Defenders of plowing ahead with the Common Core learning standards spent four hours Friday explaining the controversial learning program and the test that goes with it before the legislature's Education Committee.
The invitation-only forum comes as Republicans have forced public hearings on the matter. Those hearings have not yet to be set.
Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor, joined by Chris Minnich, executive director of the Council of Chief State School which helped draft the standards, told the committee and a large audience that the road to fully implement Common Core in all public school classrooms may be a rocky one but that the state is headed in the right direction.
"Our youngsters are arriving at college unprepared for college. That is a problem," Pryor said. "We must aim for higher standards ... Common Core goes about the teaching and learning process in the right way."
Behind him, a number of individuals wore bright red "Stop Common Core" t-shirts.
Lindy Urso, the parent of two pre-schoolers from the Cos Cob section of Greenwich, said he wants to stop Common Core before his kids reach kindergarten.
"From everything I have read about it, it's a disaster," Urso said. "I have talked to 15 to 20 teachers. Not one has been anything but opposed to it."
Earlier this week, a poll was released by the Connecticut Education Association, which shows that a majority of teachers want a moratorium on the new system.
Minnich, who has been traveling the country in defense of the standards - Thursday he was in Missouri - said none of the 45 states that have signed onto the standards were force to do so and that 73 percent of teachers support a more challenging curriculum.
"It is surprising to me that it is controversial," Minnich said.
The new standards, adopted in Connecticut in 2010 and only now being fully implemented across the state, teach reading and math in a deeper way and in a different order than in the past. Most districts in the state have agreed to pilot the new test that goes along with the standards this spring instead of the traditional Connecticut Mastery Test.
Results of the new test won't "count," still many are fearful that students, teachers and schools have not had enough time and training in the new system and will be labeled as failures when students perform poorly on the test. They also object to the wasted time.
Pryor said the "test of the test" is required under federal law. He also agued that the standards are not a curriculum and do not dictate what needs to be taught in the classroom.
"But how flexible is common core if there is a test tied to it," State Rep. Noreen Kokoruda, R-Madison, asked.
Minnich said the standards merely say, for instance, that third graders will learn about multiplication and division and gain an understanding of fractions. How that is taught is up to the teacher.
Minnich maintained states were not under pressure to adopt the standards.
States that didn't adopt the standards could not win federal Race to the Top dollars, Sen. Beth Bye, D-West Hartford, pointed out.
Sen. Toni Boucher, R-Wilton, questioned the fairness of expecting students taught one way for so long to adjust in one year to a new set of standards.
And Rep. Gail Lavielle, also R-Wilton, wondered who decided the new standards are higher than what was already in place.
Minnich said national experts vetted the standards and that there are early indications in Kentucky and Tennessee, who have been using Common Core the longest, that student achievement is going in the right direction.
Rep. Mitch Bolinsky, R-Newtown, said it is not the new, higher standards that bother him but the way they have been implemented. He characterized the roll out as "crummy."
The state now has a new website, training efforts and a committee to work on ironing out the problems, Pryor said.