Sunday, August 03, 2014

Guidance on Shutting Down "I-20 Mills"

How to spot questionable educational institutions

The Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) has published a brief, informal guide to aid U.S. consular officers in properly assessing educational institutions when issuing visas for foreign students. These officers currently lack key information, such as on schools that are not accredited by any entity recognized by the U.S. Department of Education but which nonetheless are certified by the Department of Homeland Security to issue the I-20 form, which leads to the issuance of foreign student visas.

Thousands of such “educational” entities are permitted to cause the admission of foreign students. Admission to one of these marginal schools represents one of the easiest, safest, and cheapest ways to become an illegal alien: Come to the United States on a student visa, and then simply ignore the institution that made the trip possible. A large number of the students at these institutions drop into illegal status and are rarely deported unless they commit a major crime.

The paper shows ways to obtain information on such troubled U.S. schools. These institutions, termed more appropriately “I-20 mills,” can make millions of dollars by attracting students who will not receive an education, but will instead become illegal workers in this country.

View the entire report at:

“Foreign Service officers should have complete information on schools when deciding whether or not to issue a foreign student visa,” said CIS Executive Director Mark Krikorian. “Better access to information would decrease the possibility of another entity like Tri-Valley University in California, which caused the entry of approximately 1,500 alien 'students' and earned the school’s law-breaking owner some $5.9 million.”

The Center also provides a “Think Thrice List of U.S. Schools in Conflict with Federal Agencies” as well as an annotated checklist on identifying the schools which have questionable educational credentials.

Email from CIS

Fishy Polls on Common Core

Never let it be said that Common Core (CC) entirely lacks educational value.

By exercising even a little of the critical thinking the pushers of these national standards claim to want mandated in all classrooms, consumers can learn a big, valuable lesson about polling that seeks to shape public opinion rather than honestly gauge it.

The one constant in the spate of polls being taken as CC heats up as a political issue is that a sizable portion of the population still knows little or nothing about how these curricular guidelines were developed or what they do. To some prominent pollsters, the knowledge gap is an opening to feed respondents an entirely positive portrayal and then ask them leading questions likely to elicit pro-CC responses.

A recent example was a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll done June 11–15, purporting to find support exceeds opposition to Common Core by almost a 2–1 margin. But first, the pollsters found almost half their participants said they had seen, read, or heard zilch about the national standards. So then WSJ/NBC “educated” them with the following description:

“The Common Core standards are a new set of education standards for English and math that have been set to internationally competitive levels and would be used in every state for students in grades K through 12.”

That is a grossly misleading description. It utterly ignores serious scholarly findings about weaknesses of the math and English standards and their lack of comparability to the best in the world. Furthermore, it fails to acknowledge heavy Obama administration pressure to get states signed up, or the growing number of states now bailing on CC testing and CC itself.

In a June 18 Cato at Liberty blogpost, Cato Institute education analyst Neil McCluskey likened the WSJ/NBC approach to failing to tell people that pufferfish are poisonous, then telling them “pufferfish are delicious and nutritious,” then finally asking, “would you like to eat some pufferfish?”

The first week of May, a survey by Republican pollster John McLaughlin used similar pufferfishy questioning to convert an almost equal split of opinion on CC (35 percent approval, 33 percent disapproval, 32 percent don’t know) to a whopping two-thirds level of support, by feeding respondents what it called a “simple, neutral” description. Again, it was anything but objective. It was CC puffery.

The political takeaway from McLaughlin was that Republicans should beware of opposing Common Core, because national standards will have a big upside with swing voters in the general election. Scribes from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a nominally conservative think tank, then sought to drive home that point with commentary warning Republican candidates that criticizing Common Core is a losing issue.

It would have been reasonable for media reporting on all this to have noted the McLaughlin Poll was commissioned by the Collaborative for Student Success, recipient of heavy funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which has spent hundreds of millions of dollars both creating Common Core and now purchasing support for it. And Fordham also does PR for the Gates people.

Someone might ask Oklahoma state school superintendent Janet Barresi how much being a red-hot supporter of Common Core in a deep-red state helped her. Despite reportedly putting more than $1 million of her own money into her campaign, she lost in a landslide to CC opponent Joy Hofmeister in the June 24 GOP primary. In fact, Barresi finished third with just 21 percent support.

Here and there, some polls are beginning to reflect the growing anger of citizens over undemocratically imposed nationalized standards they like less the more they find out about them. A little-noted University of Connecticut poll conducted the last week of April found just that: Opposition was highest among people who said they were most highly informed about CC.

Now, one of the polling heavyweights, Rasmussen Reports, has done a straightforward survey (June 21–22), using no leading or trick questions, and finds support for Common Core plummeting among parents with school-age children. Only 34 percent of those parents favor schools nationwide having to meet the so-called Common Core State Standards, a drop of 18 percentage points since a Rasmussen survey last November.

