Dental Board of California Proposes Rulemaking that would Change Licensing Examination Criteria

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By Dimitri Davis

On April 23, 2021, the Dental Board of California (DBC) published notice of its intent to amend section 1031, Title 16 of the California Code of Regulations (CCR), to establish the definition of successful results of the California Dentistry Law and Ethics Examination by regulation. The Board finds that this proposal is necessary to ensure the legal defensibility of the Board’s California Dentistry Law and Ethics Examination.

According to the initial statement of reasons, the proposed rulemaking is intended to ensure that all applicants who pass the licensure examination have sufficient knowledge and experience to practice safely and competently. According to the Board’s notice, the examination, as it currently exists, requires a score of 75% to pass. This proposed amendment clarifies that merely completing the administration of the examination does not constitute passing, and adopts a criterion-referenced passing score. Specifically, the proposed language changes the definition from “successfully complete” to “achieve a criterion-referenced passing score” in regards to the licensure examination. As used in this section, ‘criterion-referenced passing score’ is a specified point in a distribution of scores at or above which candidates have achieved entry-level competence.

The Board further explains in the initial statement of reasons that because licensing examinations can vary in difficulty from one examination to the next, a fixed passing score or percentage such as 75%, “does not represent the minimally acceptable competence for all administrations of an examination.” By applying a criterion-referenced methodology, a passing score is lowered for an examination containing more difficult questions and raised for an examination containing fewer difficult items.

In 2018, the Department of Consumer Affairs Office of Professional Examination Services (OPES) completed an occupational analysis of the dental profession in California. Based on those findings, the Board, during its February 7, 2019 meeting, voted to ensure that its licensure examination was up to date by using a criterion-referenced passing score instead of a specified particular passing score. During the Board’s meeting on August 14, 2020, it approved the revised regulatory language.

DBC anticipates a minimal fiscal impact because the Board already administers the test, so the cost necessary to amend section 1031 is expected to be absorbed within the existing cost resources. On June 7, 2021, the public comment period ended.

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