Professional Development: Kentucky

Retaining Effective Teachers Policy


The state should ensure that teachers receive feedback about their performance and should require professional development to be based on needs identified through teacher evaluations.

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

Analysis of Kentucky's policies

Kentucky requires that teachers receive feedback from their evaluations during a formative evaluation conference between the evaluator and the teacher as well as a summative evaluation conference at the end of the evaluation cycle. The conferences must include all evaluation data.

The state also specifies that the evaluation system must include a professional growth plan for all teachers, which is aligned with "specific goals and objectives of the school improvement plan or the district improvement plan." 


Recommendations for Kentucky

Ensure that professional development is aligned with findings from teachers' evaluations. Kentucky has clearly taken steps to make opportunities for professional growth valuable by aligning them with school or district improvement plans. However, the state could strengthen its current policy by requiring that districts also utilize teacher evaluation results in determining professional development needs and activities.   

Ensure that teachers receiving less than effective ratings are placed on a professional improvement plan. Kentucky should adopt a policy requiring that teachers who receive even one unsatisfactory evaluation be placed on structured improvement plans. These plans should focus on performance areas that directly connect to student learning and should identify noted deficiencies, define specific action steps necessary to address these deficiencies and describe how and when progress will be measured. 

State response to our analysis

Kentucky recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis. The state added that while the analysis is correct in reference to the state's current system, the new Professional Growth and Effectiveness System being developed as part of Kentucky's ESEA waiver ensures that professional learning is based upon the individual educator's personalized plan. 

Kentucky noted that the Professional Growth Plan will address realistic, focused and measurable professional goals. The new plan will connect data from multiple sources, including classroom observation feedback, data on student growth and achievement, and professional growth needs identified through self-assessment and reflection. As teachers collaborate with administrators to identify explicit goals, these goals will become the focus of professional growth activities, support, and on-going reflection related to the progress in meeting the goals and the impact that is measurable for both the teacher and students.

Kentucky provided a link to forms for the professional growth plan and self-reflection instrument used in the Educator Development Suite of the Continuous Instructional Improvement Technology System (CIITS). 

The state indicated that the new system is undergoing a statewide pilot in 2013-2014, will be fully implemented statewide without use for personnel decisions in 2014-2015 and then will be fully implemented statewide with use for personnel decisions in 2015-2016. The Kentucky Board of Education will be finalizing the regulation that specifies the details of the new system from February 2014 through April 2014.

Last word

NCTQ looks forward to reviewing the Kentucky's progress in future editions of the Yearbook.

Research rationale

Professional development should be connected to needs identified through teacher evaluations.

The goal of teacher evaluation systems should be not just to identify highly effective teachers and those who underperform but to help all teachers improve.  Even highly effective teachers may have areas where they can continue to grow and develop their knowledge and skills. Rigorous evaluations should provide actionable feedback on teachers' strengths and weaknesses that can form the basis of professional development activities.  Too often professional development is random rather than targeted to the identified needs of individual teachers.  Failure to make the connection between evaluations and professional development squanders the likelihood that professional development will be meaningful.

Many states are only explicit about tying professional development plans to evaluation results if the evaluation results are bad.  Good evaluations with meaningful feedback should be useful to all teachers, and if done right should help design professional development plans for all teachers—not just those who receive poor ratings. 

Professional Development: Supporting Research

For evidence of the benefits of feedback from evaluation systems, and the potential for professional development surrounding that feedback, see T. Kane, E. Taylor, J. Tyler, and A. Wooten, "Evaluating Teacher Effectiveness." Education Next, Volume 11, No. 3, Summer 2011; E. Taylor and J. Tyler, "The Effect of Evaluation on Performance: Evidence from Longitudinal Student Achievement Data of Mid-Career Teachers," NBER Working Paper No. 16877, March 2011.

Much professional development, particularly those that are not aligned to specific feedback from teacher evaluations, has been found to be ineffective.  For evidence see M. Garet, A. Wayne, F. Stancavage, J. Taylor, M. Eaton, K. Walters, M. Song, S. Brown, S. Hurlburt,  P. Zhu, S. Sepanik, F. Doolittle,  and E. Warner, "Middle School Mathematics Professional Development Impact Study: Findings After the Second Year of Implementation." Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, May 2011, NCEE 2011-4024.

For additional evidence regarding best practices for professional development, see K. Neville and C. Robinson, "The Delivery, Financing, and Assessment of Professional Development in Education: Pre-Service Preparation and In-Service Training" The Finance Project, 2003.