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Truman Lee Kelley was a co-founder of Kappa Delta Pi. Kelley, along with William C. Bagley and Thomas Musselman, organized the Illinois Education Club in 1904, which later became known as Kappa Delta Pi. Kelley was a noted scholar who made an impact on American education through his work and writing. He was a statistician and psychometrician who had interests in factor analysis, educational testing, canonical correlation, and multifactor theories of intelligence. One of Kelley’s major contributions to the field of educational statistics was his work, Statistical Methods (1923). This book was highly regarded by many eminent statisticians who considered it to be one of the most useful and comprehensive books on statistics written at the time.

Kelley (25 May 1884–1961) received his Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1914 and taught at the University of Texas for three years. He then accepted an offer from Teachers College to be a statistician. During this time, he worked on the standardization of trade tests during World War I and became recognized as a noted statistician. Because of his work, he received and accepted an appointment to Stanford University where he worked in both the education and psychology departments.

During his years at Stanford, Kelley enhanced his career by becoming a sought-after speaker and author. He wrote many books, articles, and responses, most of which addressed the fields of statistics and education.

Statistical Methods was written to serve two audiences: biologists, economists, educators, and psychologists who knew little of higher mathematics and who used statistical methods merely as a device to portray the facts of their investigations, and for those in the same fields who resorted to mathematics in aiding the discovery of new truths. Kelley felt that the basic statistical needs of the two fields were the same. Because he wanted to provide a foundation for advanced work for scholars, he asked fellow statisticians to look for probable errors in his work. In 1924, Kelley, along with eight of his colleagues, published Handbook of Mathematical Statistics, for use by educators who conducted research projects and those who wanted to learn more about statistics.

Kelley’s interests were not only in statistics. He also had a keen interest in the sciences and psychology. One of his specific interests was in determining experimentally the influences of heredity and environment upon mental performances. The study resulted in The Influence of Nurture Upon Native Differences (1925).

Kelley was a leading proponent of science and testing. He delivered many speeches, lectures, and debates regarding these topics. His book, Scientific Method: Its Function in Research and in Education (1932) was a collection of many of these presentations. One chapter of particular interest contained his rebuttal on the issue of philosophy versus science in a debate with William H. Kilpatrick. Kelley rebuked Kilpatrick’s appeal for philosophy in making educational decisions by promoting the idea of science as a reliable basis upon which decisions should be made. Kelley stated his belief in the philosophy of education, but believed it should be cooperative with science and should include experimental verification. He also stated that a philosophy of education should promote concepts of measurement, probability, and, most importantly, a questioning concept that could be fulfilled only by new evidence. Kelley declared that he believed men of science needed to have mental traits to develop philosophies of education. Some of these traits included industriousness, the ability to question authority, skill at drawing inferences, existence of sound logic, possession of keen observation skills dependent on observed facts, and inventiveness in techniques. Kelley sought to embody these traits throughout his life.

Kelley remained at Stanford until 1931 when he accepted a position as a Professor of Education at Harvard University. While at Harvard, Kelley remained active as an author and speaker. He was president of the Psychometric Society from 1938–39. In 1947, Kelley wrote Fundamentals of Statistics, another book that proved to be influential in the area of educational statistics. The purpose of this book was to emphasize the logic and principles underlying the statistical study of phenomena. With this book, Kelley sought to introduce the reader to basic math skills and the tools necessary to provide useful information for social problem solving. This book was written for everyday life, while his parallel work, Kelley Statistical Tables (1948) was written specifically for laboratory scientists.

At a June 1950 reception to honor Kelley, Lewis Terman, one of his associates from Stanford, commented that Kelley was among approximately six psychologists in the world who did the most to place the new science of psychometrics on a sound basis. To his peers and colleagues, Truman Lee Kelley was a true “man of science”.

Contributed by Terri L. Patterson, Baylor University

Englehard, G., Jr. 1992. “Thorndike’s scaling vs. Wood’s Scoring” in Rasch Measurement Transactions.

Kappa Delta Pi. 2001. A Brief History of Kappa Delta Pi. Indianapolis, Ind.: Kappa Delta Pi.

Stout, Dale A. 1987. Statistics in American Psychology: The Social Construction of Experimental and Correlational Psychology, 1900-1930. Edinburgh: University of Edinburgh.

Street, W. R. 1994. A Chronology of Noteworthy Events in American Psychology. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.

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