Discovering ASWB Licensing Exam Pass Rates, By State and School

As described in another post, my inquiries into the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) led to the conclusion that ASWB was withholding a great deal of information on important matters, including the rates at which people passed its various licensing exams. According to a document from the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE, 2013), the ASWB form on which schools could request their graduates’ ASWB exam pass rates specifically prohibited schools from sharing the information obtained through such requests:

This information shall not be . . . disseminated to students or prospective students in any way.

That CSWE document stated, however, that ASWB removed this restriction in 2012. The rationale for that change has not been made public. Given ASWB’s continuing reluctance to yield other information as described in that other post, however, it appears likely that the restriction was removed in response to complaints or other pressure from schools or state licensing authorities, not as part of a newly commenced policy of openness at ASWB.

Working Around ASWB Obscurantism

For whatever reason, as of this writing two years later, it remained difficult to obtain basic information about ASWB exam pass rates. Until ASWB lives up to its role and shares its data in an appropriate manner, it seems that people needing information will have to develop it in some other way.

This post offers a response. It seemed that some might find it helpful to view data and links to sites providing more detailed information on ASWB exam pass rates. Readers are encouraged to use data tables provided below, and to conduct searches like those suggested here, to obtain and share links to webpage and other documents stating pass rates for their states and their schools of social work (SSWs).

The idea for this post began with a review of research published by Bruce Thyer at Florida State University. As noted in that other post, Thyer used his state’s “sunshine” law (which some called a freedom of information act (FOIA), like the federal FOIA) to obtain current and historical ASWB exam pass rates at all of Florida’s SSWs. It seemed, then, that a starting point would be a Google search for information obtained under various states’ sunshine laws. That particular search yielded disappointing results; it appeared that few others had made similar requests. At this point, then, the starting point appeared to be to identify states with sunshine laws, and to encourage readers to make inquiries (in their own states or elsewhere). Thyer characterized his own inquiry in these words:

Individual social work licensure boards have the ability to obtain LCSW pass rate data for all MSW programs within their jurisdiction, and thus as in Florida and some other states, once this information is obtained by a governmental agency, like the Florida Department of Professional Regulation, under the provisions of the state’s sunshine law, it must be provided to individuals who request it. In April of 2009 I made such a request of the Florida Department of Professional Regulation, asking that they provide me with the LCSW pass rates for all Florida MSW programs, for the past several years. In a few weeks I was mailed this information.

So it appeared that a FOIA or sunshine law request might ask for information on ASWB Masters and Clinical exam pass rates for graduates of each MSW program within the state over for the past three to five years. A search for information on various states’ sunshine laws led to a Ballotpedia map providing information on who could make such information requests, what could be requested, and so forth. Other sources providing similar guidance included the National Freedom of Information Coalition, FOIAdvocates, and PBS.

In addition to the approach of making a request for information on ASWB pass rates, there was the option of searching for information that others might have already obtained through FOIA requests or by direct purchase from ASWB. I used variations on a generic search, and other miscellaneous sources I had found, to assemble a start to the collection. Note that, at this starting point, the tables on state and school data provide just a few illustrations from the hundreds that could be added.

Technical Notes

Links in the following tables indicate sources. (Correction: until I find a better format for displaying tables, the links don’t work.)

Associates and Advanced Generalist data are left out of some tables due to the small total numbers of such exams given. In some cases, blank rows are left out where no data are available. Although some sources refer to “North American” rather than “All” exam administrations, the number of administrations outside of North America is believed to be negligible. Data that appear sketchy or restated (as distinct from tables provided directly by ASWB) tend not to be included in these tables, except for purposes of providing links for further information.

ASWB indicates that groups of fewer than 100 test-takers are not representative, which means they should not be used as a basis for generalization; more aptly, a group of 99 test-takers is more likely to be representative than is a group of 12 test-takers. ASWB suggests that the best indication of a true pass rate is the first-time rather than the combination of first-time and repeat rates, but that is not quite right: from the perspective of the individual test-taker, the best indication would be based on final outcomes to date for all test-takers, regardless of how many times they have taken the test — but ASWB does not provide that.

Click to enlarge tables.

Again, a generic search may be quickly edited to permit searches specific to a single state or program. If you do find data not provided here, please provide links to sources. Also, feel free to add comments, questions, and corrections.

Total Numbers of Exam Takers and Their Pass Rates

All First-Time Exam Takers

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All First-Time and Repeat Exam Takers

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First-Time and Repeat Exam Takers, By State

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First-Time and Repeat Exam Takers, by School

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