Program Entry: Kentucky

Alternate Routes Policy


The state should require alternate route programs to limit admission to candidates with strong academic backgrounds while also being flexible to the needs of nontraditional candidates. This goal was consistent between 2015 and 2017.

Meets a small part of goal
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2017). Program Entry: Kentucky results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from:

Analysis of Kentucky's policies

Kentucky offers several options as alternate routes to teacher certification: Exceptional Work Experience Certification, Local School 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).

Academic Proficiency Requirements: Kentucky recently passed a policy that allows the Education Standards Board to reject the application of any alternate route applicant who is judged as not meeting academic requirements comparable to those enrolled in Kentucky traditional teacher preparation programs. Kentucky's admission requirements for its traditional teacher preparation programs is a minimum 2.75 GPA or 3.0 on the last 30 hours of credit completed in a bachelor's degree, or a minimum 3.0 GPA in a master's degree. Alternate route applicants must also pass the Praxis Core basic skills exam, although candidates for post-baccalaureate programs may use GRE scores to fulfill this requirement. The state still has specific academic proficiency requirements for each alternate route.

Kentucky recently increased the minimum GPA requirement for applicants to the Exceptional Work Experience Certification, Local District Training Certification, and Veterans of the Armed Services Certification programs from a minimum 2.5 cumulative GPA to a minimum 2.75 GPA. The state also made this change for applicants to the Institute Alternative Route to Certification program; however, this marks a decrease in the GPA minimum from the program's previous policy, which used to require a minimum 3.0 GPA for admission. Applicants to each of these programs can also qualify if they have a 3.0 GPA on the last 30 hours of credit completed. This second admission option is new for the Local District Training Certification, Veterans of the Armed Services Certification, and Institute Alternative Route to Certification programs, and it marks a change in the state's policy for the Exceptional Work Experience Certification program, which previously accepted a 3.0 GPA on the last 60 hours of completed credit.

Applicants to the College Faculty Certification and the Adjunct Instructor Certification programs do not have any academic proficiency requirements as part of their admissions process into the program.

Applicants to the Institute Alternative Route to Certification program must also obtain passing scores on the GRE. Those with the highest degree available in a field of study are exempt from the GRE requirements.

Applicants to the University-Based Alternative Route to Certification program must meet the state's standards for traditional teacher preparation program admission, which, as stated above, requires candidates to have a minimum 2.75 GPA or 3.0 on the last 30 hours of credit completed.

TFA requires that its applicants have at least a 2.5 GPA.

Subject-matter Testing Requirements: Kentucky does not require that Exceptional Work Experience Certification, College Faculty Certification, Adjunct Instructor Certification, or University-Based Alternative Route to Certification applicants pass a subject-matter exam for program admission. Kentucky changed its policy for Veterans of the Armed Services Certification program applicants to now no longer require them to pass a subject-matter exam.

The state does require subject-matter testing for applicants to the Local School District Training Certification, Institute Alternative Route to Certification, and TFA programs. Although Kentucky requires applicants of these specific alternate routes to take a subject-matter exam, the state does not require elementary and elementary special education applicants to pass a stand-alone assessment of early reading prior to entering the classroom as the teacher of record, which in turn does not ensure that these applicants adequately understand the five research-based instructional components of early reading instruction: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. Because elementary and special education teacher preparation in reading are assessed in 2-C: Elementary Reading and 4-B: Special Education Reading, these policies are not considered as part of the assessment for Alternate Route Program Entry.

Coursework Requirements: Kentucky requires that applicants to the Exceptional Work Experience Certification program have a major in their content area or a passing score on a subject-matter test. The state changed its policy of requiring applicants to this route to have 10 years of work experience in their intended teaching area to now requiring applicants to document exceptional work experience, without a minimum number of years, in their intended teaching area. To demonstrate how this work experience has prepared them for this route into teaching, applicants must prepare a portfolio for review by the Education Professional Standards Board that illustrates how their work experience has provided them with skills that include designing and planning instruction, creating and maintaining a learning climate, implementing and managing instruction and providing leadership within the school/community/profession.

