NCARB unfairly penalizes mothers who are taking AREs

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    Pei-Wan Cheng

    That's terrible! I can't imagine studying and taking exams while caring for a newborn. Our brain chemistry changes so that we can care for them. BUT it's not surprising that the architectural field isn't accommodating to new moms, there's barely support for women in general....... The maternity penalty is very real and often not spoken about because we are terrible advocates for ourselves. Meanwhile, we'll fight for everyone else. Good for you for speaking up and thank you for sharing your story!
    Having a child and breastfeeding is a medical condition. A prescription is needed to obtain a breast pump. Certain states FINALLY have paid maternity leave! As the US struggles to catch up on maternal care perhaps NCARB could update policies to reflect the equity that AIA is promoting in the field of architecture. Equity most definitely needs to include the hardships of having and caring for a child.

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    Adrienne Ott

    Yes, I agree! NCARB should consider adding at least two years to the rolling clock when cadidates give birth. Today the American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization recommends new mothers exclusive breastfeeding for two years or longer. As a new mother myself currently breastfeeding, I am breastfeeding my infant every 1.5 to 2 hours. The amount of time it takes to complete an NCARB exam is a typical 3 hours with a 30 min break. Despite the fact that I have no energy to study, it is absolutely impossible for me to take an exam until I am no longer breastfeeding since the 30 min break is not enough time for me to feed my infant and care for myself. Also, while breastfeeding (and the 9 months before giving birth when I was pregnant) I am unable to avoid drinking water for longer than 45 minutes without having nausea. Any type of nausea during an exam makes it significantly harder to concentrate or complete questions to the best of my ability. With that said, NCARB, please afford pregnant and breastfeeding women the same rights to a fair rolling clock with nondiscriminatory extensions as given to others, thank you!  

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    Elsiana Zhaka

    Adrienne,

    those are all great points and additional and such basic accommodations must be provided to pregnant and postpartum people in order to create a fair and equitable space during exams to that new mothers have thee ability to succeed. 

    There is, it seems, a lot of talk about what is needed for mothers to do so that they babies thrive, including breastfeeding for 2 + years (I breastfed my daughter for 30 months and I intend to do the same for my son) however our society and certainly not the profession of architecture are not stepping up to the plate to help mothers do just that.  A 6 months rolling clock extension for the birth of a child gives very little to a new mother who might be wanting to stay in the profession and successfully complete the exams. 

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    Elsiana Zhaka

    Thank you for your support Pei-Wan and for echoing the call for NCARB to update their policies to give new mothers an equitable experieence in the licensure process. 

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    Israel Feldbrand

    Elsiana I agree 100% with you. I think this is not fair for anyone. I don't know of any professional licensing that has a rolling clock. I think the Ncarb exams and Ncarb polices is keeping out men and woman from the profession. I know a couple of very capable people that have given up on passing on the exams. 

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    Elsiana Zhaka

    Thank you for your support Israel. 

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    Anthony Falgiano

    As a father, I could not agree more with you Elsiana. I am so sorry to learn about your situation. My oldest son had a brain tumor back in 16 just after we had a baby and it was just after I took my first exam. My wife experienced Post Partum Depression but there is no dispensation for these conditions. 

    It took at least a couple of years before we were able to breathe again and I was able to focus on the balance of my exams. There is no compassion in the clock.

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    Israel Feldbrand

    Anthony I agree 100% with you. I wonder if this rolling clock policy can be challenged in court.

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    Elsiana Zhaka

    Anthony, thank you for sharing your story. I am so terribly sorry to hear of your family's health issues - it is extremely difficult when our children are sick and my heart feels for your wife. PPD is such a difficult condition not only for your wife who experienced it, but also for you as her partner who likely had to take on a lot of the everyday "stuff" in order to support your wife and your child.  I wish you and your family good health and good energy your way.  

    I am so sorry to hear that you had to worry about a rolling clock on the exams at a time such as what you are describing.  I do not think it is the least bit fair.  The rules should work to support and encourage individuals, parents, mothers to not only stay but to thrive in the profession.  It seems to me that they do simply the opposite: they punish mothers, new parents, and people in the profession who may be facing adversity in their lives by making it unnecessarily difficult to pass the exams and forcing many of us to re-take exams that were previously passed. It feels icky and wrong. 

     

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    Elsiana Zhaka

    Israel, you bring up a very good point that I had not considered before.  I wonder how we could go about challenging the rolling clock policy in court?  I am very curious if you, or others have any ideas? 

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    Elsiana Zhaka (Edited )

    I have been calling customer service for the past 4 years to share my experience and I have always felt dismissed. At this point in addition to calling I am emailing and trying to file a formal complaint on the impacts of the rolling clock and so far it has not felt like I have been able to accomplish that, it feels that I am getting the run around.  I keep on talking to various people on the phone and sending emails. As of the past two weeks I am being told that my complaint is being reviewed by management but it is secretive as to who that is and I am not included in the process and I am getting ZERO in terms of responses. Open to any and all ideas. 

