Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Why One IPS Teacher Says She's Voting For Tony Bennett

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

State superintendent Tony Bennett delivers his 2012 State of Education Address at the Indiana Historical Society.

A fifth grade teacher at Indianapolis’ Arlington Woods Elementary isn’t leafleting or organizing for her preferred candidate, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t invested in the state superintendent’s race.

Tammy Laughner says she plans to vote for Republican incumbent Tony Bennett because she supports the changes he’s made to Indiana schools in the last four years.

Her ballot counters the narrative that Bennett’s challenger, Democrat Glenda Ritz, has crafted as local teachers unions have mobilized to support her — educators also plan to go to the polls for Bennett, Laughner says.

“I just think the difference is the union has been organized for decades and they have that platform to express it. But I think there are many people like myself who don’t have a platform or a way to be more vocal,” she says.


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In recent weeks, Bennett has vigorously disputed charges that he is anti-teacher. He says Ritz has characterized him as an angry education reformer, but he knows he has the support of teachers across the state.

“I do believe that what we are seeing over the last six to nine months are more and more educators agreeing that things are better for Indiana children and Indiana schools even though their jobs might be a little harder,” Bennett told StateImpact in September.

Indiana’s teacher evaluation mandate took effect this year, linking performance with pay. Ritz and her supporters oppose the new law.

“I’m talking with the heart and the passion of an actual educator and have seen what Tony Bennett’s policies have done to education,” Ritz told us in August. “That’s why I’m running.”

But Laughner says Bennett’s stance on teacher evaluations is the reason she’s voting for him.

“I think it’s quite simply because he values great teachers, and I appreciate that,” says Laughner. “I appreciate the teacher evaluation he’s put together that differentiates the levels of competency. Teachers are getting recognized now.”

Laughner’s school, Arlington Woods, is an IPS success story. After receiving an F four years ago, the school received an A this year based on the state’s new grading system. It’s in part because of Laughner and a group of teachers who developed their own rigorous curriculum and started measuring students’ progress with weekly tests. Scores on the ISTEP+ went up.

Ritz wouldn’t abolish teacher evaluations if elected, but would simply change the metrics.

“Rigorous standards and high quality teaching should be expected,” Ritz told StateImpact, but she called the link to ISTEP+ an “overstep.”

For her part, Laughner has no problem being judged based on her students’ test scores and says she doesn’t want to be “lumped in” with less effective teachers.

“I think teachers who are highly effective appreciate the testing because it actually shows their effectiveness,” Laughner says.


  • inteach

    Preparing students for weekly tests is a lot easier than teaching them.

    Tammy is on the reform gravy train.

  • inteach

    One more thing…

    “I think teachers who are highly effective appreciate the testing because it actually shows their effectiveness,” Laughner says.

    So if we think that the focus on testing is excessive and teaching to the test is not in the best interests of students, we’re not highly effective?

    Classic arrogance and demagoguery. No wonder Bennett visited Laughner’s school. It sounds like Tony and Tammy share some personality traits.

    By the way, what the heck is Assess to Success, LLC? Does Laughner have a financial interest in her brand of reform?

  • Mary Jo

    Love this!

  • Mark Shoup

    Ms. Laughner received a school-reform teaching award from Mitch Daniels last winter at a rally held at the Statehouse sponsored by right-wing, pro-voucher organizations: School Choice Indiana, The Friedman
    Foundation for Educational Choice, Stand for Children, Education Reform
    Now, Indiana Public Charter School Association, Students First, and
    Indiana Virtual School Families. Many of those organizations have contributed to Dr. Bennett’s re-election campaign. I’m disappointed that State Impact Indiana didn’t do a simple Google search on Ms. Laughner’s background before running this story.

  • Horace Mann

    Now that State Impact has run this article, I hope they will follow up with the counterpart entitled: Why every other teacher in the State of Indiana will be voting for Glenda Ritz.

