James H. Shelton III has served as assistant deputy secretary for innovation and improvement since April 2009, putting him in charge of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Innovation and Improvement. In this position, he oversees the $650 million Investing in Innovation Fund. President Barack Obama pledged to prohibit government employees from doing business with former employers. However, Shelton was granted a waiver to deal with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, for which he worked for more than five years prior to joining the Obama administration.
Shelton holds a bachelor’s degree in computer science from Morehouse College (1989), as well as master’s degrees in business administration and education from Stanford University (1993).
He began his career developing computer systems before joining McKinsey & Company, a major management consulting firm, in 1993, advising CEOs and other executives on issues related to corporate strategy, business development, organizational design and operational effectiveness. He spent four years with the firm, rising up to senior management consultant.
Upon leaving McKinsey, he joined Knowledge Universe, Inc., a huge education conglomerate, founded by Mike and Lowell Milken, that operates everything from pre-schools to online colleges. Shelton was tasked with launching, acquiring and operating education-related businesses.
In 1999 Shelton co-founded LearnNow, a school management company that later was acquired by Edison Schools.
Shelton then worked with Joel Klein, chancellor of New York City schools, leading the planning for his reform strategy known as Children First.
He next served as a partner and the East Coast lead for NewSchools Venture Fund, a non-profit that supports companies in the education industry.
Prior to joining the Obama administration, he spent more than five years (2003-2009) as a program director for the education division of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, managing the foundation’s national programs and work in the northeast region of the United States. Among the programs he oversaw were Next Generation Models, School Replication, and College Access and Scholarships.
Shelton and his wife, Sonia, have two sons, Justice and Jameson.