Question: If you're the superintendent of a district labeled "in need of improvement" under NCLB, are you allowed to offer federally funded tutoring directly to students? Answer: No—unless, of course, your name is Arne Duncan and you run the Chicago Public Schools. Then the answer is yes. (See here.) Wait, news flash. Now that same exemption has been awarded to seven other urban districts, according to Education Daily, including Los Angeles and Boston (see here). At least, in a recent communiqué to Florida, the U.S. Department of Education makes one point perfectly clear—in providing its students tutoring, low-performing districts cannot use groups associated with the failing district (i.e., teacher unions, after-school programs, or parents' groups). Better not let anybody outside of Florida know that, however, because failing districts in other states are allowed to use these groups (for example, say, the United Federation of Teachers). All of which explains Secretary Margaret Spellings's new favorite mantra: "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds."

"Feds tighten tutoring rules under NCLB," by Corey Murray, eSchool News, October 19, 2005 (free registration required)

"Tutoring, a key in No Child Left Behind, is raising questions," by Valerie Strauss, Washington Post, October 25, 2005

"More urban districts get SES flexibility," by Katherine Shek, Education Daily, October 26, 2005 (subscription required)

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