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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

DOES SWEAR SUPPORT NO LICENSURE?

No. We support equitable licensure. Licensure does not need to be based on exam scores, especially
exams that are discriminatory and lack evidence that they are related to actual practice.

DON'T EXAMS PROTECT THE PUBLIC?

No! This idea is based on the presumption that passing the exams is related to more ethical and
effective practice. However, there is no evidence that this relationship exists. There is much more
evidence that indicates ongoing validity problems with the exams (see, for example, Albright & Thyer,
2010 or Apgar & Luquet, 2022).
 

DON'T OTHER MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONS HAVE LICENSING EXAMS?

Yes, but social workers lack parity with like professions, none of which have four different national exams that apply to three different levels of licensure. There is only one national exam required to be a licensed Marriage and Family Counselor, Art Therapist, Professional Counselor, and Psychologist. The redundancy and quantity of social work exams places unnecessary burden on practitioners, resulting in huge and wasteful expenses of money and time

HOW DO WE KNOW THAT SOCIAL WORK EXAMS ARE BIASED?

The available evidence strongly suggests exam bias and major validity problems. The huge exam outcome disparities by race, age, and native language do not reflect academic outcomes or the reality of the practice. Additionally, there is recent research that uncovers several racial microaggressions embedded in exam questions. We also know that ASWB does not follow the best practice methodological standards laid out by the National Council on Measurement in Education. ASWB has been unwilling for decades to make appropriate data available for outside research and verification.

COULDN'T THE EXAM DATA BE RELATED TO THE QUALITY OF THE SCHOOL OF SOCIAL WORK A PERSON ATTENDED?

While there are some exceptions, racial, age, and other disparities are persistent and consistent nationwide, across schools of social work. Even in schools that have students with higher overall passing rates, the disparities remain. This suggests that the disparities have more to do with the exams than they do with the quality of education.

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF ELIMINATING THE EXAM?

First, it would create parity with other related professions, which only require one national
standardized exam for licensure. Regarding the higher level clinical exam, providing an effective,
human-based alternative assessment would more accurately assess practice quality, protect the public,
and prevent future discriminatory impact on independent clinical practice.

 

Second, in the context of the COVID pandemic, we are experiencing a severe shortage of mental health
workers to meet current need. Eliminating the initial exams will immediately increase the social work
workforce, providing communities with additional diverse, capable, well-trained practitioners.

 

Third, eliminating the initial exams addresses the clear racism, ageism, and systemic discrimination
that the exams represent. The alarming outcome disparities, along with ongoing issues of validity,
means that the exams are needlessly perpetuating inequality, keeping numerous Black, Indigenous,
and other social workers of color from making a living and advancing in their profession. Social work,
and our communities, stands to benefit immensely from a more diverse network of professionals.

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