Alternate Route Eligibility: Kentucky

Expanding the Pool of Teachers Policy


The state should require alternate route programs to exceed the admission requirements of traditional preparation programs while also being flexible to the needs of nontraditional candidates.

Meets goal in part
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Alternate Route Eligibility: Kentucky results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from:

Analysis of Kentucky's policies

Kentucky classifies eight routes as alternate routes to teacher certification: Exceptional Work Experience Certification, Local District Training Program Certification, College Faculty Certification, Adjunct Instructor Certification, Veterans of the Armed Services Certification, University-Based Alternative Route to Certification, Institute Alternative Route to Certification and Teach For America (TFA) Alternative Route to Certification. 

Some of the state's alternate routes have admission requirements that exceed those of traditional programs, and some of its routes are flexible with regard to the needs of nontraditional candidates, but there is no one route that fully meets the criteria for this goal.

Candidates in the Exceptional Work Experience Certification program must have a minimum GPA of 2.5, or 3.0 in the last 60 hours of coursework. Candidates must have a major in their content area or a passing score on a subject-matter test. They must also have 10 years of work experience in the area in which certification is being sought.

Candidates in the Local District Training Program Certification program must have a minimum 2.5 GPA; an exception to this GPA requirement may be granted for candidates demonstrating exceptional experience. Applicants must also have a subject-area major or five years of related work experience and pass a subject-area test. A subject-matter test cannot be used to demonstrate subject knowledge in the absence of a major or related work experience.

Candidates in the College Faculty Certification program must have a master's degree and five years of full-time teaching experience in the targeted content area at an institution of higher education. Candidates are not required to demonstrate prior academic performance, such as a minimum GPA standard, or pass a basic skills or subject-matter test.

Candidates in the Veterans of the Armed Services Certification program must have a major in the content area being sought with a minimum 2.5 GPA. Candidates must also pass a subject-matter test and have six years of active duty service.

Candidates in the University-Based Alternative Route to Certification program must have a bachelor's or a master's degree and meet university admission standards.

Candidates in the Institute Alternative Route to Certification program must have a bachelor's degree with a major in the targeted certification area and a cumulative GPA of 3.0, as well as minimum scores on the Graduate Record Exam (GRE). Candidates for math/science certification must also have a minimum score of 450 on the quantitative section of the GRE. Those with professional degrees are exempt from the GRE requirement. Candidates must also pass a subject-matter test.

Candidates in the TFA Alternative Route to Certification program must have a bachelor's degree and meet participation criteria for the TFA program. The TFA Alternative Route to Certification is a pilot program in Kentucky and will begin in the 2011-2012 school year.


Recommendations for Kentucky

Set high academic requirements for admission for all routes.
While a minimum GPA requirement is a first step toward ensuring that candidates are of good academic standing, the current standard of 2.5 does not serve as a sufficient indicator of past academic performance. Kentucky should consistently require that candidates in all programs provide some evidence of good academic performance. The standard should be higher than what is required of traditional teacher candidates, such as a GPA of 2.75 or higher.  Some accommodation in this standard may be appropriate for career changers. Alternatively, the state could require one of the standardized tests of academic proficiency commonly used in higher education for graduate admissions, such as the GRE.

Extend subject-matter test requirement to all applicants.
While Kentucky is commended for requiring candidates for the Veterans of the Armed Services Certification, the Institute Alternative Route to Certification and the TFA Alternative Route to Certification to demonstrate content knowledge on a subject-matter test, it is strongly recommended that the state extend this requirement to all of its candidates. The concept behind alternate routes is that the nontraditional candidate is able to concentrate on acquiring professional knowledge and skills because he or she has strong subject-area knowledge. Teachers without sufficient subject-matter knowledge place students at risk.

Set minimum admission requirements for all alternate route programs.
Kentucky should establish minimum admission requirements for all of its alternate routes.  The state is responsible for setting policy that ensures that nontraditional candidates have the academic ability and subject-matter knowledge required to teach. Particularly in the case of the University-Based Alternative Route to Certification program, the universities should feel encouraged to exceed these minimums, but without state guidelines there is no assurance that all alternate route candidates will have demonstrated the necessary aptitude prior to entering the classroom.

Offer flexibility in fulfilling coursework requirements.
Kentucky should allow any candidate who already has the requisite knowledge and skills to demonstrate such by passing a rigorous test. Rigid coursework requirements could dissuade talented individuals who lack precisely the right courses from pursuing a career in teaching.

Consider consolidating alternate routes.
Although Kentucky's numerous options show the state's commitment to alternative certification, the state may want to consider consolidating some of its routes.

State response to our analysis

Kentucky was helpful in providing NCTQ with facts that enhanced this analysis.

Research rationale

For evidence of the lack of selectivity among alternate route programs, see Alternative Certification Isn't Alternative (NCTQ, 2007).

