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Principals, second only to teachers, are essential to turning around struggling schools and improving student achievement. School leadership development was the focus of a three-day conference that state lawmakers and legislative staff participated in sponsored by the Wallace Foundation. The goal was to bring together education policy analysts, experts in education leadership, state policymakers and principals to discuss leadership development strategies that will lead to lasting school reform.

The National Conference of State Legislatures' education program director, Julie Bell, led a discussion on human capital development that examined ways to improve school leaders and teachers through state-level policy. State legislators and legislative staff from around the country shared examples of programs from their states that recruit, train and pay teachers and principals.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan discussed the role of principals in improving student outcomes and performance. Also, state, district and school leaders shared their latest findings on the best known strategies and actions to strengthen instructional leadership.

Washington, D.C., Mayor Adrian Fenty and Washington, D.C., Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee shared their challenges and successes in revamping the public school system in the nation’s capital.

With a full day dedicated to connecting the federal and state policy implications for schools, Joanne Weis, director of Race to the Top program for the U.S. Department of Education, outlined new administration policies to redefine the state-federal relationship to create incentives to improve leadership. Race to the Top is part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that provides $5 billion in grants for states and school districts to demonstrate how they are taking the lead in developing innovative strategies to create lasting improvements in low-achieving schools.

Here are some video interviews with state lawmakers and legislative staff discussing their experience from attending the meeting.

Arkansas: Joyce Elliott, Senate majority leader, Arkansas General Assembly


Arizona: Chris Kotterman, policy adviser, Democratic Caucus, Arizona Legislature


Hawaii: Roy Takumi, state representative, Hawaii State Legislature


Oklahoma: Kim Montgomery, legislative analyst, Oklahoma State Senate


Colorado: Julie Pelegrin, senior attorney, Colorado General Assembly


Iowa: Bridget Godes, policy analyst, Iowa State Senate


Colorado: Keith King, state senator, Colorado State Senate


Rhode Island: Joe McNamara, state representative, Rhode Island House of Representatives


Alabama: Joseph Mitchell, state representative, Alabama House of Representatives


Minnesota: Chuck Wiger, state senator, Minnesota State Senate