    Bennett does not have to dispute he’s anti-teacher because of his opponent, Ritz. 95% of teachers have been telling it like it is for four years now. Bennett is as anti-teacher and anti public school as it gets. No one, and I mean no one gets the reputation this man does without deserving it.

  • Teach to the Test Fools!

    “I think it’s quite simply because he values great teachers, and

    I appreciate that..” This teacher, Tammy Laughner, must be woefully uninformed. Evidence: Tony Bennett wanted teachers to work extra hours without pay. That is clear evidence of placing no value on teachers by trying to force schools to violate labor contracts by forcing teachers to work whenever and however long a school wants them to….all WITHOUT compensation. Secondly, he attacked and weakened the teacher’s associations IGNORING his own Doctoral Thesis. What professional educator leader does that? A TEST SCORE shows how good a teacher is? ROFLMAO! Obviously

  • Karynb9

    Bennett’s camp is trying to send out the message that great teachers desire the accountability and recognition that comes with the new evaluations and merit-based pay system…hoping that undecided voters will then believe the unspoken inverse that teachers who support Glenda Ritz are ineffective ones who are upset that they now have to actually teach instead of getting to just drink their coffee and read the newspaper all day. I find that quite insulting.

  • Karynb9

    Most “highly effective” teachers I know don’t really care about “getting recognized” for being great teachers. They don’t feel the need to “show their effectiveness” to others. They didn’t go into teaching for personal recognition and “Look what a great teacher you are!” pats-on-the-back from the DOE. They want to make a professional wage at a level that will let them raise a family and put a little something away for retirement, but the fact that the teacher down the hall may be making the same amount of money while taking less work home and maybe getting worse results doesn’t offend them and concern them about being “lumped in” with less effective teachers. Now, we all know those teachers who DO enjoy the recognition and make the “Look what MY students are doing” comments and pat themselves on the back at every opportunity (and we all roll our eyes at them), but that is far from representative of the majority of excellent teachers.

    As a teacher, what I do in my classroom and with my students isn’t about ME and it never HAS been in my mind — it’s about my students. I love it when my students learn a new concept and when they achieve something great…but I don’t stop and think about how that makes ME look or how amazing I apparently am as a teacher. I have always collected and analyzed student data in a variety of formats, but have always done that for the sole purpose of improving instruction and student learning and NOT as “evidence” of the fact that I’M doing a great job. I think that’s been the toughest adjustment for great teachers in Indiana to make over the past few years — not only are we being forced into this “self-promotion” role to prove to the DOE and our administrators that we are “highly effective,” but the time we have to spend collecting evidence and documenting all of our “highly effective” moments is taking away from our ability to truly teach our students. Yes, my job is “harder,” Dr. Bennett, because I’m having to do everything that I used to do while NOW having to jump through additional hoops to “prove” to you that I did it so you can tell me that I’m an effective teacher.

    Take away the merit-based bonus from the “highly effective” label that I very well may receive. I don’t need a gold star on my evaluation or the recognition that may come with that label. It’s not about me. I don’t need to be recognized — it’s about my students. I went into this profession to hand out praise and accolades and “gold stars” to students — not to collect those things for myself.

    • tiredofcrap

      Your position is so self serving it makes one believe you are afraid of merit ratings. Teachers that MERIT significant raises because of their effectiveness should get them, and have every right to blow whatever horns they please to show that the merit program is working. I have heard all the lame @ss excuses from teachers I can stand regarding the difficulty of being held accountable for their results. Those excuses are almost as worthless as Obama’s regarding his failure to improve the economy after four years. My grandmother works slowly too……..but then, she’s been dead for forty-seven years……

      • Karynb9

        Yes, I’m afraid of merit ratings when they really have nothing to do with the actual merit of a teacher. However, Indiana’s system does no such thing. You realize that these so-called “significant raises” are expected to be maybe 0.05% of a teacher’s salary, right? And that if the state has a bad year and there isn’t much money to give to schools, teachers who are highly-effective may be “rewarded” with nothing, right? I have absolutely no problem being held accountable for my results, but I don’t think that I should be the one being held accountable for the “results” of my students’ parents and the society in which we’re raising kids these days.

