Admission into Teacher Preparation: Kentucky

Delivering Well Prepared Teachers Policy


The state should require teacher preparation programs to admit only candidates with strong academic records.

Meets goal in part
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2013). Admission into Teacher Preparation: Kentucky results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from:

Analysis of Kentucky's policies

Kentucky now requires that approved undergraduate teacher preparation programs only accept teacher candidates who have passed a basic skills test (the Praxis I). Although the state sets the minimum score for this test, it is normed just to the prospective teacher population. In addition, Kentucky requires a cumulative GPA of 2.75 on a 4.0 scale for admission or a 3.0 GPA for the last 30 hours of credit completed. Kentucky allows teacher preparation programs to exempt candidates who demonstrate equivalent performance on the GRE. 


Recommendations for Kentucky

Require preparation programs to use a common test normed to the general college-bound population. The basic skills tests in use in most states largely assess middle school-level skills. Kentucky should require an assessment that demonstrates that candidates are academically competitive with all peers, regardless of their intended profession. Requiring a common test normed to the general college population would allow for the selection of applicants in the top half of their class, as well as facilitate program comparison. 

Exempt candidates with comparable SAT or ACT scores. Although the GRE is an acceptable alternative to the basic skills test—in fact, it is a more appropriate assessment—Kentucky should also waive its current basic skills test requirement for undergraduate candidates whose SAT or ACT scores demonstrate that they are in the top half of their class.

Increase the GPA requirement. Requiring a 2.75 GPA does not set a high enough bar for the academic performance of the state's prospective teachers. Kentucky should consider using a higher GPA requirement for program admission in combination with a test of academic proficiency. A sliding scale of GPA and test scores would allow flexibility for candidates in demonstrating academic ability. When using such multiple measures, a sliding scale that still ensures minimum standards would allow students to earn program admission through a higher GPA and a lower test score, or vice-versa.  

Consider requiring candidates to pass subject-matter tests as a condition of admission into teacher programs. In addition to ensuring that programs require a measure of academic performance for admission, Kentucky might also want to consider requiring content testing prior to program admission as opposed to at the point of program completion. Program candidates are likely to have completed coursework that covers related test content in the prerequisite classes required for program admission. Thus, it would be sensible to have candidates take content tests while this knowledge is fresh rather than wait two years to fulfill the requirement, and candidates lacking sufficient expertise would be able to remedy deficits prior to entering formal preparation.

State response to our analysis

Kentucky pointed out that applicants are required to demonstrate appropriate preprofessional skills in math, reading and writing. The test used in Kentucky is not normed to the entire population of students who take college admissions tests but rather to college students who apply to educator preparation programs; thus, the comparison group will reflect a selective norming sample. Kentucky added that the new Praxis Core Academic Skills for Educators tests were designed to align with the College and Career Readiness Anchor standards that underlie the Common Core State Standards. The utilization of the Praxis I test is more appropriate for those entering the teaching profession, as it is a test of basic skills needed to be a teacher. The state also noted that the basic skills tests are scored individually at high levels, and there must be a demonstration of essential knowledge in math, reading, and writing prior to admission as required in 16 KAR 5:020.  As such, these tests should fulfill the NCTQ recommendation.

In addition, Kentucky asserted that the state will not exempt candidates from this testing based on ACT or SAT scores.  On advice of legal counsel citing Groves, et al v. Alabama State Board of Education, 776 F.Supp. 1518, the state will not use the ACT for the purposes of making admission or denial decisions regarding teacher education.

Last word

NCTQ maintains that a test normed to the general college-bound population is critical to ensuring the academic skills of those entering teacher preparation programs.  Other states including Delaware and Texas, require such tests.  As for the state's concern about legal restrictions preventing the use of ACT scores to waive the Praxis I requirement based on a decision from Alabama, it should be noted that numerous states, including Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois and North Carolina, allow such an exemption.

