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Five Things You Should Know

1. Inside the diverse classroom

We know many of you are doing excellent work with racially, culturally, and ethnically diverse students—and we want to honor you for it. In conjunction with the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), NEA invites educators to apply for The Culturally Responsive Teaching Award. The deadline is May 1 and more information is available at www.tolerance.org/award. Five winners will receive $1,000 each—and their effective practices will be shared nationally to enhance teacher preparation and professional development. Achievement gaps remain as wide as ever, but NEA and SPLC know that those who hold the solutions are walking, talking, and teaching in classrooms across America.

2. Biodiesel for Buses

If you’ve ever had bus duty, you know what it’s like to choke on the exhaust clouds of idling diesel engine buses. But did you know diesel emissions contain more than 40 carcinogens, especially harmful to children’s developing bodies? To reduce toxins, the Environmental Protection Agency recommends eliminating unnecessary idling, replacing older buses, or upgrading buses with better emission controls and cleaner fuels, like biodiesel. Even blends of 20 percent biodiesel to 80 percent diesel significantly reduce overall toxicity. Learn more at www.epa.gov/cleanschoolbus.

3. Sticks and Stones

It turns out that words actually can hurt you. In a recent study in Psychology Today, scientists found that verbal bullying—the common taunts and ridicule of schoolyards—actually inflicts lasting physical effects on the brain’s structure. In those victims, brain scans show a deficit of connecting fibers across the brains. Meanwhile, victims also report greater anxiety, depression, and drug abuse.

4. The Florida Myth

A new report from the Teachers College at Columbia University counters the myth that high-stakes testing and other school reform strategies in Florida have done great things in the Sunshine State. Earlier reports of gains looked at very small segments of the population and didn’t take into account that the voter-approved class-size amendment might actually be behind any improvements. Plus, those gains could barely be called “mixed,” if they’re viewed honestly across the grades and subject areas.

5. The envelope…

Congratulations to the many students ripping open fat envelopes from college admission offices this month! Next year, many will be on new campuses, taking on new challenges. Interestingly, research shows the best predictor of their college success is their “conscientiousness,” as measured by dependability, perseverance, and work ethic. “Agreeableness,” which includes teamwork, is next. While not exactly high-level math, these also are teachable skills:

“You can learn to behave in dependable ways. For some people, it’s second nature, for others, it’s a real struggle,” said University of Minnesota professor Neil Sackett to Education Week.