SHEEO Member Highlight: Kentucky Vanguard Project

Robert L. King
President, Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education

Kentucky is partnering with the National Center on Education and the Economy to create a program that will use lessons learned from the most successful countries in the world to further improve and professionalize its teaching force, ensuring that every student in every classroom benefits from a fully prepared, developed and supported teacher. The Kentucky Department of Education, the Council on Postsecondary Education and the Education Professional Standards Board invited public and independent universities and colleges and all school districts to form consortia that will prepare proposals addressing the criteria discussed below. These proposals will be reviewed by national and international experts who will provide feedback and suggestions for improvement, with the goal of establishing one or more consortia committed to these principles. 


The Vanguard Project is intended to enable Kentucky schools to perform at levels comparable to those of the schools in the top-performing countries in the world. Kentucky proposes to use the strategies of those countries, among the most important of which is the presence of superbly trained, highly effective teachers. No country has reached the top ranks of performance without:

• recruiting high-performing students into its teacher preparation programs;
• increasing its expectations for teachers’ mastery of the subjects they will teach;
• providing demonstrably effective opportunities for prospective teachers to master the craft of teaching;
• raising the standards for teacher licensure; and
• providing concentrated support for new teachers as they begin their teaching career. 

Kentucky cannot attract top-quality candidates to teaching unless it makes teaching much more attractive by offering prospective teachers a real career in teaching. That requires the creation of career pathways like those available in high-status careers and the opportunity for master teachers to be compensated like school principals.

In 2013, state leaders from the Education Professional Standards Board, the Department of Education, and the Council on Postsecondary Education convened university leaders, school superintendents, union leaders, business group representatives, and others to present the idea of the Vanguard Project and solicit interest by consortia of universities (public and independent) in partnership with school districts, assisted by the state and internationally recognized experts assembled by the National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE). The consortia will not be competing with one another for state support, but rather against a set of criteria. As many consortia will be asked to join the project as meet the criteria. Final proposals are expected by May 2014. 

Proposal Context

This initiative, focused on the quality of new teachers, will be integrated with two others over the next few years:

Excellence for All

Currently being piloted in several Kentucky schools, Excellence for All is designed to make the best curriculum, instructional methods, and assessments in the world, aligned to the Common Core Academic Standards, available to Kentucky schools and to change the structure of Kentucky high schools to greatly increase the proportion of high school students who leave high school ready for college and work. 

More information about Excellence for All is available at While specific integration with this program will not be required for proposers, it is envisioned that over several years this structure, or one like it, will take hold in Vanguard schools.

National Institute for School Leadership (NISL)

NISL is a school leadership program designed to improve the skills of aspiring and serving principals. NISL’s Executive Development Program emphasizes the role of principals as strategic thinkers, instructional leaders, and creators of a just, fair and caring culture in which all students meet high standards. It ensures that school leaders can competently and effectively set direction for teachers, support their staffs, and design an efficient organization. The program combines best practices in teaching and learning, subject-area content knowledge, and leadership knowledge and practices. More information about NISL can be found at:

Vanguard Proposals

Partners and consortia may not meet all the criteria initially, but will be expected to make firm commitments and prepare plans to meet them on a reasonable schedule. There must be a clear plan from partners to expand implementation to the whole university program for the preparation of teachers and to the entire school district.

The sponsoring agencies have invited the universities and school districts preparing proposals to specify regulations and laws that would need to be changed in order for the districts and universities to implement the plans they present. The agencies have pledged to provide the necessary regulatory relief wherever possible and to seek legislative change as necessary.

Universities and school districts may also specify the financing they believe will be necessary to accomplish the transition to the new system. The state is committed to finding modest sums from existing resources that can be used for the requested purpose and to join with the universities and districts in seeking funds from the federal and state governments, private foundations and businesses wherever possible. 

Review Criteria

The expectation is that each consortium will address all of the criteria below in different and innovative ways. The criteria constitute a minimum set of expectations. They are divided into two sections, school district and university responsibilities, but the consortia members are expected to jointly develop their plans.

School districts will be expected to:

  1. Establish beginning compensation for teachers coming from Vanguard teacher preparation programs at levels comparable to those paid in other high status professions;
  2. Establish clear career pathways with multiple steps culminating in the position of master teachers for those who want a career in teaching and in the principalship for those wishing to become school administrators;
  3. Provide for compensation for master teachers at levels comparable to those paid to school principals; 
  4. Develop a plan for enabling currently-serving teachers to get certification for the upper positions on the career pathways;
  5. Ensure that elementary teachers specialize in either science/mathematics or English/literacy and social studies and that pre-service teachers have at least a minor in the subjects they will teach;
  6. Require that new secondary teachers hold bachelor’s degrees in subjects relevant to their teaching responsibilities;
  7. Ensure that master teachers mentor and supervise new teachers;
  8. Substantially reduce teaching loads for new teachers to give them the time needed to apprentice with their master teachers;
  9. Ensure that master teachers have a key role in tenure decisions for new teachers;
  10. Provide teachers in this program with at least 100 hours per year of continuing professional learning;
  11. Present a plan for how all teachers will be provided the time needed to work together to improve their own practice as well as the instructional program of the school;
  12. Collaborate with participating higher education institutions; and
  13. Present a plan for how Site Based Decision Making Councils and school boards will be integrated into this transformation.

Universities will be expected to:

  1. Admit to teacher preparation programs only students who have been in the top 25% of their high school class and who are recommended after a rigorous interview process;
  2. Develop a five-year MAT program for new applicants from high school;
  3. Develop a distinct MAT program for students with bachelor’s degrees in other fields;
  4. Require that students receive a subject matter bachelor’s degree if they will teach in high schools and a subject matter minor for each subject they will teach in elementary schools;
  5. Align their programs with Council for Accreditation of Educator Preparation standards;
  6. Ensure that the appropriate programs from across the university take responsibility for the education of new teachers in the subjects to a high standard;
  7. Focus on clinical education;
  8. Partner with school districts for effective teacher professional development.

Review Process

The proposals will be reviewed by staff with the assistance of external reviewers selected for their expertise regarding the countries with the world’s most effective education systems.

Assistance with Proposal Preparation

Technical assistance will be available for those intending to apply.

This entire multi-year effort is designed to fit with other Kentucky initiatives to improve the success and competitiveness of the state’s students. The state will approve only those proposals that it finds meet the criteria. It anticipates approving other proposals subsequently as additional consortia come forward after the first set is approved.

Project Director John DeAtley may be reached at:

John T. DeAtley
Director of Field Services
The National Center on Education and the Economy
103 Herrington Hwy
Georgetown, KY  40324

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