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Five Things You Should Know

Photo by Angie McCormick

1. Get Involved!

These are tough times to be a teacher. More than 100,000 of your colleagues—including 36,000 in California, as well as 20,000 in Illinois—took home pink slips this spring, and attacks on teacher tenure have been waged in Florida, Louisiana, Alabama, Colorado, and elsewhere. As always, a good offense is your best defense. Learn more about pending legislation and participate in NEA’s efforts on behalf of pro-public education policies at

Photo by Chris Stein

2. Where the boys are

You don’t have to work in a single-sex school to borrow from their playbook. Consider that schools for Latino and African-American males often foster feelings of “brotherhood”; provide instruction that connects to kids’ cultures and lives; and work hard to counter popular messages that school isn’t for guys, according to the findings of a Metropolitan Center for Urban Education at New York University study. It’s all about educators creating a nurturing, responsive environment for their students, said center director Pedro Noguera.

Photo by Kitti

3. Working up an appetite

Eat first, then play? Not always. Some schools, including nearly a third in Montana, have shifted recess to the front of the lunch hour. Cafeteria workers say the switch has meant bigger appetites, less wasted food, and far fewer behavior issues at the table.

4. Merit pay myths

Even as federal policymakers continue to push for linking teacher pay to student test scores, there’s still zero proof that merit pay does anything to improve achievement. In fact, the latest study—a look at Chicago’s three-year-old Teacher Advancement Project (TAP) by researchers at Mathematica Policy Research—found that TAP, which gets its money from the federal Teacher Incentive Fund, had no impact on test scores or teacher retention rates. In its defense, federal officials said they “can’t expect immediate results.”

Photo by Leland Bobbe

5. Digging in

You know your kids love their schoolyard garden. And you suspect they’re learning an awful lot through these science and nutrition lessons brought to life. But recent research from the Sage Colleges of New York suggests that getting dirty might also make kids smarter. Previous research has already shown that bacteria found naturally in dirt decreases anxiety in laboratory animals, and the latest studies show it also increases their cognitive function. Start digging!

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