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NDBSWE Call-to-Action

RE: ASWB Licensure Testing

NASW-North Dakota

NDBSWE Call-to-Action

In August 2022, the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) released its 2022 ASWB Exam Pass Rate Analysis: Final Report which provided data on US and Canadian test-taker participation and performance on the ASWB social work licensing exams between 2011 and 2021 (with a particular focus on two time periods, 2011 to 2021 and 2018 to 2021). The Final Report reviews performance on five social work exams: Associate, Bachelors, Masters, Advanced Generalist, and Clinical.

As the Final Report notes, the proportion of test-takers from historically marginalized communities (defined as those reporting their race/ethnicity as Asian, Black, Hispanic/Latino, multiracial, or Native American/Indigenous peoples) increased from 2011 to 2021, but differences were observed in pass rates among racial/ethnic subgroups, as well as in pass rates among age and language subgroups. For example, during the 2018–2021 time period:

● First-time pass rates on the Bachelors exam were highest for white test-takers, averaging 76.2 percent, followed by multiracial (73.5 percent), Native American/Indigenous peoples (63.6 percent), Asian (59.6 percent), Hispanic/Latino (52.8 percent), and Black (33.3 percent) (Final Report, p. 35).

● First-time pass rates on the Masters exam averaged 85.8 percent for white test takers, followed by multiracial (80 percent), Asian (71 percent), Native American/Indigenous peoples (64.4 percent), Hispanic/Latino (63 percent), and Black (44.5 percent) (p. 25).

● First-time pass rates on the Clinical exam were 80.1 percent for test-takers between the ages of 18 and 29, 77.7 percent for those between the ages of 30 and 39, 68.5 percent for those between the ages of 40 and 49, and 62.8 percent for those 50 years and older (p. 16).

● First-time pass rates on the Masters exam were 75.1 percent for test-takers whose primary language was English and 57.2 percent for those whose primary language was not English (p. 28).

In addition to the US/Canada aggregate data in the Final Report, ASWB released state-specific pass rate data for the period 2011-2021. In North Dakota, the first-time pass rate on the Bachelors exam for Hispanic/Latino test takers was 69.2%, the first-time pass rate was 56.1% for Native American/Indigenous, and was 47.6% for Black test takers -- compared to 80.9%, for white test takers. On the Masters exam, first-time pass rate was 75% for Multiracial test takers, 69.6% for Native American/Indigenous, 64.3% for Hispanic/Latino, 57.1% for Black test takers, and 90% for white test takers.

Many factors may contribute to the disparity in pass rates, both nationally and in North Dakota. But until these factors are more fully researched, understood, and addressed, there is little doubt that the disparities will continue to exist, and North Dakota will continue to experience a serious and unfortunate shortage of licensed social workers from diverse groups.

The Washington D.C. office of the National Association of Social Workers released a statement on February 3, 2023articulating its opposition to the ASWB social work licensing exams and emphasizing its commitment to “working closely with its partners to propose innovative solutions that reduce harm and increase diversity at all levels of social work practice.” The statement also noted that “these efforts will initially target removal of non-independent social work practice exams [LBSW and LMSW] which may be biased, and support efforts to strengthen competency measures.”

Given the findings from the ASWB Report, NASW-ND takes the position that continued use of the current ASWB exams to measure social work competency runs counter to the mission, values, and ethics of the social work profession. Therefore, the position of NASW-ND coincides with that of NASW National:

NASW-ND opposes the use of the ASWB social work licensure exam.

NASW-ND Advocacy Committee and Board of Directors calls for the North Dakota Board of Social Work Examiners (NDBSWE) to take actionable steps to remove the social work licensure exam requirement for licensed BSW and MSW social workers.

Proposed timeline for the NDBSWE during their regularly scheduled meetings:

● June 11: Tuesday, 8:30 am

○ Review NASW-ND Advocacy Committee recommendations on the removal of the licensure exam and adopting an aligned NDBSWE stance.

● July 17: Wednesday, 12:00 pm

○ Vote on removing the licensure exam.

● September 10: Tuesday, 8:30 am

○ Develop language to present to the North Dakota Administrative Rules Committee. This includes having proposed language for the ND Administrative Rules Committee before the 2025 Legislative Session.

NASW-ND advocates for the removal of the licensure exam requirement at the LBSW and LMSW levels to the North Dakota Board of Social Work Examiners (NDBSWE) and encourages all North Dakota social workers to do the same. NASW-ND will continue conversations on the best course of action for the LCSW exam requirement.



NASW-ND Board of Directors

President, Craig Burns

Members: Mindi Bessler, Stephanie Schramm-Little, Lilisa Reese, Heather Gibbens, Kristen Fischer, Jennie Cornell, Karlie Miers, Elizabeth Muralt, Lucas Walz

NASW-ND Advocacy Committee

Chair, Tricia Berg

Members: Amy Phillips, Hilary Hafner, Stephanie Schramm-Little, Candice Randolph, Luke Walz, Safari Berry


Kristin Rubbelke, NASW-ND Executive Director; Jenna Bieber, NASW-ND Membership and Communications Coordinator

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