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Washington--James A. Kelly--a former teacher, foundation executive, and school-finance expert--last week was named president of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.

Announcement of the presidency--and of 34 new board members--was made at a press conference here Oct. 14, bringing the total number of board members to 63.

The national board, created last May by the Carnegie Forum on Education and the Economy, is expected to forge a voluntary certification process for teachers similar to those now used in other professions.

The 53-year-old Mr. Kelly said he was "honored and privileged" to become a part of that venture. He also pledged that the board would be active on a "broad array" of education-reform issues, not just teacher certification. (See interview, page 7.)

Mr. Kelly is currently president and chief executive officer of the Center for Creative Studies in Detroit, a nonprofit organization that supports education in the creative arts.

He was selected from among some 250 candidates, after a nationwide search that began last spring. The board's choice of Mr. Kelly was unanimous.

Job of a Decade

With the appointment of a working president, the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards can now get down to the hard work of deciding who can apply for certification, what kinds of assessments they must face, and what standards they will have to meet.

Last week's announcement comes a year and a half after the Carnegie Forum's 1986 report on restructuring American schools, A Nation Prepared: Teachers for the 21st Century.

Creation of the board was a cornerstone of that report. It also called for greater accountability in education, fundamental changes in the training and compensation of teachers, and better recruitment of minority candidates.

James B. Hunt Jr., former Governor of North Carolina and chairman of the board, last week termed the presidency the "most important job in education in a decade."

He said he was "confident" that the board will now move "expeditiously to develop assessments that set high standards for what teachers need to know and be able to do."

The former governor said that he hoped individuals would be able to sit for board certification four to five years from now, but that it was too soon to make firm predictions.

The task facing the fledgling organization is formidable. Most existing teacher tests rely heavily on multiple-choice, paper-and-pencil exercises.

In contrast, the proposed board assessments are expected to reflect state-of-the-art assessment technology, and to go far beyond minimum standards.

Voluntary certification by the nongovernmental, nonprofit board would not replace a state's responsibility to license teachers. States could modify their licensure requirements, however, to incorporate the board's standards, to make national certification a prerequisite for state licensure, or to otherwise recognize and reward board-certified teachers.

'A Full Profession'

According to Mr. Hunt, creation of the board is the "basic building block in making teaching a full profession."

"Teachers will now have a central role in setting high standards for8what teaching professionals should know and be able to do," he said.

Of the 63 current board members, just over half are teachers at the elementary or secondary level.

New members were chosen from among more than 750 nominations.

In addition to classroom teachers, they include other representatives of the education community, state and local officials, and business leaders.

Sonia Hernandez, chairman of the nominating committee and a teaching-principal from San Antonio, Tex., said the committee tried to select individuals who would represent a broad cross-section of educators.

Board members come from 33 of the 50 states and from urban, suburban, and rural areas. They teach at every level, from pre-kindergarten to university, and at both public and private institutions. They also represent a wide variety of disciplines, including mathematics, science, English, history, foreign languages, fine arts, special and gifted education, and business and vocational education.

According to the board's by-laws, two-thirds of its members must be ''teaching professionals" who regularly draw on the kinds of skills and knowledge valued by the board in their professional activities. Of these, three-quarters plus one (or a majority of the full board's membership) must be people regularly engaged in teaching children at the elementary- or secondary-school level.

The other third are individuals who represent the governance and management of education, higher education, citizen advocacy, and business.

Eventually, all of the teaching professional members will be elected by board-certified teachers.

Among the new board members are James P. Comer, professor of child psychiatry at Yale University; Richard E. Heckert, chairman and chief executive officer of the Du Pont Company in Wilmington, Del.; David T. Kearns, chairman and chief executive officer of the Xerox Corporation in Stamford, Conn.; and James R. Oglesby, vice president of the National School Boards Association.

Board members named previously include Mary Hatwood Futrell, president of the National Education Association; Albert Shanker, president of the American Federation of Teachers; and Gov. Thomas H. Kean of New Jersey.

'Real Challenge'

Mr. Hunt acknowledged that the sheer size of the board will make it a "real challenge for us to work together."

"But I think we can do it, and we intend to do it," he said.

In striving for diversity and representation from so many sectors of both the education and noneducation communities, he said, "you just inevitably wind up with a board that's about this size."

Despite its large size, Mr. Kelly said he expected the board to act as a "working board."

"It is not a rubber stamp, pro forma, ratification board," he stressed. "It is the board that will be establishing the standards and policies for the organization."

The board will meet on a quarterly basis for at least the first year. A smaller executive committee of some 15 members will gather more often. Board members also will be expected to serve on working groups that address particular issues of concern to the organization, such as how many certificates to offer and in what fields.

Mr. Kelly is expected to assume his new position within the next few weeks. He will remain in Detroit, where he is now based, and where he will be joined by a "small" staff. One or more staff members will also be located in an office here.

The Carnegie Corporation of New York, which created the forum, has pledged to provide the board with $1 million a year for each of the next five years. According to Mr. Hunt, additional sources of funding have not yet been sought. Initial estimates are that the organization will need some $50 million over the next five years to pursue its work.

"This is sort of a leap of faith," Mr. Hunt said. "We know what needs to be done. We don't know quite how to do it. And we sure don't know where the money is going to come from. But we believe that America is ready for this."

"This country now understands that its future, particularly its economic future, depends on its citizens learning to think for a living," he stated. "That happens in good schools taught by excellent teachers. What we're now doing is focusing on where we should have been focusing all along, and that is in the classroom and on the teacher."

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