BPD Update Online, Spring 2002
Breakthrough for BSW Programs
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Mary Ann Suppes
Marshall Smith

"...the CSWE Commission on Information Management and Research has voted to begin collecting the same data from BSW programs that it collects from MSW programs, beginning this year."

For many years the Council on Social Work Education has collected data annually on accredited MSW and BSW programs as well as programs in candidacy. But, did you know that the data collected differed across these programs? How or why this came into being is unclear. Once an annual data collection pattern is put into place it rarely changes significantly. To do so, of course, has considerable impact on the comparability of data across years, etc. Change just isn't easy, is it?

Well, the breakthrough that has occurred is that the CSWE Commission on Information Management and Research has voted to begin collecting the same data from BSW programs that it collects from MSW programs, beginning next year. It will also collect comparable data from programs in candidacy. This will mean that for the first time there will be a consistent database for social work education. Because information regarding field placements will become a part of the BSW data collected, information will become available for the first time about the fields of practice in which BSWs are being prepared. After next year, organizations concerned about social work manpower needs will have much clearer data to work from. This kind of data would potentially be useful to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, for example, for its projections on social work manpower needs. Imagine how useful this data could have been to the CSWE study funded by the Hartford Foundation that focused on social work resources for the field of gerontology! The NASW studies by Gibelman & Schervish that resulted in the late 1990s publications, Who We Are and Who We Are: A Second Look, provided data about employment of social workers that was widely used. That data, however, represented only NASW members of whom less than 5% were BSWs.

While field experiences do not necessarily turn into employment, they do provide some sense of which fields of practice students are attracting students and providing early practice exposure to students. Our profession has long been without comprehensive information on people coming into the social work labor force. The action of the Commission on Information Management and Research (CIMR) will change that.

Will this change mean more work for BSW program directors? Yes, it will mean keeping data on field placements, numbers of applicants to the program, the number of part-time students (in addition to the same data now provided on full-time students), and some data on the financial assistance provided to social work majors. The ethnicity designations formerly used by CSWE will be changed somewhat in the new annual statistics forms.

What prompted this move? CSWE's three major databases (accreditation, membership, and the annual statistics) are in the process of being merged--a huge job! Not only are they being merged, but for the first time, the database is electronic (MS Access). There are appropriate security measures attached to any information that is confidential or sensitive, and the electronic format for collecting data will guide programs through a process making it virtually impossible to enter conflicting information anymore. CIMR has been working with Todd Lennon and Ann Johnson from CSWE to provide input into the merger and to subsequently develop policies and procedures that will make portions of the vast database available to social work researchers. Marshall Smith and Mary Ann Suppes, representing baccalaureate programs, encouraged the Commission to take on the task of collecting comparable data across social work education programs. The CSWE database merger created a splendid opportunity to begin this long overdue collection of truly significant and highly relevant data from BSW programs.

Committee Reports are next...

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