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    Suchitra Van (Edited )

    https://www.womeninarchitecture.net/

    Maybe?

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    Lauren Printz

    I complete agree with you and just stopping by to tell you that as a fellow mother and aspiring RA, I hear and support you. I narrowly missed a situation like this myself with my first baby, and there should be more options for child bonding. The whole rolling clock idea is silly to me in general - all these unnecessary protocols that NCARB insists on seem to favor unwavering pointless standards over logic and real life.

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    Israel Feldbrand

    Anyway we can hold NCRB accountable for this. We have to be able to voice our concern directly and challenge this whole rolling clock. Can we challenge this in court as no other professional licensing has a rolling clock policy.

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    Elsiana Zhaka

    Israel and Lauren, thank you both for your support.

    Prior to 2009 NCARB had no rolling clock.  The rolling clock has cost me personally 3 passed exams and a whole lot of discouragement in continuing with the AREs.  

    The industry and applications do not dramatically change in 5 years to require entirely loosing the exam. It literally makes NO sense whatsoever to have this rolling clock -- it was fine before, for many years, when exams did not expire.  Maybe its a way for NCARB to keep certain groups of people from achieving licensure? 

    I am still receiving no responses, not even an acknowledgment to my formal complaint for the way myself and many other mothers are treated by NCARB. 

    Even something as simple as being able to express milk during an exam NCARB requires the birth certificate of the baby AND a letter from a doctor including a diagnoses "OF NEEDING TO FEED A BABY" AND then the doctor needs to complete a DISABILITY FORM --- as someone who had a heck of a time breastfeeding and a lot of trauma related to that, I simply can not bring myself to complete those forms not to mention it feels downright embarrassing. 

    I was told that the disability form and all these documents are required to protect the licensure candidate if someone questions the accommodation, YET, in order for someone to get an accommodation for English being their second language all one has to do is fill out a form stating that English is their second language and they are granted more time during the exams.  

    Why would a statement from mothers to say that they are currently breastfeeding not be sufficient?? Why are mothers singled out from the architecture community?  Are we not important? Not wanted in the industry? Is it beneficial to make it more difficult for mothers to achieve licensure?  These are the feelings I am left with in any case..  

    If anyone has any suggestion oh how to fight this or to help make our voices heard I am all for it -- this is not just. 

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    Elsiana Zhaka

    There was another message to this board that has disappeared.. which is strange.  Copying the message but leaving out the name of the person who wrote it in case they did not want the name attached:

     

    "I agree, I hv two kids youngest daughter was 4 and I got my license when she turned 11. it is so hard to find time to study wirk and care for young ones who are sick a lot and skip school. Caretakers are so expensive. https://www.womeninarchitecture.net/

    Maybe?"

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    Colin Bost

    I disagree, especially where you say that NCARB is “penalizing” new mothers. This implies that NCARB is through some deliberate action making it harder for you for being a new mom, but that’s not what happened. It’s just that being a new mom is difficult and time consuming, NCARB didn’t add any extra barriers, they didn’t penalize you, you just don’t think they’ve accommodated you sufficiently.

    And to their credit, they did give you more time, on top of 5 years which is already a rather long time. You can ask for more time without suggesting that you’ve been penalized by NCARB if you don’t get it.

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    Israel Feldbrand

    Colin I disagree the rolling clock is penalizing everyone ,no other professional licensing has a rolling clock this is just another way for them take more money and another way to discover people from finishing the licensing path especially when the exams are extremely difficult to pass. The exams might be easier for you but there are Many poeple like myself that are struggling to pass the exams and the 5 years are actually not enough time whether your a working husband with a family or a mother thay has to raise her children.

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    Elsiana Zhaka

    Hello Colin, 

    thank you for your comment and opinion.  

    It is a fact that an equal number of women and men graduate from architectural school, yet there is a sharp drop off of female practitioners early on in their career, often coinciding with motherhood.

    I think it would benefit our profession to help keep these women in our industry.  We do not, we loose a lot of talent yearly and we will continue to do so until NCARB and AIA take a close look at their actions and the many ways women and mothers are not supported. 

    I strongly believe much more time should be added to the rolling clock for not only mothers but new parents and I do feel that only extending the rolling clock by 6 month for the birth of a child feels like penalizing, to me.  I am sorry you do not agree with the term I chose to use to express my feelings but it is how I feel. 

     

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    Christine Williamson Cronin

    That is ridiculous. And humiliating. This should change. We should be able to accommodate mothers better, for goodness sake!

    (On a personal note I am also a new mother and also struggling to study for and take these exams while caring for a baby -- you have my sympathy, Elsiana! And also my best wishes. Good luck to you and the other mothers who have posted here -- here's hoping we can stay the course.)