There is no shortage of research indicating the states and districts should pay more attention to the academic ability of a teacher applicant. On the importance of academic ability generally, see Carlisle, Correnti, Phelps and Zeng. "Exploration of the Contribution of Teachers' Knowledge About Reading to their Students' Improvement in Reading." Reading Writing. (2009), US Department of Education Foundations for Success: The Final Report of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel. (2008), S. Kukla-Acevedo, "Do Teacher Characteristics Matter? New Results on the Effects of Teacher Preparation on Student Achievement." Economics of Education Review (2009): 49-57. M. Barber and M. Mourshed, How the World's Best-Performing School Systems Come Out on Top. McKinsey & Company (DATE). A.J. Wayne and P. Youngs, "Teacher characteristics and student achievement gains: A review," Review of Educational Research 3, No. 1 (2003): 89-122. See also G.J. Whitehurst, "Scientifically based research on teacher quality: Research on teacher preparation and professional development," presented at the 2002 White House Conference on Preparing Teachers; R. Ehrenberg and D. Brewer, "Did Teachers' Verbal Ability and Race Matter in the 1950s' Coleman Revisited," Economics of Education Review 14 (1995), 1-21; R. Ferguson, "Paying for Public Education: New Evidence on How and Why Money Matters," Harvard Journal on Legislation 28 (1991), 465-498; R. Ferguson and H. Ladd, "How and Why Money Matters: An Analysis of Alabama Schools," in Holding Schools Accountable, ed. H. Ladd (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution, 1996), pp. 265-298; R. Greenwald, L. Hedges, and R. Laine, "Does Money Matter? A Meta-Analysis of Studies of the Effects of Differential School Inputs on Students' Outcomes, Educational Researcher 23, no. 3 (1994), 5-14; E. Hanushek, "Teacher Characteristics and Gains in Student Achievement: Estimation Using Micro-Data," American Economic Review 61, no. 2 (1971), 280-288; E. Hanushek, Education and Race: An Analysis of the Educational Production Process (Lexington, MA: D.C. Heath, 1972); E. Hanushek, "A More Complete Picture of School Resource Policies," Review of Educational Research 66 (1996), 397-409; H. Levin, Concepts of Economic Efficiency and Educational Production," in Education as an Industry, ed. J. Froomkin, D. Jamison, and R. Radner (Cambridge, MA: Ballinger, 1976); D. Monk and J.R. King, "Subject Area Preparation of Secondary Mathematics and Science Teachers and Student Achievement," Economics of Education Review 12, no. 2 (1994), 125-145; R. Murnane, "Understanding the Sources of Teaching Competence: Choices, Skills, and the Limits of Training," Teachers College Record 84, no. 3 (1983) R. Murnane and B. Phillips, Effective Teachers of Inner City Children: Who They Are and What Are They? (Princeton, NJ: Mathematica Policy Research, 1978); R. Murnane and B. Phillips, "What Do Effective Teachers of Inner City Children Have in Common?" Social Science Research 10 (1981), 83-100; M. McLaughlin and D. Marsh, "Staff Development and School Change," Teachers College Record 80, no. 1 (1978), 69-94; R. Strauss and E. Sawyer, "Some New Evidence on Teacher and Student Competencies, Economics of Education Review 5 (1986), 41; A. A. Summers and B.L. Wolfe, "Which School Resources Help Learning? Efficiency and Equity in Philadelphia Public Schools," Business Review (Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, February 1975).

This research is supported by other research showing that teachers from more selective colleges are more effective at raising student achievement. See for example, White, Presley, and DeAngelis, Leveling Up: Narrowing the Teacher Academic Capital Gap in Illinois. Illinois Education Research Council (2008). A. Summers and B. Wolfe, "Do Schools Make a Difference?" American Economic Review 67, no. 4 (1977), 639-652. 

Evidence of the impact of college selectivity and academic ability on student achievement is also found in studies of alternative programs such as Teach for America and Teaching Fellows.  For example, P. Decker, D. Mayer, and S. Glazerman, "The Effects of Teach for America on Students: Findings from a National Evaluation." Mathematica (2009).  Boyd, Grossman, Lankford, Loeb and Wyckoff, "How Changes in Entry Requirements Alter the Teacher Workforce and Affect Student Achievement." American Education Finance Association (2006).  J. Constantine et al. "An Evaluation of Teachers Trained Through Different Routes to Certification" Mathematica Policy Research (2009).

More evidence is provided by research done on National Board certified teachers. In fact, one study finds that the only measure that distinguishes them from their non-certified peers was their higher scores on the SAT and ACT. See D. Goldhaber, D. Perry, and E. Anthony, NBPTS certification: Who applies and what factors are associated with success? Urban Institute (2003); available at: