State lawmakers are kicking off a series of hearings about new educational standards in the state, while the state superintendent and other administrators said the standards are appropriate and already in the works.
The controversy is over "common core" standards, voluntary national standards in math and reading/language arts, which were adopted by State Superintendent Tony Evers three years ago.
Evers was joined Thursday morning by superintendents from across the state to say that the standards are rigorous enough and already in play in schools.
"We cannot afford to pull the rug out from under thousands of kids and parents and educators that have spent the last three years participating in this process and are beginning to use them in the classroom," said Evers.
The news conference was before hearings in the Capitol Thursday, sparked after criticism from some lawmakers and the governor saying the standards need to be higher, and concern by some that it's involving the federal government too much in local schools.
"Many of us have questions about the common core standards," said Rep. Dean Knudson, R-Hudson. "We have questions about the rigor of the standards, the way they were drafted and the way in which we are implementing them."
The Special Committee on Common Core Standards was established after tea party members sent letters to lawmakers expressing concerns about the standards and asking for an investigation. Gov. Scott Walker has said he'd like to see the common core standards be higher as well.
"These standards are higher than anything we had seen before," said Ted Nitzke, superintendent of West Bend Schools. "They frightened many of us."
"They are world class, and I don't know how else to say it," said Evers. "The standards have been evaluated by academics all over this country that have viewed it as equal to any of the other countries that are scoring high."
But some say the adoption of standards the federal government has encouraged, but not required, is an intrusion into local control.
"We are the Badger state. We are distinctive, we are smart, we are capable people and we can come up with standards on our own," said Julaine Appling with Wisconsin Family Action. "We have the capability and we don't have to adopt what has been presented to us."
Evers noted that the state gets no federal money for having the standards and administrators expressed concern about how they would go back and re-do curriculum after moving to common core over the last three years.
Lawmakers will hold three more hearings across the state and say they'll likely consider or draft alternatives to these standards.