Citizens should closely scrutinize all public-opinion surveys for embedded bias. A critical assessment of the accumulating data indicates a growing proportion of parents who have brought themselves up to speed independently on Common Core—as opposed to being pollster-led—oppose this top-down imposition of shoddy, one-size-fits-all standards and subjective testing on their children.


Meet the headmistress who believes that Oxbridge can 'destroy' girls

We’ve all come across a 'Little Miss Perfect' at some point during our school days - some of us probably even were one. She’s recognisable from her immaculate school record, the A*s plastered all over her work - and the anxiety she feels when she gets a B.

It’s this pressure that has led one top headmistress to try and stamp out the desire for perfection at her school. Judith Carlisle, the headmistress of Oxford High School, tells me that perfectionism can leave girls feeling fearful and insecure – so much so that it starts to affect their performance. The problem in her school was so vast that it’s led her to launch an initiative named, ‘The death of Little Miss Perfect’, which aims to do just that.

“Perfectionism is only captured in a moment – it’s not achievable longer term,” explains Ms Carlisle. “We have done many different things to challenge perfectionism because of how it undermines self-esteem and then performance. Unhappy people can’t learn anything.”

The school has banned mobile phones on school trips – to teach pupils to “live in the moment”; put up signs in classrooms encouraging them not to give up ('I can’t do it… yet'); and brought in lecturers to teach the girls about the dangers of striving for perfection.

It has spread into lessons, too. During French classes, girls have written letters wishing ‘Mademoiselle Parfaite’ a firm goodbye. While in Chemistry class, there were demonstrations of how repeatedly trying to extract certain chemicals just won’t work. The message? You shouldn’t over-work your own work.

“Just give in and move on to the next thing,” cries Ms Carlisle.
Just hand it in

These phrases have now been adopted by her pupils. Mrs Carlisle tells me that whereas once they would repeat her traditional end-of-term messages such as ‘stay safe and see you next term’, the girls now say: ‘It’s good enough’, ‘let it go’, ‘nobody’s perfect’ and ‘have a go’.

“It’s a shared language,” she adds. “We’re stopping them from answering questions by saying ‘I expect this is wrong’.”

Some girls have even been given cognitive behavioural coaching to teach them how to stop the negative voices in their heads. Younger pupils are taught exercises, such as keeping ‘achievement logs,’ where they have to write down all the non-academic things they have achieved every day.

Her goal is to try and help pupils expand their characters and not just obsesses over their grades.

“It’s about the principles that every parent wants - that their children grows up as happy as they can be and as robust as we can get then to be. And they learn more by failing and not getting it right,” she explains.

The school has also encouraged pupils to look at themselves kindly and realistically.

“The way we did that with our younger girls is to ask: what makes a really good friend?! Mrs Carlisle explains. "They tell us all the positive qualities and then we look at whether you’re a good friend to yourself. Is the voice you have within yourself overly critical?”

She also says that grades are not the be-all and end-all for students. “In five years’ time, no one will give a damn which GCSE [grade] you got in French.”

And when it comes to applying to university, she says that pupils shouldn’t try for top institutes like Oxbridge if the know they'll be overly disappointed by rejection.

“Don’t aim for Oxford if not getting in will destroy you – or if going will destroy you,” she says. “It’s important [the girls are] not going for things that if they don’t get it, it will destroy them. Exams aren’t who they are – it’s what they did on that day.”

How do parents cope?

This view is pretty controversial and Mrs Carlisle admits that some parents have initially struggled to understand it. What would she say to them?

“There’s a direct response, which is it’s not about lowering the standards. It’s not that we’re aiming to undermine high standards – it will actually help you achieve higher standards.”

The drive to end perfectionism isn't something that would work at schools all over the country. But it works at Oxford High. Ms Carlisle says: "These are pretty motivated young women. These are problems which some schools would love to have.”

She tells me that the ‘death of Little Miss Perfect’ idea first came to her two years ago because of a conversation with a parent. “The moment it hit me between the eyes was when I had a parent and his delightful daughter sitting in my office deciding if this was the right school for her. He said, 'my daughter’s an absolutely perfectionist' and I said, 'don’t worry – we’ll soon get that out of her'.”

Is it working?

Ms Carlisle thinks that things are changing as a result of all her scheme (which includes an online test where it is impossible to get 100 per cent). “I think the processes are quite slow,” she says, but adds that visitors have noticed a difference.

“They have commented on there being a greater sense of self-awareness and relaxation,” she says. “There’s a greater openness and a greater willingness to try. It’s more normal to talk about [failures].”

Even the staff has been affected.  “It’s interesting among the staff, recognising our own perfectionism tendencies,” she says. One senior member of staff has since told pupils about how she failed her driving test seven times, while the former deputy head – who attended Oxford High herself – told the girls about how she’d initially been rejected by the school.

It just goes to show that we could all afford to take a lesson from Mrs Carlisle's anti-perfection drive. After all, as she says: “the real failing, is failing to have a go.”


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