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