Tenure : Kentucky

Identifying Effective Teachers Policy


The state should require that tenure decisions are based on evidence of teacher effectiveness.

Meets a small part of goal
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Tenure : Kentucky results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/KY-Tenure--8

Analysis of Kentucky's policies

Kentucky does not connect tenure decisions to evidence of teacher effectiveness.

Teachers in Kentucky are awarded tenure automatically after a four-year probationary period, absent an additional process that evaluates cumulative evidence of teacher effectiveness. 


Recommendations for Kentucky

End the automatic awarding of tenure.
The decision to grant tenure should be a deliberate one, based on consideration of a teacher's commitment and actual evidence of classroom effectiveness. 

Ensure evidence of effectiveness is the preponderant criterion in tenure decisions.
Kentucky should make evidence of effectiveness, rather than the number of years in the classroom, the most significant factor when determining this leap in professional standing.

Articulate a process that local districts must administer when deciding which teachers get tenure.
Kentucky should require a clear process, such as a hearing, to ensure that the local district reviews a teacher's performance before making a determination regarding tenure. 

Ensure the probationary period is adequate.
Kentucky's probationary period is longer than that of most other states. However, the state should make certain that it allows for a collection of sufficient data that reflect teacher performance. 

State response to our analysis

Kentucky asserted that its current evaluation system does not accurately measure teacher effectiveness, so personnel decisions are not based on teacher effectiveness. The state added that earning tenure is not automatic after four years. Teachers are awarded tenure when they are employed for a fifth year out of six years in the same school district. A decision to employ a teacher for that fifth year has to be made.

Last word

The awarding of tenure is automatic in Kentucky because teachers arguably achieve that milestone just by working in the same district for five out of six years. The state fails to articulate a process that would ensure a local district reviews a teacher's cumulative performance before making such an important determination. 

Research rationale

Numerous studies illustrate how difficult and uncommon the process is of dismissing tenured teachers for poor performance. These studies underscore the need for an extended probationary period that would allow teachers to demonstrate their capability to promote student performance.

For evidence on the potential of eliminating automatic tenure, articulating a process for granting tenure, and using evidence of effectiveness as criteria for tenure see D. Goldhaber and M. Hansen, "Assuming the Potential of Using Value-Added Estimates of Teacher Job Performance for Making Tenure Decisions." Center for Reinventing Public Education. (2009).  Goldhaber and Hansen conclude that if districts ensured that the bottom performing 25 percent of all teachers up for tenure each year did not earn it, approximately 13 percent more than current levels, student achievement could be significantly improved. By routinely denying tenure to the bottom 25 percent of eligible teachers, the impact on student achievement would be equivalent to reducing class size across-the-board by 5 students a class.

For additional evidence see Robert Gordon, et al., "Identifying Effective Teachers Using Performance on the Job," Hamilton Project Discussion Paper, Brookings Institute, March 2006.