State Examinations as Social Policy: Factors Influencing New York State Regents Social Studies Examinations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Teaching and Leadership


John Mallan


Curriculum, Structures of Disciplines, Reforms

Subject Categories



This policy study examines the development process of the New York State Social Studies Regents examinations by focusing on indicators for the 1960s social studies reforms. The questions addressed in this study are: (1) Does social studies knowledge, as reflected on the Regents examinations, reflect a social science emphasis because of the 1960s reforms? (2) Do certain characteristics of the teachers who write examination questions correlate with their content emphasis? (3) What influence does the bureaucratic "machinery" of state curriculum development have upon the examinations? (4) What influence does the different nature of history and social science knowledge have on the examinations?

Data was gathered: (a) from Regents examinations at five year intervals, starting with 1958; (b) from the 1983 examination creation process; and, (c) from qualitative and quantitative survey data elicited from the 31 teacher-writers and State Education Personnel while this researcher was an intern at the New York State Bureau of Social Studies. A Content Question Rating Guide was developed in this study to categorize questions according to: (1) discipline area, (2) socialization use, (3) verification type, and (4) conceptual function. Six raters placed approximately 1500 questions into one or more of these categories.

Findings of this report show that: (1) Over twenty-five years, social science has gradually increased, history and civics have decreased. Because of less history content, the examination is less socialization oriented. (2) The State examination development process functions as a "check and balance" system to maintain the original content submitted by teachers; (3) Specific teacher characteristics relate to writing certain kinds of content, and (4) The vocabulary of social studies content appears to have changed because of the social science reforms; however, an analysis of its epistemology (nature of knowledge) suggests the changes were mainly cosmetic rather than substantive.

Academic reforms in education are difficult because of education's traditional socialization purpose. Such a function is supported through a tacit understanding among teachers and State Education personnel. The responsibility for educational change is placed upon teacher training institutions and their impact upon teachers world views.


Surface provides description only. Full text is available to ProQuest subscribers. Ask your Librarian for assistance.