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Tenor saxophone.
This is a country in which the drive to make standardized testing more important and to assess teachers on the basis of those tests, no matter how flawed they are, is so strong that New York tried to make a boy take a standardized test while he was in the hospital getting ready for brain surgery and Florida law is requiring a boy born with only a brain stem, not a full brain, to take a standardized test. And unfortunately, the increasing importance of standardized tests is coming from the top—the same president who says in speeches that he doesn't want teachers teaching to the test has embraced policy after policy that forces them to do just that, narrowing education from an exploration of a range of subjects taught in varying ways to the few subjects that will be on the test, taught in the way that best trains for the test, not for knowledge of the subject.

All that being the case, it's nice to hear a happy story every now and then. So here's the story of the Orchard Gardens school in Roxbury, Massachusetts. It was built with very good art facilities—which then weren't used as the school was violent and low-achieving. Then a new principal arrived:

In a school notorious for its lack of discipline, where backpacks were prohibited for fear the students would use them to carry weapons, Bott’s bold decision to replace the security guards with art teachers was met with skepticism by those who also questioned why he would choose to lead the troubled school. [...]

But now, three years later, the school is almost unrecognizable. Brightly colored paintings, essays of achievement, and motivational posters line the halls. The dance studio has been resurrected, along with the band room, and an artists’ studio.

The end result? Orchard Gardens has one of the fastest student improvement rates statewide. And the students—once described as loud and unruly, have found their focus.

Those kids are still taking their battery of standardized tests, I'm sure. But apparently the investment in something that's not on the tests was crucial in turning the school around and giving the kids motivation and interest in learning.

Continue reading for more news about what's happening to workers and future workers.

A fair day's wage

  • The SEIU has won a hotly contested election at Kaiser Permanente; SEIU had been challenged by the National Union of Healthcare Workers, which formed out of a breakaway SEIU local.
  • Sarah Jaffe and Josh Eidelson discuss the week's labor news and more on Belabored.
  • Hawaii's legislature has passed a domestic workers bill of rights. If Gov. Neil Abercrombie signs the law, Hawaii will be the second state, after New York, to have such a law, which would extend wage and hour protections to domestic workers. The California legislature passed a similar bill, only to have Gov. Jerry Brown veto it.
  • Teachers and staff at another charter school vote to unionize. This one's in Chicago.
  • Baseball player Bryce Harper talks about his ironworker father and the inspiration he draws from how hard his father works.
  • Long read, but worth it. Taken for a ride: Temp agencies and raiteros in immigrant Chicago.
    The word raitero is a Spanglish invention that roughly means "a person who gives rides." In fact, the raiteros are effectively agents for Select Remedy and other temp agencies, which have grown steadily since the 1990s and are approaching new heights after the recent recession. While not a household name, the Select Family of Staffing Companies, which controls Select Remedy, posted $1.8 billion in revenue last year and employs nearly 100,000 people every week — about as many as Starbucks.

    Select and other temp agencies maintain that the raiteros are merely van drivers hired by the workers. They say they have no contract or connection to the temp agency.

    Yet the agencies provide applications so the raiteros can recruit workers. They call raiteros with the number of workers needed at each worksite. At the end of the week, the raiteros pick up the workers' paychecks from the temp agencies and bring them to check-cashing stores, where workers are charged $3 to $4 to cash them. In some cases, the raiteros say, the temp firms even provide the vans they use to drive workers to their jobs, or lend them money to buy the vans.

  • Post-racial society?
    Bertucci Contracting Co. LLC, a federal construction contractor, has settled allegations of hiring discrimination against minority job applicants at its Jefferson facility.

    Investigators with the Labor Department's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs determined that the company's hiring process violated Executive Order 11246 by creating a disparate impact on African-American, Hispanic, Asian and Native American job seekers. As a result, 14 qualified minority applicants were denied the opportunity to fairly compete for positions as laborers and deckhands between 2009 and 2011.

  • Higher wages in China and lower wages in the United States could mean a manufacturing comeback for the U.S.
  • Cathy Youngblood, Hyatt housekeeper and activist:
    As a housekeeper, my job is very fast paced and stressful. I weigh 107 pounds, and I push a 120 pound linen cart over miles of carpeted floors. Sometimes, I scrub the bathroom floor on my hands and knees or use a toothbrush to clean the tiles. The bed mattresses weigh over 100 pounds and I have to lift all four corners to tuck in king size sheets. We use flat king sheets, not fitted sheets, on all beds, even twin, queen, or roll-a-ways. The vacuum cleaners are too heavy. We don't have all the proper size tools and equipment we need to do our jobs in a safe manner. As a result, I and my co-workers suffer repetitive motion injuries along with fresh bruises daily. By the time I get to my sixth room, my back hurts and my body aches all over. We housekeepers have to take pain medication just to make it to the end of our shifts.
    Cathy is interviewed on this week's Belabored, by the way.
  • How much are retirement fees costing you?


Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Sat May 04, 2013 at 10:55 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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