Research rationale

Preparation programs should screen candidates for academic proficiency.
Evidence is strong that countries whose students consistently outperform U.S. students set a much higher bar for teacher preparation programs than what is typically found in the United States. Research is also clear about the positive effects on student achievement of teachers with stronger academic backgrounds.
Far from the top third or even top tenth to which more selective countries limit candidates, most states do not even aim for the top 50 percent. Many states do not evaluate candidates' academic proficiency as a condition of admission to teacher preparation at all; most others set a low bar.  Some of the states in this latter group require only a basic skills test. These tests generally assess middle school-level skills, and do not ensure that candidates are prepared to do college-level work.  Others have a minimum GPA requirement, but only a handful demand at least a 3.0.
Screening candidates at program entry protects the public's investment.
Teacher preparation programs that do not screen candidates, particularly programs at public institutions that are heavily subsidized by the state, invest considerable taxpayer dollars in the preparation of individuals who may not be able to successfully complete the program and pass the licensing tests required to become a teacher. Candidates needing additional support should complete remediation prior to program entry, avoiding the possibility of an unsuccessful investment of significant public tax dollars.
Tests normed to the general college-bound population would improve selectivity.
In addition to the fact that current basic skills tests generally measure only middle school-level skills, another concern is that they are normed only to the prospective teacher population.  Tests normed to the general college-bound population would shine a clearer light on the academic proficiency of those admitted to teacher preparation programs and allow programs to be truly selective. 
Admission into Teacher Preparation: Supporting Research
For information on basic skills and certification test pass rates across the states, see Secretary's Seventh Annual Report on Teacher Quality 2010.
For evidence that basic skills tests for teachers assess no more than middle school level skills, see "Not Good Enough: A Content Analysis of Teacher Licensing Examinations." Thinking K-16, The Education Trust, (Spring 1999).
For evidence of the predictive power of college selectivity and SAT scores see C, Clotfelter, H. Ladd, and J. Vigdor, "How and Why do Teacher Credentials Matter for Student Achievement?", NBER, Working Paper No. 12828, January 2007 and J. Rockoff, B. Jacob, T. Kane, and D. Staiger, "Can You Recognize an Effective Teacher When You Recruit One?", NBER, Working Paper No. 14485, November 2008. The authors also found college selectivity to have a positive impact on student achievement in North Carolina in "How and Why Do Teacher Credentials Matter for Student Achievement?", NBER, Working Paper No. 12828, January 2007. 
For a discussion of teacher preparation program admissions policies in other countries, see OECD study Teachers Matter: Attracting, Developing and Retaining Effective Teachers, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (2005).  Also see Barber, M. and Mourshed, M., "How the World's Best-Performing School Systems Come out on Top." McKinsey & Company (2007).
For research supporting greater selectivity for teacher preparation programs see, Donald Boyd et al., "The Narrowing Gap in New York City Teacher Qualifications and its Implications for Student Achievement in High-Poverty Schools," National Bureau of Economic Research, Working Paper No. 14021, June 2008; Drew Gitomer, "Teacher Quality in a Changing Policy Landscape: Improvements in the Teacher Pool," Educational Testing Service, 2007; D. Goldhaber et al., NBPTS certification: Who applies and what factors are associated with success?", Urban Institute, 2003; A.J. Wayne and P. Youngs, "Teacher characteristics and student achievement gains: A review." Review of Educational Research, Volume 73, No. 1, Spring 2003, pp. 89-122; Grover Whitehurst, "Scientifically based research on teacher quality: Research on teacher preparation and professional development," Paper presented at the White House Conference on Preparing Tomorrow's Teachers, 2002; J. Kain and K. Singleton, "Equality of Educational Opportunity RevisitedNew England Economic Review, May/June 1996, 87-114; R. Ferguson and H. Ladd, "How and Why Money Matters: An Analysis of Alabama Schools," In H. Ladd (ed). Holding Schools Accountable: Performance-based reform in education. Brookings Institution, 1996, pp. 265-298; R. Greenwald et al., "The Effect of School Resources on Student Acheivement", Review of Educational Research, Fall 1996, Volume 66, No. 3, pp. 361-396; R. Ehrenberg and D. Brewer, "Do School and Teacher Characteristics Matter? Evidence from High School and Beyond", Economics of Education Review, March 1994, Volume 13, Issue 1, pp. 1-17; Ron Ferguson, "Paying for public education: New evidence on how and why money matters," Harvard Journal on Legislation, Volume 28, Summer 1991, pp. 465-498; R. Strauss and E. Sawyer, "Some New Evidence on Teacher and Student Competencies", Economics of Education Review, Volume 5, Issue 1, 1986, pp. 41-48; M. McLaughlin and D. Marsh, "Staff development and school change," Teachers College Record, Volume 80, Number 1,1978, pp. 69-94; D. Winkler, "Educational Achievement and School Peer Group Composition," The Journal of Human Resources, Volume 10, No. 2, Spring 1975, pp. 189-204; A. Summers and B. Wolfe, "Do schools make a difference?" The American Economic Review, Volume 67, No. 4, September 1977, pp. 639-652; Eric Hanushek, "Teacher characteristics and gains in student achievement: Estimation using micro data", The American Economic Review, Volume 61, No. 2, May 1971, pp. 280-288.