Applicants to the Local District Training Certification program must have completed a 30-hour major or five years of related work experience, both of which must be in the subject of their intended teaching area.

Applicants to the College Faculty Certification program must have a master's degree and five years of full-time teaching experience, or the equivalent, both of which must be in the candidate's intended teaching area.

Kentucky recently changed its admission policy for applicants to the Veterans of the Armed Services Certification program to now allow them to apply with either an academic major in their intended teaching area or passing scores on the relevant subject-matter exam.

Applicants to the Institute Alternative Route to Certification program must have a bachelor's degree with a major in their intended teaching area.

The state does not make specific coursework requirements needed for admission for applicants to the University-Based Alternative Route to Certification, the Adjunct Instructor Certification, or TFA programs.


Recommendations for Kentucky

Increase academic requirements for admission.
Kentucky should require a rigorous test appropriate for all candidates who have already completed a bachelor's degree, such as the GRE, or a GPA of 3.0 or higher to assess academic standing. Although the minimum GPA requirement that the state maintains for some alternate routes is an important first step toward ensuring that candidates have strong academic ability, the current standard does not represent a rigorous requirement.

Extend subject-matter test requirement to all applicants.
While Kentucky is commended for requiring candidates for some routes to demonstrate content knowledge on a subject-matter test, it is strongly recommended that the state extend this requirement to all of its candidates. Alternate route programs provide nontraditional candidates with an opportunity to use professional knowledge and skills, including subject-matter knowledge, in the classroom. However, because teachers without sufficient subject-matter knowledge place students at risk, the subject-matter test serves as an important guardrail for alternate route candidates.

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 in lieu of needing a major in a particular subject area. Because exacting coursework requirements could dissuade talented individuals who lack precisely the right courses but possess the requisite subject-matter expertise from pursuing a career in teaching, it is important that alternate route candidates have an opportunity to demonstrate subject-matter knowledge through a rigorous test.

Eliminate basic skills test requirement.
Kentucky should continue to accept GRE scores for its post-baccelaureate alternate route candidates and eliminate the basic skills test requirement for all candidates. The state's requirement that alternate route candidates pass a basic skills test is impractical and ineffectual. Basic skills tests measure minimum competency—essentially skills that a person should have acquired in middle school—and are inappropriate for candidates who have already earned a bachelor's degree.

Consider consolidating alternate routes.
Although Kentucky's numerous options show the state's commitment to alternate 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.

Updated: December 2017

How we graded

5A: Program Entry 

  • Content Knowledge: The state should require:
    • With some accommodation for successful performance in a previous professional career, alternate route programs to set a rigorous bar for program entry by requiring applicants to provide evidence of solid academic aptitude. This should be demonstrated in a nationally normed test of academic ability or through a 3.0 individual or cohort average GPA.
    • All alternate route candidates, including elementary candidates and those with a major in their intended subject area, to pass the state's subject-matter licensing test.
    • Alternate route candidates lacking a major in the intended subject area should be able to demonstrate the required content knowledge by passing a subject-matter test of sufficient rigor.
Content Knowledge
The total goal score is earned based on the following:

  • Full credit: The state will earn full credit if it requires all three elements for all alternate route programs. The state will also earn full credit if it meets the first two elements and does not require candidates to have a major in their intended subject area. 
  • Three-quarters credit: The state will earn three-quarters of a point if two of the three elements are required for all alternate route programs.
  • One-half credit: The state will earn one-half of a point if two of the three elements are required for some but not all of the alternate route programs. 
  • One-quarter credit: The state will earn one-quarter of a point if one or two of the elements are required for at least one of the alternate route programs within the state.

