The National Archives at Seattle

Washington State: Classroom Based Assessment(CBA)

Links to Primary Documents at the National Archives and Records Administration

10th-11th Grade

Checks and Balances (Civics)

Student assignment:

In a persuasive paper or presentation, you will:

  1. Select an event and explain how the branches of the state or federal government exercised constitutional powers during this event.
  2. Explain the checks or possible checks available to the branches of government during this event.
  3. Analyze whether the system of checks and balances was effective in this example.

Primary source documents from "Our Documents, 100 Milestone Source Documents from the National Archives and Records Administration," relating to this Classroom Based Assessment [CBA]:

Important notes for using this section:

  • Following each sub-topic is a list representing specific documents that are believed to best illustrate a topic. Each document is linked to an interactive digital copy of the record itself, complete with description, background information and teaching suggestions, from the "Our Documents" web site The transcribed copy is for your convenience and for students having difficulty reading handwriting. All pages can be easily downloaded and/or printed. Just click on the document title and it will take you to the specific "Our Documents" page.

Sample Topics and Associated Primary Sources:

Development of Checks and Balances

Examples of Supreme Court Cases Demonstrating the Process of Judicial Review and the Way that Decisions can Change Over Time

Other Examples of Checks and Balances

Associated Washington State Standards {EALR}

  • Civics 2.1.3a: Examine and explain the constitutional principles that establish and limit government.
  • Civics 2.1.3b: Analyze problems and solutions related to the distribution of power between the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government.
  • Social Studies Skills 1.1.3d: Evaluate reliability, credibility, and validity of information from a variety of social studies sources.


EALR Scoring
(*for additional levels, see OSPI Scoring Rubric)
Civics 2.1.3a *at highest level... Accurately explains how three branches of government exercised constitutional powers in this event
Accurately explains the checks (or possible checks) in regard to this event with at least three specific examples.
Civics 2.1.3b *at highest level... Presents a clearly stated, plausible position analyzing whether the system of checks and balances worked in this event, with at least three clearly explained reasons.
Social Studies Skills 1.1.3d *at highest level... Annotated bibliography includes a variety of resources from multiple perspectives. Annotations discuss reliability and credibility and show validity through comparison of resources. Annotations include the information that was useful to the development of your research.

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