LITTLE ROCK — Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Thursday told a task force reviewing the Common Core State Standards that he wants Arkansas to have a unique approach to academic standards that combines high expectations and flexibility.

LITTLE ROCK — Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Thursday told a task force reviewing the Common Core State Standards that he wants Arkansas to have a unique approach to academic standards that combines high expectations and flexibility.


"Arkansas is a unique state. Whatever challenge faces us, I expect us to come up with an Arkansas solution that works for us," Hutchinson told the newly created Governor’s Council on Common Core Review at the state Capitol during the first of a series of scheduled public hearings.


"That means it’s not something that’s dictated out of Washington," he said. "I don’t mean that in a pejorative sense, but we want an Arkansas solution. But also we want to have high standards in education. Whatever comes out, we want high standards and high expectations for our students, with a degree of flexibility for our local school districts."


Hutchinson said while campaigning for office that if elected he would create a task force to make recommendations on whether the state should keep, abandon or change Common Core, which has outspoken critics and defenders. In February, he created the 16-member council, naming Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin as chairman.


"I don’t know what the outcome will be," Hutchinson told the panel Thursday. "It’s not preconceived, but I do expect high standards, high expectations for our students that are transparent, that we can measure where we are in reference to the competitive world, other states."


The governor said the state cannot cede all control to local school districts.


"We can’t say, ‘Well, we just want to give it all because we believe in local flexibility and local control,’" he said. "The constitution of Arkansas gives that responsibility to the state, and so we’ve got to have standards that are high and high expectations all across the state of Arkansas for every student."


He acknowledged that some of the council members may already have formed opinions.


"I didn’t mind people on this panel, this task force, that had preconceived ideas. That’s life. That’s a part of our background, and if you’ve studied and thought about it, you have some preconceived ideas," he said.


"But the most important criteria is that you’re open-minded and you’re willing to listen to the other side and willing to see facts and data and to adjust where you are. That is critically important, because otherwise you’re never going to arrive at a consensus."


The Common Core standards were initiated by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers in an effort to ensure that academic standards do not vary from region to region and that American students are prepared to compete for jobs in a global economy.


Critics say the standards give schools too little flexibility and place too much emphasis on testing and preparing for tests, among other complaints.


Earlier this year, state Rep. Mark Lowery, R-Maumelle, filed a bill to end the administration in Arkansas of tests aligned with Common Core and developed by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. Arkansas began administering the tests for the first time this year.


Lowery’s bill passed in the House, but a Senate committee later stripped from the bill the provision to end the tests.


Talking to reporters Thursday, Hutchinson said recommendations regarding testing are "something I would expect to come out of this group."


Some states, such as Arizona and Iowa, have responded to controversy over Common Core by giving the standards a different name. Hutchinson told reporters Thursday he would not be satisfied with renaming the standards.


"The terminology, the branding, that’s a marketing thing. I’m more concerned about the substance of it and the direction we go and the standards that are set," he said.


The panel was scheduled to kick off a listening tour at Pulaski County Technical College on Thursday evening, after the hearing at the Capitol.


The listening tour also will include programs, all from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., at the El Dorado Conference Center on April 30; Four States Fairgrounds in Texarkana, May 5; Bentonville Public Library, May 14; Arkansas State University in Jonesboro, May 19; National Park Community College in Hot Springs, May 26; Lyon College in Batesville, June 9; University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, June 16; and The Blue Lion at the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith Downtown, June 18.


The panel is scheduled to hold additional daylong hearings at the Capitol next Wednesday and on May 6, May 13 and May 20.