Research rationale

Alternate route teachers need the advantage of a strong academic background. The intent of alternate route programs is to provide a route for those who already have strong subject-matter knowledge to enter the profession, allowing them to focus on gaining the professional skills needed for the classroom.[1] This intent is based on the fact that academic caliber has been shown to correlate with classroom success.[2] Programs that admit candidates with a weak grasp of both subject matter and professional knowledge can put the new teacher in an impossible position, where he or she is much more likely to experience failure and perpetuate high attrition rates.[3]

Academic requirements for admission to alternate routes should set a high bar. Assessing a teacher candidate's college GPA and/or aptitude scores can provide useful and reliable measures of academic caliber, provided that the state does not set the floor too low.[4] States should limit teacher preparation to the top half of the college population.[5] In terms of assessments, relying on basic skills tests designed for those without a college degree is ineffective for alternate route candidates. Appropriate assessments could include the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) or candidates' SAT/ACT scores.[6]

In addition to evaluating incoming candidates' academic aptitude, programs should also determine whether applicants have the content knowledge they need prior to acceptance into the program.[7] This determination prior to admission is important given that most alternative certification programs do not require additional content coursework during the course of their program. This determination should be made by using the state's subject matter licensure test.

In some cases, alternative route programs require candidates to have a major in the subject they will be licensed to teach. While ensuring content knowledge through an adequate test is essential, rigid coursework requirements can dissuade talented, qualified individuals from pursuing a career in teaching. By allowing candidates to prove their rich content knowledge by testing out of coursework requirements, professionals who have a wealth of relevant, subject-specific experience can pass their expertise on to students. With such provisions, states can maintain high standards for potential teachers, while utilizing experts of respective fields, such as differential mathematics and biology. For instance, an engineer who wishes to teach physics should face no coursework obstacles as long as he or she can prove sufficient knowledge of physics on an adequate test. A good test with a sufficiently high passing score is certainly as reliable as courses listed on a transcript, if not more so. A testing exemption would also allow alternate routes to recruit college graduates with strong liberal arts backgrounds to work as elementary teachers, even if their transcripts fail to meet state requirements.[8]

