James Kelly

"Conversations With and About Mike"


Member Since: 1999

James A. Kelly has had a distinguished career in education policy, education finance, philanthropy, and teaching standards, assessments and certification. He 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 120,000 teachers have become National Board-certified.

From 1985-1987 he was president of the Center for Creative Studies in Detroit, Michigan, and from 1981-1985 he was president of Spring Hill Center, a conference center in Wayzata, Minnesota. 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. 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 1968-69 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, Missouri. His B.A. degree 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 was co-chair of Learning to Give, a non-profit project that worked with teachers to develop over 1400 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 Cranbrook Educational Community in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, where he has chaired the Art Museum Committee, and served as vice-chair and is a Life Governor 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 for Educational Leadership, and (also for over 20 years) has served as 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.



Editor’s Note: The Appendix for “Conversations With and About Mike” contains transcripts for the recorded audio and video clips. To view the Audio Transcripts go to this page >