A new standard

Sam Snideman, ’06, helped create education standards for the state of Indiana based on what he would want his son to master.

He wanted to impact his home state, and Indiana State University alumnus Sam Snideman, ’06, did just that as part of the team of state and education officials who undertook the overhaul of Indiana’s educational standards.

Just a few years after accepting Common Core — the most significant change to the U.S. education system in decades — Hoosier lawmakers scrapped the education standards during the 2013 legislative session. A group of state and education officials, including Snideman, spent months helping reshape the future of Hoosier education with new standards, which will begin in schools across the state in the fall of 2015.

Sam Sniderman

Sam Snideman

“The bill required additional study and evaluation before standards were adopted to replace Common Core. It wasn’t enough to just take a pause from Common Core,” Snideman said. “I was charged with helping develop new standards by heading up the commission’s efforts in college readiness and to be part of the standards development leadership team behind the Common Core replacement, along with Danielle Shockey, deputy superintendent of public instruction, and others.”

As senior policy analyst for the commission and then director of alignment and readiness for K-12 and higher education, Snideman was responsible for identifying qualified individuals to write the standards, reviewed the reading, math and language arts standards, and shared joint duty of presenting to the education roundtable and state board of education.

Snideman, who has a bachelor’s degree in political science from Indiana State, returned to Indiana with his wife after graduating from Texas A&M University with a master’s degree in political science.

“When I got back to Indiana, I fell into some good opportunities — teaching in Indiana State’s corrections education program for a semester and at Ivy Tech ­— before joining the team at the Indiana Commission for Higher Education,” he said. “When I started college, I thought I’d be an attorney and went to law school but decided it wasn’t for me. I moved to Texas with my wife to attend graduate school at Texas A&M University with the expectation to do my doctorate and become a professor.”

Instead of teaching, though, Snideman got involved in public policy work. In 2013, he got involved with the Center for Educational Career Innovation, which partnered with the Indiana Department of Education to develop new, more rigorous academic standards and to revise Indiana’s A through F school accountability system, after the state opted out of Common Core.

After adopting Common Core standards in 2010, Indiana became the first state to drop the standards three years later. The Indiana College- and Career-Ready Standards were approved by the state in 2014.

The standards are an accumulation of several sources, including the Common Core state standards and past Indiana Academic Standards. Ideas were also adapted from other states, such as Massachusetts, Virginia and Nebraska and the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics and the National Council of Teachers of English. A number of original standards were also written by the evaluation teams or College- and Career-Ready panels.

“We turned over every rock looking for good examples of rigorous, grade-level-appropriate standards in reading, English and math that will best prepare Hoosier kids for college and careers,” said Snideman, who resides in Indianapolis. “There are things with Common Core that were not perfect, so we tried to draw from best in the country, current and former, including some Common Core-ish standards, old Indiana standards and others.”

Initial review of standards began in 2013. The process of drafting standards began later that fall, paving the way for new standards to be adopted in April 2014.

“Between July 2013 and mid-April 2014, there were hundreds of man hours put in by educators, government, business leaders, who considered, drafted and reviewed the standards before they were put before the education roundtable and state board of education for consideration and approval,” Snideman said. “We wanted to set English and math standards that prepped students for a range of post-secondary options and, as the governor said, would ‘give students two plan A’s.’”

While always concerned with good public policy, Snideman, who is a new parent, said he wasn’t fully prepared for how politicized education issues get.

“I received phone calls and emails from parents, teachers and people in higher education who were not happy with our process and felt like what we developed was too much like Common Core,” he said. “(Education) is one area where, I think, we should set politics aside, but I found that that was not always realistic. I was driven to produce standards that I want my son to learn and master.”

Despite some criticism of the process, Snideman said the commitment to Hoosier students was obvious.

“I saw people give hundreds of unpaid hours, as they traveled to Indianapolis in winter and during vacations to be a part of the process because they’re committed to Indiana’s kids,” he said. “Indiana State is a leader in producing great teachers and administrators, and I had the opportunity to work with Indiana State educators and people with ties to Indiana State during this process.”

Snideman acknowledges that Indiana has endured what is akin to “standards whiplash,” having adopted Common Core in 2010 and College- and Career-Ready Standards in 2014.

“This was a huge task, a heavy lift by all involved, and it was certainly the biggest project I ever worked on. Now there is conversation around assessment, and I’ve been involved in conversations on state policy and high school graduation requirements,” he said. “I’ve been fortunate in the last year-and-a-half to be involved in conversations on K-12 education in Indiana and college and career readiness. I want to do meaningful work to help the state and my community, so it’s tremendous that I got the chance to do this.”

Now as assistant director for Indiana Works Council, Snideman works with the southern region Works Council on align the standards and career and technical education to meet the expectations Indiana employers have for new hires.

“What the regional council does is talk with businesses and education folks on the challenge of getting students ready for the workplace,” he said. “As assistant director of the Works Council, I meet a few days a week with employers and others to make sure Hoosier kids have an education that prepares them for life after high school.”

Snideman will continue to examine the standards as the state decides how to assess student progress under the new standards. The 2014-15 school year will be the last time students will be tested using the Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress assessment test.

“The challenge now is how to translate assessment and instructional practice into actual education, but the Department of Education has been good about providing resource materials to teachers because some of the standards may require a new approach to teaching,” he said. “The standards will continue to change, as the expectation of employers and colleges change, so I expect that what we came up with will be tweaked again someday, but hopefully we have a created a good foundation so that doesn’t have to happen soon.”

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