Steven DeMers, EdD, Chief Executive officer of the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards (ASPPB), spoke as a guest at the regular meeting of the Louisiana State Board of Examiners of Psychologists, held Friday, April 20, 2018 at the public library in Baton Rouge.
Along with board members, Drs. Kim VanGeffen, Marc Zimmerman, Alan Coulter and Greg Gormanous also attended the public meeting and ASPPB presentation. Concerns about price, validity and need for the test, were reported by several of those attending.
Dr. DeMers presented information on the expansion of the licensing exam, the Examination for the Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP) a topic that has garnered criticism from various directions.
ASPPB had announced in late 2017 that its previous plan for an optional, “Step 2” section to the national exam for psychologists was no longer going to be optional. The additional test would now be mandatory and the price will go from the current $600 to $1200.
Kim VanGeffen, Past-President of Louisiana Psychological Association (LPA) and currently Director and Chair of the Professional Affairs Committee for LPA, attended the presentation. She said that Dr. DeMers and others are travelling around the country with their slide show and that, if there were concerns expressed or if problems arise with the beta testing, they might postpone the implementation of this new test.
“Dr. DeMers acknowledged that, currently,” VanGeffen told the Times, “there is not really any research on the validity of the EPPP2, “The EPPP2 committee believes that this exam has face validity and content validity,” she said. “They are satisfied that these types of validity are acceptable for the EPPP2. There do not seem to be any plans to obtain predictive validity nor does the EPPP2 committee believe that establishing this type of validity is necessary,” VanGeffen said.
“I was most impressed with how everyone in attendance who asked questions or offered comments is opposed to this exam due to its cost, concerns about its necessity, and concerns about its validity.”
Asked what if anything concerned her, VanGeffen said, “I am concerned that the EPPP2 will be forced on states. As it stands now, states will be required to use both parts or will not be able to use any of the EPPP. Concern was also expressed that ASPPB has an agenda to eliminate the post doctoral supervision year and oral exams which are required for licensure in some states,” she said.
“ASPPB is planning to do a study to compare how people score on the second part of the EPPP when it is taken prior to the post doctoral supervision year with those people who take the exam after the post doctoral supervision year,” Dr. VanGeffen said. “ASPPB believes that if there is no difference in scores on the EPPP2 whether you take it before or after your post doctoral supervision year, it will bolster their case that the additional year of supervision is not needed.”
““There is, however, another way to view such a potential finding,” she said. “That is, if there is no difference in scores from the two groups, the EPPP2 may not really be assessing competence. It would also seem that ASPPB might better convince states that the EPPP2 is truly assessing competence by doing research comparing test performance of beginning psychologists with psychologists five years out and ten years out in practice.”
Dr. Alan Coulter also attended the public meeting. He said that the LSBEP members appeared skeptical about Louisiana’s need to adopt these changes in order to ensure quality of psychologists serving the public.
“LSBEP members,” he noted, “expressed a need for substantial evidence from ASPPB that any additions to the current examination would add significant value to the state board’s current methodology for determining the fitness of candidates for licensure.”
Dr. VanGeffen echoed this, “Another concern is that the current EPPP may not be of much validity. There is data that the further out someone gets from their graduate school coursework the less likely they are to pass the current EPPP,” she said.
Dr. Marc Zimmermann, past LSBEP board member and Chair of the LPA Medical Psychology Committee, said, “I think the idea of measuring a professional’s skills before turning him/her lose on the public is a good idea. I do not think this attempt hits the mark,” he said. “When the Board does oral examinations we come closer to this by allowing the person to provide reasoning for their projected behaviors.”
“He [Dr. DeMers] stated that there is no predictive validity,” said Zimmermann. “He also threw in that none of the national tests had predictive validity. He reported that content validity was the accepted standard because a test with predictive validity could not be constructed.”
“It seemed to me that it was a c.y.a. and sales effort. He [Dr. DeMers] addressed the questions of why they changed from an optional second part of the EPPP to a mandatory component,” Dr. Zimmermann said.
“He did not say it, but reading between the lines, I think there was resistance to the second part and this is how they plan to implement their will. He said several times that they were just a vendor, but they have put themselves in the position of being the only vendor.”
Through 2016 and 2017 objections to the EPPP Step 2 mounted, mostly from student and early career psychologist organizations.
Last year in Louisiana, Dr. Amy Henke, then a Director on the Executive Council of the Louisiana Psychological Association and Co-Chair of the LPA Early Career Psychologists Committee, put forth a Resolution to oppose the Step 2 for Louisiana, which passed unanimously. Dr. Henke is now serving on the state psychology board.
Objections, from Henke and others, involve technical and scientific issues, but also the criticism that there is no problem that needs to be solved. “There is no evidence that the public is facing some sort of previously unheard of crisis in terms of safety from currently practicing psychologists,” said Dr. Amy Henke for an earlier interview.
Asked why ASPPB came to Louisiana Dr. Zimmermann said, “I think they are on a sales tour and hitting the states that are the squeakiest wheels.”
What impressed him most about the presentation? “That DeMers had the temerity to try to sell us something that does not meet the standard that psychological tests being published are expected to have,” said Dr. Zimmermann.