This letter came from a high school teacher in Houston who requested anonymity. The usual reasons: intimidation, fear of losing his job. It is way too soon to declare victory, but it is nonetheless encouraging to know that the insurgents who fight the status quo are feeling fearless and working to overturn policies that hurt kids and destroy communities.

He writes:

Dear Ms. Ravitch,

I wanted to share with you that good news might emerge out of Houston next Tuesday night.  Network for Public Education endorsed candidate, Anne Sung, just might topple Harvin Moore, a 12 years member of the Houston ISD school board who vociferously endorses using standardized testing to shame students, evaluate teachers and loses no sleep over closing small community schools.

I am one of Anne’s teacher foot soldiers walking the blocks knocking on doors with parents and community members.  At the beginning it was one of those “just plow ahead” efforts, but last Saturday people in a swing neighborhood told me that they had already early voted for Anne Sung.  They like the idea of having  someone with seven years of classroom experience at a high school in a struggling community sitting on the board making decisions affecting their children.  They have lost faith in Harvin Moore, Superintendent Grier, to deliver quality education to all HISD students.  They sense HISD is the Enron of public education.
Slick PR and pronouncements  from the top will not deter the rising tide of hard data from toppling the walls of the corporate ed reformers’ sand castles.  Anne Sung is part of that surging incoming tide.  Harvard trained physicists know how to tear numbers apart, which makes Anne dangerous to the Moore / Grier corporate reform “status quo” who accept manufactured numbers like EVAAS as is.  To quote Anne “EVAAS is junk science.”
I admire Anne’s intelligence, insightfulness and grit.  Three years ago she was “Teacher of the Year” at Lee High School, a diverse inner city school of many immigrants with 70 spoken languages. At the time, Lee High School boasted the third highest AP passing rate in the city.  Anne’s students were being admitted to colleges like Stanford and MIT.  Then Superintendant Grier with Harvin Moore’s approval declared Lee HS a “failing school” and imposed Harvard Professor Roland Fryer’s untested “Apollo” prescription of firing the staff, extending the school day, and testing excessively, all in the name of closing the achievement gap.  Mr. Moore repeatedly stated that HISD under Dr. Grier, a Broad disciple, would be the “best school district in the country”, but the promised miracle hasn’t happened.  Anne’s old school is now suffering from atrophy.  All of the faculty are gone, enrollment is down, and the stellar AP program is in shambles.
Last May at a Community Voices for Public Education, TOP and HFT meeting about the future of public education Anne told us about her plans to run for the school board.  She had no pot of money, just the determination to do right. Like all others, the students at Lee High School deserve better.
I am hopeful about next Tuesday.  But Anne faces an intricate web of formidable self interest.
Guess who hosted a fund raiser for Anne’s opponent at his house?  John Arnold.  He kicked in $10K to Harvin and another HISD school board candidate.  Funny how Enron’s former energy hedge trader is influencing HISD’s policy to focus on privatization, student testing and teacher evaluation while eying the $170 billion Texas public employee retirement fund for privatization.
Billionaires like tests and balance sheets. Numbers give them the levers of control.  Their pitch today is just like the one they gave the public during the corporate raiding days of the 1980s when the US economy was emerging from a sharp recession (budget cut backs, red ink):  Grant us control and we will make the tough, gutsy “Rhee” decisions to save the company (public education) – close factories (schools), lay off workers (teachers) and outsource (charters).  Ignoring the historical track record, we just need to understand that when assets exchange hands, the Gordon Gekkos make money.  According to the Houston Chronicle’s endorsement, Harvin Moore “argues that high teacher turnover has been good for the district.”  A high teacher turn over is good business for some.  Anne Sung is no Gordon Gekko’s pawn for profit.
Anne is also confronting the Moore – Grier – Eli Broad – Fryer alliance.  Superintendent Grier is telling the Houston voters the recent Broad Award confirms he and Harvin are on the right course.  But the Broad Award is based on Dr. Grier’s pet project Apollo which was designed by Harvard Professor Fryer who received financial support from the Broad Foundation, according to your web site.  In a “late October surprise” effort to help Mr. Moore, last week Dr. Grier and Professor Fryer held a press conference claiming Apollo is working, but Professor Fryer has yet to submit his final findings which will be subjected to “biased third party” review.  At the same time Harvin Moore is voting to expand the unvetted Apollo program to more schools paid for by dipping into the general HISD fund for millions of dollars at the expense of other non-Apollo schools.  Understand, a successful Apollo is Dr. Grier’s ticket to national fame – finding the cure for the urban achievement gap with the Fryer vaccine.  A pig in a poke?  Anne is wised up and people are wising up to what is in the bag thanks to Anne.
Tuesday night might be seismic in Houston for our cause.  Sung in, Moore out.  Anne Sung is the 5th vote.
If you are inclined to do so, please give a public “shout out” to Anne.  She has the courage and grit to challenge the Machine with cold, hard facts.  Anne is a home grown HISD educator with an incisive mind.  She makes me proud of my profession.  We will reclaim public education.
A HISD high school social studies teacher and union (HFT) member
PS.  Good news.  Anne Sung out-raised Harvin Moore 2 : 1  ($24K vs. $12K) in the last reporting cycle.  Very small compared to other races.
PPS.  It is best to keep my name private.  Some of my statements are my opinions.  As an active HFT member, I need to work with the person sitting in the District 7 seat regardless.  And note I speak on my behalf only.