Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Indianapolis Star Endorses Tony Bennett For His 'Hard-Charging' Style

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

Indiana state superintendent Tony Bennett speaks at a meeting addressing the state takeover of Roosevelt High School in a Gary church.

Echoing the Times of Northwest Indiana‘s endorsement of Tony Bennett’s “brash, but extremely effective” style, the state’s largest paper threw its support behind the Republican state superintendent‘s re-election campaign this weekend.

“On substance, he’s largely been right, even if his style is at times unnecessarily abrasive,” wrote The Indianapolis Star‘s editorial board late Friday:

In a recent interview with The Star’s Editorial Board, when told that several legislators, including Republicans, had floated the notion that the state should pause to evaluate whether the broad swath of reforms put into law in recent years is working before adopting further changes, Bennett was flatly dismissive of the idea. The stakes are too high for students — and for Indiana — to go slow now, he argues.

About the stakes, he’s entirely right. Far too many students leave school without a diploma, and too many of those who do graduate don’t have the skills necessary to succeed either in college or a career. Indiana’s economy is held back by the fact that we have one of the least educated workforces in the nation.

The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette endorsed Bennett’s Democratic challenger Glenda Ritz last weekend, writing:

[Bennett's] unproven experiment in school choice and privatization has strained local districts at the very time they’ve needed the support and resources of a strong Indiana Department of Education.

Fortunately, his challenger, Glenda Ritz, demonstrates the skill and passion to help all students and recognizes the state’s civic health and economy depend on strong public schools. Her experience in communicating a classroom perspective to legislators is sorely needed as educators grapple with a host of new laws and regulations.

(As a side-note for those of you keeping track, The South Bend Tribune didn’t list the state superintendent’s race on its list of endorsements.)


  • Matthew Brooks

    How is his “style” effective? Are the professionals in the sector happier? Is teacher retention up? Are students flocking to public schools rather than private or charter? Bennett’s style is simply change for changes sake. His public giveaway will not be sustainable and Indiana taxpayers and students will be the ones stuck with the tab.

  • Cindi Pastore

    I want to count on State Impact to be fair and balanced in it’s reporting and I’m afraid your headline (which is all a lot of people will see) makes you seem biased towards Bennett. A better headline might read “Major Indiana Newspapers Endorse Different Candidates for Superintendent for Public Instruction”

    • kystokes

      I’ll keep that in mind. I will point out that when we posted Ritz’s endorsement, we used the same headline style:

      And for Bennett’s other endorsement:

      The pattern here is to do quick stand-alone posts highlighting the endorsements of major papers. “Major Indiana Newspapers Endorse Different Candidate For Superintendent of Public Instruction” only works for this post because we are able to bring in the Journal Gazette’s earlier endorsement — but we already posted on that, and that’s not “new.”

      If readers would like us to stop doing stand-alone posts for endorsements, we can certainly do so. We can simply include endorsement editorials in our Morning Bell “link roundup” posts. Is that a better way for us to go? Reply here and let Elle and I know.

      • Cindi Pastore

        Don’t you think using the term “hard-charging” rings a bit differently than “offers critiques?” I do. In using an adjective such as this in the headline about the Star’s endorsement it makes it sound like you (State Impact) also believe that Bennett’s reforms are “hard-charging” which I think has a “good” connotation to it. Personally, I believe his “reforms” are not hard-charging (as in a good football offense,) but rushed, ill-advised, not backed by credible research, not conducive to school improvement, and, for lack of a better word, arrogant.

        • kystokes

          While I would argue “hard-charging” could be construed negatively as well as positively, I don’t want to minimize your point either. I think Elle and I do our best to select our words for our headlines fairly and intentionally (we often ask each other and our editors if headlines are appropriate, balanced, etc). It’s worth saying StateImpact gets nothing out of (the perception of) unfairness, opacity, or bias — it undermines our credibility and alienates people engaged with the issue (like you!) — so I take your comments very seriously.

          In case you’re curious, here’s my personal statement of journalistic ethics:

  • KClovestoteach

    My students are tested nine weeks a school year. NINE WEEKS! For those of you that are not aware, that is one quarter of the school year. Many studies have shown that a student’s “success” on a test is more closely tied with socio-economic status than what the teacher has taught. Why are we punishing students with long, boring, poorly-written tests? Why are we punishing teachers?

    I, and many other teachers, feel that we unfortunately have to resort to “drill and kill” methods to get our students over the edge to pass I-STEP/Acuity testing. While drill and kill is needed to learn basic math facts, rote counting etc., the technique doesn’t help to build critical thinking skills or allow for time for meaningful community projects and cross-curricular learning. Students may be able to achieve a higher grade on a test, but they don’t understand the meaning behind the actual algorithm at times because of this drill and kill mentality we are having to use. This push to get students to pass one high-stakes test that cannot possibly assess all our students truly know is ruining education in my opinion.

    We teachers have noticed an overall decline in students’ ability to solve complex problems and defend their thinking in math and reading. I believe this is because we are always playing the testing game, calculating how many questions will be on multiplying two negative integers, for example. Tests do not and cannot fully determine what a child knows or how he or she will use this material in “real world” situations. Why not use the nine weeks currently used to test and all of these resources for good? Instead of testing, students and teachers could team up with local organizations, businesses, and larger organizations to give students real life experiences that will truly help them problem solve and become trained to be the future leaders of our country.

    I and many other teachers and parents STRONGLY disagree with the Indianapolis Star’s endorsement. Glenda Ritz believes in investing in education and professional development for teachers instead of testing companies. I ask the citizens of Indianapolis to research Glenda Ritz, a fine candidate with 33 years of experience in the classroom.

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