The following letter from the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) was sent to all social work schools, programs and social work regulators on October 3, 2022.
As you know, CSWA has taken a stand on the recent ASWB report which noted alarming, disparate pass rates between white and Black MSWs, as well as between younger and older MSWs and between English speaking and bilingual MSWs (the whole position paper can be found here: https://www.clinicalsocialworkassociation.org/Announcements/12908309). While we believe that a Clinical Examination must be kept in place and that the CSWE recommendation that new MSWs no longer take the examination for new graduates be carefully reviewed, we are actively working toward engaging social work stakeholders and identifying viable and equitable solutions to this critical issue.
Please let us know if you have any questions about the ASWB controversy and/or recommendations about how to address these disparities.
Kendra Roberson, PhD, LICSW, President
Clinical Social Work Association
Laura Groshong, LICSW, Director, Policy and Practice
Clinical Social Work Association
October 3, 2022
As president and chief executive officer of the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), I write to you on behalf of social work education programs across the country. As you are likely aware, the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) recently released a report documenting examination pass rates across different levels of the social work profession.
Although the data needs further analysis, the descriptive statistics suggest alarming disparities for exam takers in several categories. The most egregious disparity impacts Black test takers. In addition, Indigenous, and other People of Color also pass at lower rates than White test takers; those that speak English as a second language pass at lower rates than native English speakers; and older test-takers pass at lower rates than younger ones.
Given that the ASWB exam is the only national licensing examination available, these data raise grave concern that the need for a diverse health, behavioral health, and social service workforce (of which social workers are a considerable portion of providers1) is being significantly impeded.
As the national body for social work education in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Guam, the CSWE urges you to:
a. Suspend the use of the ASWB exam until a thorough analysis has been completed which will suggest evidenced based recommendations to correct for inequities.
b. Consider graduation from a CSWE Accredited social work education program evidence of beginning competence to practice social work as a professional social worker (granting all graduates licensure or pre-licensure status).
c. The only exception to the above involves the license to practice clinical social work. CSWE supports the need for a post-graduate process to license practice at this level, however if the ASWB exam remains central to this process, further analysis of the descriptive data must also occur for this category to identify possible issues.
d. Consider the action taken by the state of Illinois (January 1, 2022) through the Public Act 102-0326, whereby a licensing examination is no longer required for licensure as an Illinois Licensed Social Worker (LSW).
e. Consider decoupling the Interstate Compact, currently in development, from the ASWB licensure exam.
Thank you for your consideration. I would be happy to engage with you further about the concerns and/or recommendations I offer.
Darla Spence Coffey, PhD, MSW
President and Chief Executive Officer
1 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (bls.gov) 2020 report indicates there are 715,600 social workers that work in Child, Family, School, Healthcare, Mental Health, and Substance abuse treatment settings.
PO Box 105Granville, Ohio 43023