthouse.
     
  • Opportunity to shadow a federal judge.
     
  • Opportunity to create a writing sample for college and scholarship applications.
     
  • Opportunity to expand civic knowledge regarding the structure of the United States government by looking at history and/or current events.
 
Essay Prompt

The Founding Fathers created a "divided government" by separating important powers among each of the three branches – executive, legislative, and judicial. To prevent any one branch from becoming too powerful, the Framers established a system of checks and balances. Some argue, however, the concepts of separation of powers and checks and balances undermine the government's ability to swiftly and decisively respond to problems facing the nation.

Identify a historical or current event that exemplifies the concepts of separation of powers and checks and balances. Drawing on primary sources, evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of a "divided government."

How Does the Essay Prompt Align with the Florida High School Curriculum?

The essay prompt is designed to align with several English Language Arts and Social Studies/Civics and Government CPALMS standards, as referenced below (scoring of essays).

How Will the Essays Be Scored?

The essays will be judged by lawyers and judges in the Jacksonville Division. Their decisions will be final. The essay graders will evaluate the essays based on the following four categories, which directly align with CPALMS standards as indicated:

  • Understanding of legal principles
    • An above average essay will demonstrate a solid understanding of separation of powers and checks and balances (CPALMS standards SS912.C.1.5 and SS912.C.3.15).
       
  • Identification of a historical or current event that exemplifies the concepts of separation of powers and checks and balances.
    • An above average essay will effectively identify and describe a germane example from either history or current news that embodies separation of powers and checks and balances principles (CPALMS standards SS912.C.1.5; SS912.C.3.15; LAFS.910.W.1.2; LAFS.1112.W.1.2).
       
  • Clarity and effectiveness of analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of a "divided government."
    • An above average essay will convey a competent and well-developed thesis, arguing how the selected example represents the strengths and weaknesses of a government based on separation of powers and checks and balances (CPALMS standards SS912.C.1.5; SS912.C.3.15; LAFS.910.W.1.1; LAFS.910.W.1.2; LAFS.910.WHST.3.9; LAFS.1112.W.1.1; LAFS.1112.W.1.2; LAFS.1112.W.3.9; LAFS.1112.WHST.1.1).
       
  • Grammar, spelling, and composition.
    • An above average essay will contain few to no punctuation, spelling and/or capitalization errors and use precise, topic-appropriate language and vocabulary (CPALMS standards LAFS.910.W.1.1; LAFS.910.W.1.2; LAFS.1112.W. 1.1; LAFS.1112.W. 1.2; LAFS.1112.WHST.1.1).
 
Students' Use of Suggested Primary Resources

Teachers should note that the Supreme Court cases and Federalist Papers listed on the contest website are challenging for even the most advanced of readers. Law students struggle when first reading these cases, and seasoned attorneys find that they must read these cases with close focus and attention. Therefore, your students can certainly seek out summaries or descriptions of the referenced material to assist in their understanding of the referenced cases and other documents. Likewise, students are not limited to the suggested primary resources.

2019 High School Essay Contest Resources

Contest Home Page

Contest Rules

Essay Prompt

Essay Submission