    Christine Williamson

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    Elsiana Zhaka

    Entirely agree with you Israel! 

    We did not have the rolling clock before 2009.  The industry does not change that much in 5 years to make one simply lose previously passed exams. 

    New parents are barely surviving, not sleeping often for the first 4-5 years, never mind having a child be sick and everything else that comes with child rearing.  It is great for those who can pass the exams in 5 years but it does feel like punishment for many others. 

     

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    Elsiana Zhaka

    Christine, thank you for your support and sending love and support right back to you. 

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    Colin Bost

    Maybe it would be helpful if you were more specific. How much extra time would you suggest mothers should be given?

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    Elsiana Zhaka
    Colin,
    It is my opinion and personal experience that a 6 month rolling clock extension is not sufficient to give mothers the amount of time necessary for even basic healing from childbirth. Beyond that extension, NCARB must provide additional time for pregnancy, birth and postpartum complication of which there are many. 
     
    AAP and World Health Organization recommend that mothers breastfeed babies until age 2 and beyond
    The time demand on mothers, and support partners associated with exclusive breastfeeding is tremendous, so 2-3 year minimum would be a good start. Furthermore, caretaking needs are very intense during the early childhood 4-6 years, to both parents who are often functioning on little or no sleep so doubling up the current rolling clock would be better. Eliminating the rolling clock altogether would be best. 
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    Israel Feldbrand (Edited )

    Nobody gave a clear answer why only NCARB has a rolling clock I dodnt know of any other professional licensing that has a rolling clock policy. 

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    Elsiana Zhaka (Edited )

    I agree Israel, there is no need for a rolling clock, if it was so important registered architects from the 70's, 80's and 90's should not be practicing because they tested on old material. Whether one finishes the test in 1 year, 2, 5 or 10 has no relevance on the fact that they complete the exam.  The rolling clock is there the hit people with penalties. There was no rolling clock when I started architectural school. 

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    Colin Bost

    Hey Israel,

    My understanding is that NCARB implemented a 5 year rolling clock because there were several states that used rolling clocks, in some cases as short as 3 years. By implementing one 5 year rolling clock, NCARB made the standards consistent across all states, while disincentivizing states to impose shorter rolling clocks. I don't know about every profession that requires licensure, but I know that many just have one or two longer tests rather than a bunch of shorter ones, so it makes sense that most professions would have less of a need for a rolling clock.

     

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    Elsiana Zhaka (Edited )

    Hello Colin, 

    respectfully, the idea that having fewer tests means a rolling clock is not required does not logically work for me. Unless the thought is if a rolling clock is implemented with MORE tests then people who might have families or illnesses, or, such as Anthony, one of the commenters above mentions, a child with an illness that would typically cause that test taker to take their attention away from taking tests for a period of time, then those people will be penalized by losing previously passed exams. 

    So again, in my view the rolling clock is there to discourage and penalize certain groups of people. New mothers such as myself being one of them. 

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    Colin Bost

    Hello Elisiana,

    The point is that if your profession only requires one test (such as the bar exam in law), then there's no sense in implementing a rolling clock. You take one long exam and you're done, there's no next exam to complete, with or without a time limit, and thus no time limit is imposed. Even in professions with two exams, such as engineering, the two exams serve distinct functions and there is still a structure imposed, just not a time limit (in most states there's a minimum time between tests, not a maximum, IIRC). Each of the tests for engineers are longer than our tests, there's no point in imposing a rolling clock because they basically have to take the equivalent of several of our tests all at once. Imagine having to complete PcM, PjM, and CE in one day, instead of just spread out over roughly 2.5 years at your convenience.

    I prefer our testing structure. It allows for more incremental progress, which affords greater flexibility, while still keeping the tests rigorous. I think the structure NCARB has chosen works quite well, so it's concerning to me to see opportunists try to leverage some insincere narrative of being victimized to guilt or shame NCARB into conceding ground, when NCARB has done nothing wrong and should really be focused on protecting the public. Similarly, I've seen so many students in college bully professors into relaxing standards by expressing disingenuous grievances, just to get out of doing a little work.

    Now I'm not saying that you're doing that, I don't know you, I can't possibly know your intentions. But I am suspicious of arguments such as "the rolling clock is there to discourage and penalize certain groups of people. New mothers being one of them." I don't buy that for a second, it doesn't even sound like a sincere argument. Respectfully, it sounds like an attempt to leverage the support of wider social movements behind an individual's personal complaint against NCARB. It reads like a threat, give me what I want or I'll accuse you of trying to exclude women from the profession.

    I'm sure passing the tests is more difficult for new parents, as you said, but I don't see how the rolling clock is evidence that NCARB is deliberately penalizing new moms.

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