Provisional and Emergency Licensure: Kentucky

Hiring Policy


The state should close loopholes that allow teachers who have not met licensure requirements to continue teaching. This goal was reorganized in 2021.

Meets a small part of goal
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2021). Provisional and Emergency Licensure: Kentucky results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from:

Analysis of Kentucky's policies

Emergency License(s) Availability: Kentucky allows teachers who have not passed state assessments to teach on a conditional certificate as long as the teacher preparation program and the school district agree to provide the teacher with support for retaking the assessment. The teacher must retake the required assessments during the one-year period for which the conditional certificate is valid.

The state also allows local districts to apply for emergency certificates for teachers without state licensure if they have a bachelor's degree and a cumulative GPA of 2.5 (or a 3.0 in the last 60 credit hours they completed) and no qualified, licensed teacher is available.

Local superintendents can also request a probationary certificate for middle school teachers, teachers of exceptional children, and teachers of engineering and technology education, if a qualified teacher is not available for that position. Applicants for this certificate must already be licensed or hold a valid teaching statement of eligibility and be enrolled in a teacher preparation program in the area of the probationary certificate.  

Kentucky also offers a proficiency provisional certificate. This certificate is issued to already-licensed teachers working toward an additional endorsement via a proficiency evaluation. This certificate allows them to teach while finishing remaining program requirements and complete educator learning plans (ELP) as part of the proficiency evaluation process. The proficiency evaluation process requires that, "a candidate must pass all relevant Praxis exams for the area of certification they are pursuing as part of their review."

Emergency License Validity Period: Kentucky's conditional certificate is valid for up to one year and is nonrenewable.  Emergency certificates are valid for one year and cannot be renewed.

The probationary certificate is valid for one year and can be renewed twice.  Among the requirements for the first renewal, the applicant must complete six semester hours in the program and (if not previously licensed) must complete the Kentucky Teacher Internship Program. The second renewal requires an additional six semester hours in the program.

The Proficiency Provisional certificate is valid for one year and may be renewed once. Renewal requirements vary based on applicant's educator learning plan (ELP).

COVID-19 State Policy: Kentucky has implemented the following changes to its rules regarding Provisional and Emergency Licensure.  The Educational Professional Standards Board  approved a one-year certification for the 2020-2021 school year for educator preparation candidates who are unable to take licensure tests.  COVID-19 policies do not affect the state's grade in Provisional and Emergency Licensure.

Requirements for Out-of-State Teachers: Because licensure requirements for out-of-state teachers are scored in Requirements for Out-of-State Teachers, only the state's policies regarding emergency/provisional license(s) are considered as part of this goal.


Recommendations for Kentucky

Ensure that all teachers pass required subject-matter licensing tests before they enter the classroom.
All students are entitled to teachers who know the subject matter they are teaching. Permitting individuals who have not yet passed state licensing tests to teach neglects the needs of students, because it enables adults who may not be able to meet minimal state standards to earn teaching licenses. Kentucky should ensure that all teachers are required to pass licensing tests — an important minimum benchmark for entering the profession —before entering the classroom as the teacher of record.

Limit exceptions to one year.
Although suboptimal, there may be limited and exceptional circumstances under which provisional licenses are necessary. In these instances, it is reasonable for a state to give teachers up to one year to pass required licensing tests. Kentucky's current policy puts students at risk by allowing teachers to teach up to three years without passing required subject-matter licensing tests.

State response to our analysis

Kentucky indicated that renewal requirements for the Proficiency Provisional certificate may vary by candidate. Requirements for each candidate through this route are laid out in the Educator Learning Plan (ELP). The university certification officer will only recommend the candidate for the renewal of the certificate if that candidate has made adequate progress and remains on pace to complete the program by the end of the second year.

Updated: March 2021

How we graded

6B: Provisional and Emergency Licensure 

  • Content knowledge: The state:
    • Should not, under any circumstance, award a license to a teacher who has not passed all required content licensing tests.
    • If it finds it necessary to confer emergency or provisional licenses to teachers who have not passed the required licensing tests, should do so only under limited and exceptional circumstances and ensure that all requirements are met within one year.
Content Knowledge
The total goal score is earned based on the following:

  • Full credit: The state will earn full credit if all new teachers are required to pass each required content test as a condition of receiving provisional or emergency licensure, or the state does not issue emergency or provisional licenses. A state cannot get full credit in this goal if content tests are not required as part of its initial licensure policy.
  • Three-quarters credit: The state will earn three-quarters of a point if it grants emergency or provisional licenses to teachers who have not passed the required content tests, but such licenses are granted for no more than one year and are not renewable. OR The state will earn three-quarters of a point if it grants an emergency or provisional license to a licensed teacher to teach out-of-field for no more than one-year without passing the applicable content test.
  • One-half credit: The state will earn up to one-half of a point if it allows for emergency or provisional licenses to be granted for longer than one year, but the state has strong requirements for applicants (e.g., content area major or preparation program completion without requiring a content test). The state will also earn one-half of a point if the state does not issue emergency/provisional licenses, or issues emergency/provisional licenses with strong requirements, but content tests are not required as part of the state's overall initial licensure policy.
  • One-quarter credit: The state will earn one-quarter of a point if it maintains minimum requirements that fall short of the requirements listed above or only offers emergency or provisional licenses to teachers under "extenuating circumstances."

Research rationale

Teachers who have not passed content licensing tests place students at risk. While states may need a regulatory basis for filling classroom positions with a few people who do not hold full teaching credentials, many of the regulations permitting this put the instructional needs of children at risk, often year after year.[1] For example, schools can make liberal use of provisional certificates or waivers provided by the state if they fill classroom positions with instructors who have completed a teacher preparation program but have not passed their state licensing tests. These allowances are permitted for up to three years in some states. The unfortunate consequence is that students' needs are neglected in an effort to extend personal consideration to adults who cannot meet minimum state standards.[2]

While some flexibility may be necessary because licensing tests are not always administered with the needed frequency, making provisional certificates and waivers available year after year could signal that the state does not put much value on its licensing standards or what they represent. States accordingly need to ensure that all persons given full charge of children's learning are required to pass the relevant licensing tests in their first year of teaching, ideally before they enter the classroom. Licensing tests are an important minimum benchmark in the profession, and states that allow teachers to postpone passing these tests are abandoning one of the basic responsibilities of licensure.

[1] Research often finds a correlation between teachers' content knowledge and their effectiveness. For how this effect can play out in elementary ELA, 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.; For how this effect can occur in secondary STEM subjects, see: Monk, D. (1994). Subject-area preparation of secondary mathematics and science teachers and student achievement. Economics of Education Review, 13(2), 125-145; For broader information about teacher qualities and student achievement, see: Goldhaber, D. D., & Brewer, D. J. (1997). Why don't schools and teachers seem to matter? Assessing the impact of unobservables on educational productivity. Journal of Human Research, 32(3), 505-523.; National Council on Teacher Quality. (2010). The all-purpose science teacher: An analysis of loopholes in state requirements for high school science teachers. Retrieved from
[2] Research has shown that "the difference in student performance in a single academic year from having a good as opposed to a bad teacher can be more than one full year of standardized achievement." See: Hanushek, E. A. (1992). The trade-off between child quantity and quality. Journal of Political Economy, 100(1), 84-117.; Hanushek has also found that highly effective teachers can improve future student earnings by more than $400,000, assuming a class size of 20. Hanushek, E. A. (2011). The economic value of higher teacher quality. Economics of Education Review, 30(3), 466-479. Retrieved from