CINCINNATI, Ohio – The spring of 1925 was a landmark period for America’s classrooms. John T. Scopes was arrested in Tennessee for teaching Darwin’s theory of evolution. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” was published by Scribner’s of New York. And Louisville’s Frank Neuhauser correctly spelled “gladiolus” to win the first-ever National Spelling Bee, launching a classroom tradition that annually helps millions of students refine their study of all academic disciplines.This spring 245 students, representing the cream of a crop that includes nearly 10 million aspirants, will compete in the 70th Annual Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee. (There were no Bees in the war years of 1943-45.) The week-long celebration of educational achievement begins when spellers arrive with their parents and media sponsors in Washington, D.C., on May 25. An ice cream social, a barbecue cookout and tours of capital-area sites highlight the first three days of activity before the two-day competition begins on Wednesday, May 28. The spellers are as diverse as American society. There is a nearly even split between boys and girls. Roughly one-fourth attend a private or parochial school, and 17 are schooled at home – up from 12 in 1996.A majority of the spellers at this year’s Bee are seventh and eighth graders between 12 and 14 years of age, but three are as young as nine years old. Six of the spellers are making their third appearance at the Washington finals, and 42 are back for a second time.One such repeater is Beth Dorman, sponsored by the Chicago Tribune. Beth will be back for her third national finals after finishing as high as 6th in 1995. If she triumphs this year, she’ll be the first home-schooler to take the top prize.Joseph Landreneau, sponsored by Alexandria, Louisiana’s Rapides Foundation, has an advantage in preparation for the championship. He is helped by his older brother Eric, who appeared at the finals from 1990-92. Between them, Joseph and Eric have been to the finals six times.Finally, Prem Murthy Trivedi (sponsored by the Asbury Park Press of Neptune, N.J.) and Rebecca Sealfon (sponsored by the New York Daily News) tied for eighth last year, making them the highest-ranking repeaters from the 1996 competition. As a seventh grader, Prem is eligible to qualify again next year if he is unable to outlast the field in this year’s event. The Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee will be held in the Independence Ballroom of the Grand Hyatt at 11th and “H” Streets NW in Washington. The competition for both the opening rounds (Wednesday, May 28) and final rounds (Thursday, May 29) begins at 8 a.m. Seating is free to the public and is available on a first-come, first-served basis.For the fourth consecutive year, live coverage of the final rounds will be provided by ESPN beginning at 1 p.m. Thursday, May 29. Those interested in following the Bee’s progress from their computer can receive near-real-time results at the Bee’s web page (http://www.spellingbee.com) Scripps Howard, which has run the National Spelling Bee since 1941, also supports literacy education through grants awarded by the Scripps Howard Foundation.