James Kelly


Member Since: 1999

James Kelly has had a distinguished career in education policy, education finance, philanthropy, and teaching standards, assessments and certification. He is senior advisor to the President of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, and chairs the Board of Advisors for Teaching works, a nationally-important teacher education initiative at the University of Michigan. From 2008-2010 he was co-director of Strategic Management of Human Capital; the project’s national task force, selected states and dozens of urban school districts were engaged in analyzing successful human capital reforms and developing policy proposals for further reforms that emphasize talent recruitment and performance management in urban districts.

From 1987-1999 he was founding president and CEO of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS), where he led efforts to create National Board Certification (NBC), the nation’s advanced professional certification program for accomplished elementary and secondary teachers. Almost all states provide recognition for NBC and pay higher compensation to National Board Certified Teachers, the first time in the nation’s history that states have provided additional salary increments to teachers recognized as meeting higher standards for teaching quality. Despite high standards and rigorous assessments, over 100,000 teachers have become Board-certified.

From 1970-1981, Kelly was senior program officer at the Ford Foundation, where he influenced state education finance and tax policies to make their support for public education more equitable. He was president of Spring Hill Center, a conference center in Wayzata, MN, and president of the Center for Creative Studies, in Detroit, MI. Earlier he was an assistant and associate professor at Teachers College, Columbia University, was responsible for education policy at the National Urban Coalition during the 1968-1969 urban upheavals, and worked at Punjab University in Lahore, Pakistan to establish the Institute of Education and Research at that university. Mr. Kelly began his career as a teacher, assistant principal and assistant superintendent of the public schools in Ladue, MO. His B.A. is from Shimer College, then an integral part of the College of the University of Chicago. His M.A. is from the University of Chicago, and his Ph.D. is from Stanford University, with concentrations in education, economics, and political science.

Since retiring from the NBPTS in 1999, Mr. Kelly has served as a senior advisor to many organizations, including the World Bank, the National Academy of Sciences (working to develop their Strategic Educational Research Program), Atlantic Philanthropies, the Hunt Institute at the University of North Carolina, Standard and Poors, Widmeyer Communications, SchoolNet, Wireless Generation, the Henry Ford Learning Institute, and others. He served on the executive board of the Consortium for Policy Research in Education (CPRE), and on the Board of Overseers of the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania. He is co-chair of Learning to Give, a non-profit project that has worked with teachers to develop over 1700 on-line teaching units to help students learn about volunteerism, philanthropy and the non-profit sector; the website of this organization is visited monthly by more than 200,000 teachers. He is a trustee of the Cranbroook Educational Community in Bloomfield Hills, MI, where he has chaired the Art Museum Committee and served as vice-chair of the Governing Board of the Cranbrook Art Academy. For over 20 years he was a member of the board of directors of the Institute of Educational Leadership, and (also for over 20 years) is a board member of Musica Sacra, a professional choral music organization whose concerts at Carnegie Hall and other New York City venues receive rave reviews.

Mentored throughout his career by extraordinarily wise leaders, Mr. Kelly in turn assists many friends and colleagues as they develop their own careers and spheres of influence. Mr. Kelly has four children and seven grandchildren. His wife, Mariam C. Noland, is president of the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan.

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