  • E

    I like that Bennet is for virtual schools. The public school my kids had to go to was horrible. The teachers were rude, unhelpful, over-worked, and taught to a test. My kids didnt get the help they needed cause the teachers were to busy teaching the illegals children who cant speak english and trying to get them up to speed. I am lucky that I found the state funded virtual school my kids attend. They now get a more rounded education, and the help they need, and are now straight A students. If it wasn’t funded by the state I would not be able to afford it and my children would still be behind. I think teachers should be held accountable. There are to many people entering this field for a cush job and a good paycheck that dont want to put forth the effort, and the hours. Then you cant get rid of them because of union crap.
    In saying that, I like that that Ritz wants to get away from teaching to a test. It takes up too much time, and holds our children back from getting the education they deserve.

    • Karynb9

      You realize that most of the problems that drove you away from the traditional public schools were exacerbated, if not caused, by Bennett, right? Teachers being overworked…teachers having to teach to a test…teachers having to spend disproportionate amounts of time remediating students since those are the test scores that matter…education losing it’s well-rounded nature and being all-about reading and math since nothing else is on the tests…etc. I’m happy for your family that you’ve found a great solution to your problems with the virtual school that meets your needs, but wouldn’t it have been nice to just have a terrific public school with teachers who feel free to do what’s in the best interests of their students? Don’t other families who don’t consider the virtual school to be a viable option deserve to have terrific public schools? If you believe that to be the case, please vote for Glenda Ritz.

      By the way…Dr. Bennett’s OWN doctoral research in 2005 concluded that school corporations in the Hoosier state “have not encountered measurable resistance by teachers’ unions against their recommendations to dismiss teachers” (p. iii). Additionally, Bennett wrote: “Just cause contract language has not presented insurmountable hurdles for school corporations as they work to improve teachers’ performance and behavior” (p. iii). Neither did he find administrators claiming they were in any way handcuffed from holding teachers to high standards (iii-iv).

      (second paragraph taken from

    • frustrated teacher

      Cush job?? Good paycheck??? Teachers don’t make crap… My job is stressful but I do it because I want to make a difference in the lives of children…

  • Horace Mann

    Why I Will Vote Glenda Ritz for State Superintendent of Public Instruction

    For everyone interested in the election for State Superintendent, I want to answer one question before November 6:

    Why have I worked feverishly to support Glenda Ritz for State Superintendent of Public Instruction?

    Current superintendent Tony Bennett’s agenda is a thinly-veiled attempt to allow private corporation take-over of public education. This is the reason Bennett has pushed for right-to-work laws, relaxed teacher licensing, merit-based pay, bogus teacher contracts, school vouchers, standardized testing extremes, Common Core standards, A-F school grades, take-over of entire school districts….

    I have no doubt behind Bennett’s agenda for school “reform” is a corporate-sponsored push to make schools a profitable market place. As public education is a pillar for democracy, it is philosophically unallowable for Bennett’s agenda to manifest itself in my community.

    Glenda Ritz will work to undo all of Tony Bennett’s ‘faux reform.’

    Still, I have come to the realization that this is not the reason I have worked tirelessly to support Ritz for Public Education.

    Yesterday, a young co-worker slumped into the classroom at the end of the day and simply asked, “Do you believe you still can make an impact in your student’s lives?”

    The answer is, “No.”

    Under Tony Bennett, school has become a competitive factory, my everyday decision-making is replaced by a “map” of what I must teach and when, emphasis is put on test scores: I am no longer free to impact students.

    Every day under Tony Bennett’s reform, each student’s personality, dreams, gifts, pains, spirit, and diverse array of human-ness is lost to me, replaced by sets of data and test scores. I am no longer able to nurture student’s creative expressions of freedom.

    Why have I worked feverishly to support Glenda Ritz for State Superintendent of Public Instruction?

    So I can teach.

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