Friday, January 24, 2014

The Role of the ACE and BCE Proctor: Guest post by Pat Copps, BCE

What a great time to be certified! There is so much going on in our industry that it is enough to make your head swim. The ACE program is growing like never before and the BCE program, after years of stagnant growth, is starting to grow in number again.

I’ve been a BCE since October of 1994 (20 years!) and it is one of the best decisions I ever made of my professional life.

On a personal note, I became certified as part of a self-driven process to increase my own professionalism and ability to “communicate with credibility” when visiting with customers. The BCE certification has served me well when responding to requests for information, working in the field in the urban pest management industry  and dealing with media inquiries or legal situations. In fact, being certified has truly had a positive impact on my career and in my opinion has become essential to my work as a professional entomologist.

When I decided to run for Director of the Certification Board it was for many of those same reasons, but mainly because I was seeking ways that I could increase the overall professionalism of the pest management industry. I find it personally and professionally gratifying that so many people are moving into the ranks of Board and Associate Certified Entomologists. I congratulate you all for going above and beyond and for the leaders that you are.

One of the obligations we have as BCEs is to help mentor the next generation of professionals. Part of that task comes in the form of proctoring exams. There has been some confusion about what a proctor is and does. My hope in writing this article is to allay some of that confusion.

Who Can Be A Proctor:
A proctor is generally going to be a BCE. If one is not easily accessible in the applicant’s geographic region then an ESA member or a person of high community standing (usually a military officer, government official, or college professor) can serve as a proctor. [Editorial comment from ESA staff -- an ACE can also proctor an exam, as long as no conflict of interest exists]  At some point ESA may move to testing centers, but this system has worked well for many years. A proctor cannot have a direct and close relationship with the applicant or a direct conflict of interest. Examples include employer-employee relationships or direct family members.

What Does a Proctor Do:
A proctor’s job is simple but essential. Every week (usually on a Friday) ESA staff will email the instructions to the next week’s proctors in anticipation of the exams. The proctor holds those until the test date and then he or she simply assists the applicant as they log on to the computer to take their exam(s) and then stays in the room while they do so. When they are done and press submit, the preliminary score will flash up on the computer and you are done.

That’s it.

Of course, some proctors also serve as instructors, either by leading a prep course before the exam, or serving as in-house trainers for employees, but that is not required of a proctor.

Prep Course Proctors:
If a proctor chooses to hold a prep course prior to an exam, there are tools to assist. By this time everyone knows that the exam content has changed and a new set of questions is now on the tests (some are the same as before, but many old questions were deleted and even more new questions were added). Drs. Mike Merchant and Bob Davis (both BCE) long ago developed a slide set that can assist in the development of a prep course.

Prep course proctors must walk a fine line between helping the applicants prepare for their exams but not “teaching to the test”. Only a handful of people know the questions on the new exam and they have all signed a pledge of confidentiality. Over time, however, regular proctors will begin to know some of the questions through exposure to the process. It is a violation of the ACE Code of Ethics and BCE Code of Ethics (the honor system by which all ACEs and BCEs are bound) to help a person pass an exam or to receive help in passing an exam. As Director of the Certification Board and a 20-year BCE I take this pledge very seriously and would seek to immediately revoke the certification of anyone who engages in such unscrupulous actions.

In-House Proctors:
In-house proctors are those who work for the same firm as the applicant. Again, there can be no direct employer-employee relationship between the applicant and the proctor. As the ACE program has grown there is some friendly competition among many firms to get more certified professionals on staff. This can invariably lead to some pressure to “help” ACEs pass their exam. Again, I want to stress that any overt assistance to help an applicant pass an exam is a violation of the Code of Ethics and is grounds for revocation.

One-at-a-time Proctors:
Many times an applicant simply meets with a proctor one-on-one. There is a link on the ESA site that talks about “how to find a proctor,” so you should not be surprised if someday you get a call from an applicant who has found you through the rosters and asks you to proctor their exam. I can tell you from experience that it is a simple and rewarding task – either by being the first person to congratulate them on their accomplishment or by being a supportive peer and encouraging them to try again if they don’t pass. 

Proctoring is a way to give back to your professional community. With the new partnership between ESA and NPMA the ACE program is going to continue the incredible growth as we move forward. In fact we are in the early stages of developing ACE certifications in fields other than structural pest management and see a bright future for the certification and credentialing process.

Please do your part by serving as an honest proctor when asked.