The Examination for the Professional Practice of Psychology: An Examination of Convergent and Discriminant Validity

Project Title: The Examination for the Professional Practice of Psychology: An Examination of Convergent and Discriminant Validity

Project Lead: Samantha Saldaña, M.S.

UNT IRB#: IRB-21-653

Funding Source: via a gift from the Lupe Murchison Foundation (Drs. Callahan and Ruggero, co-PIs)

Study Status: In progress

Study Description: The Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP) was developed in 1964 (Fretz & Mills, 1980) and remains a requirement for licensure in psychology in the United States. This requirement includes all 50 states and three territories, as well as nine Canadian provinces (Schaffer et al., 2013). The EPPP serves to assess breadth and depth of knowledge in psychology in eight primary areas: biological bases, cognitive-affective, social and cultural, growth and lifespan development, assessment and diagnosis, treatment, intervention, and prevention, research and statistics, and finally ethical/legal/professional issues (ASPPB, 2020). EPPP test developers focus extensively on content validity, but concern has been raised that there may be a lack of attention to the need for predictive or criterion validation (Callahan et al., 2020; Sharpless & Barber, 2009). Extant research reveals numerous findings suggesting inadequate attention to validation. The EPPP has a documented history of linguistic bias, favoring native English fluency (Callahan et al., 2020; Callahan et al., 2021). In a highly visible exchange, the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards (ASPPB) developed a bilingual Spanish EPPP (S-EPPP) as part of an agreement with Puerto Rico when the territory became a member of ASPPB (Law 281-2012). Preparation of the S-EPPP was rushed, stakeholders were not involved, and validation process was not adequate (Law 183-2015). These considerations resulted in an exam with an unusually high failure rate that negatively affected the workforce (Law 183-2015). As a result, the S-EPPP has since been discontinued (ASPPB, 2016). Rather than fixing this problem, the solution to date has been to simply not require the exam in locations where other languages predominant, including Puerto Rico and Quebec (ASPPB, 2020; Callahan et al., 2021). That strategy though is problematic for those residing elsewhere with English as a second language. In Texas, as just one example, more than 20% of 2019-2020 students in public grade schools were enrolled in bilingual and English language learning programs (The Texas Tribute, 2019). As these students advance and pursue higher education, including doctoral training in psychology, language biases are of concern. Research utilizing the Freedom of Information Act offers further evidence of bias within the existing the EPPP. Drawing data from a dense and diverse state, Sharpless (2019) found that minorities, particularly Blacks and Hispanic candidates, score lower on the EPPP than their white majority peers. The failure rate for Black and Hispanic applicants was also found to be much higher, 2.5 times higher, than the rate for Whites. In fact, minority applicants fell below an 80% pass rate, the threshold for the four fifths rule, when utilizing white applicants as the reference group. The four-fifths rule is a conventional rule of thumb for determining if discrimination is taking place (APA, 2020). In other words, if an employer is hiring a protected group at a rate less than four-fifths the rate of a majority group, the employer may be engaged, intentionally or unwittingly, in systematic discrimination (APA, 2020). On the side of unwitting discrimination as explanatory, the EPPP does not inquire about demographic information prior to administering the exam (Sharpless & Barber, 2009). Yet, ignorance does not excuse poor outcomes. The standards for education and psychological testing, developed by the American Educational Research Association (AERA), explicitly task test developers with minimizing construct-irrelevant variance (AERA, APA, & NCME, 2014). Unfortunately, the question of whether EPPP score variability is accounted for by construct-relevant variance, construct-irrelevant variance, and/or random variance remains unanswered (Sharpless, 2019). Ms. Saldaña’s study is examining the convergent and discriminant validity of the EPPP by (1) drawing archival competency assessment data from existing measures (convergent validity) and (2) gathering new neurocognitive and emotional intelligence data, along with demographic data, from individuals who have recently taken the EPPP. Given the gatekeeping role the EPPP plays in the profession of psychology, external validation of the EPPP is of vital importance.