[1] Walsh, K., & Jacobs, S. (2007). Alternative certification isn't alternative. Thomas B. Fordham Institute. Retrieved from
[2] 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, J. F., Correnti, R., Phelps, G., & Zeng, J. (2009). Exploration of the contribution of teachers' knowledge about reading to their students' improvement in reading. Reading and Writing, 22(4), 457-486.; National Mathematics Advisory Panel. (2008). Foundations for success: The final report of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel. US Department of Education.; Kukla-Acevedo, S. (2009). Do teacher characteristics matter? New results on the effects of teacher preparation on student achievement. Economics of Education Review, 28(1), 49-57.; Barber, M., & Mourshed, M. (2007). How the world's best-performing schools systems come out on top. McKinsey & Company. Retrieved from; Wayne, A. J., & Youngs, P. (2003). Teacher characteristics and student achievement gains: A review. Review of Educational Research, 73(1), 89-122.; Whitehurst, G. J. (2002, March). Scientifically based research on teacher quality: Research on teacher preparation and professional development. White House Conference on Preparing Tomorrow's Teacher.; Ehrenberg, R. G., & Brewer, D. J. (1995). Did teachers' verbal ability and race matter in the 1960s? Coleman revisited. Economics of Education Review, 14(1), 1-21.; Ferguson, R. F. (1991). Paying for public education: New evidence on how and why money matters. Harvard Journal on Legislation, 28, 465.; Ferguson, R. (1996). How and why money matters: An analysis of Alabama schools. In Ladd, Helen (Ed.), Holding schools accountable: Performance-based reform in education. Washington, DC: The Brookings Institute. Retrieved from; Hedges, L. V., Laine, R. D., & Greenwald, R. (1994). An exchange: Part I*: Does money matter? A meta-analysis of studies of the effects of differential school inputs on student outcomes. Educational Researcher, 23(3), 5-14.; Hanushek, E. (1971). Teacher characteristics and gains in student achievement: Estimation using micro data. The American Economic Review, 61(2), 280-288.; Hanushek, E. A. (1972). Education and race: An analysis of the educational production process. Retrieved from; Hanushek, E. A. (1996). A more complete picture of school resource policies. Review of Educational Research, 66(3), 397-409.; Levin, H. M., Jamison, D. T., & Radner, R. (1976). Concepts of economic efficiency and educational production. In Education as an industry (pp. 149-198). NBER. Retrieved from; Monk, D. H. (1994). Subject area preparation of secondary mathematics and science teachers and student achievement. Economics of Education Review, 13(2), 125-145.; Murnane, R. J. (1983). Understanding the sources of teaching competence: Choices, skills, and the limits of training. Response to Donna Kerr. Teachers College Record, 84(3), 564-69.; Murnane, R. J., & Phillips, B. R. (1978). Effective teachers of inner city children: Who they are and what they do. Retrieved from; Murnane, R. J., & Phillips, B. R. (1981). What do effective teachers of inner-city children have in common? Social Science Research, 10(1), 83-100.; McLaughlin, M. W., & Marsh, D. D. (1990). Staff development and school change. Schools as collaborative cultures: Creating the future now, 213-232.; Strauss, R. P., & Sawyer, E. A. (1986). Some new evidence on teacher and student competencies. Economics of Education Review, 5(1), 41-48.; Summers, A. A., & Wolfe, B. L. (1976). Which school resources help learning? Efficiency and equity in Philadelphia Public Schools. IRCD Bulletin. Retrieved from
[3] Walsh, K., & Jacobs, S. (2007). Alternative certification isn't alternative. Thomas B. Fordham Institute, National Council on Teacher Quality. Retrieved from
[4] For research on the importance of selectivity in teacher preparation programs, see: White, B. R., Presley, J. B., & DeAngelis, K. J. (2008). Leveling up: Narrowing the teacher academic capital gap in Illinois. Illinois Education Research Council. Policy Research Report: IERC 2008-1. Retrieved from; Summers, A. A., & Wolfe, B. L. (1977). Do schools make a difference? The American Economic Review, 67(4), 639-652.; For evidence on teacher preparation programs' admissions selectivity, see: Auguste, B., Kihn, P., & Miller, M. (2010). Closing the talent gap: Attracting and retaining top-third graduates to careers in teaching. Washington, DC: McKinsey & Company. Retrieved from; For evidence on international teacher preparation program standards to further contextualize the aforementioned studies, see: Hanushek, E. A., Piopiunik, M., & Wiederhold, S. (2014). The value of smarter teachers: International evidence on teacher cognitive skills and student performance (National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper No. w20727). Retrieved from; Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development. (2005). Recruiting, selecting and employing teachers. In Teachers matter: Attracting, developing and retaining effective teachers (pp. 141-167). Paris, France: OECD Publishing. Retrieved from; Whitehurst, G. J. (2002). Scientifically based research on teacher quality: Research on teacher preparation and professional development. White House Conference on Preparing Tomorrow's Teachers, 39-53. Retrieved from
[5] 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, see: Decker, P. T., Mayer, D. P., & Glazerman, S. (2004). The effects of Teach for America on students: Findings from a national evaluation. University of Wisconsin—Madison, Institute for Research on Poverty. Retrieved from; Boyd, D., Grossman, P., Lankford, H., Loeb, S., & Wyckoff, J. (2005). How changes in entry requirements alter the teacher workforce and affect student achievement (NBER Working Paper No. 11844). National Bureau of Economic Research. Retrieved from; Constantine, J., Player, D., Silva, T., Hallgren, K., Grider, M., & Deke, J. (2009). An evaluation of teachers trained through different routes to certification. Final Report. NCEE 2009-4043. National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance. Retrieved from
[6] 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: Goldhaber, D., Perry, D., & Anthony, E. (2003). NBPTS Certification: Who applies and what factors are associated with success? Retrieved from
[7] For consideration for elementary teachers' need to master content knowledge, see: Goldhaber, D. (2007). Everyone's doing it, but what does teacher testing tell us about teacher effectiveness? Journal of Human Resources, 42(4), 765-794.; See also: Harris, D. N., & Sass, T. R. (2011). Teacher training, teacher quality and student achievement. Journal of Public Economics, 95(7), 798-812. Retrieved from
[8] Walsh, K., & Jacobs, S. (2007). Alternative certification isn't alternative. Thomas B. Fordham Institute, National Council on Teacher Quality. Retrieved from