A year after Pennsylvania Core standards were approved by the state Board of Education, Gov. Corbett has called for "continued public review" of English- language arts and math standards in elementary and secondary schools.

In a news release Monday, Corbett said he wanted statewide hearings to review what students should know at each grade level from kindergarten through 12th grade.

Acting Secretary of Education Carolyn Dumaresq will preside at the hearings.

The governor's seeming change of heart comes as many schools are scrambling to implement the controversial new standards, ordering textbooks and revising curriculums to comply with the requirements.

"I'm astonished that the governor and secretary of education are trying to completely reverse course on the matter of Common Core, since they have been pushing this curriculum for the last three years," said state Sen. Andy Dinniman, (D., Chester) minority chair of the Senate Education Committee. "I've been fighting them every step of the way."

The governor's release called the reviews the "final phase in his nearly three-year effort to permanently roll back the national Common Core plan implemented by his predecessor, Gov. (Ed) Rendell."

Last September the state Board of Education approved the Common Core State Standards, which were developed by the National Governors Association and Council of Chief State School Officers in 2010. Pennsylvania revised some of the curriculum, although much of the Common Core remained the same.

Wythe Keever, spokesman for the Pennsylvania State Education Association, said "Everyone's confused."

After the state board approved the requirements, Dumaresq had stated: "Gov. Corbett believes that these new academic standards will ensure that our children are graduating high school with the skills and knowledge necessary to compete with their peers locally, nationally, and internationally."

"This whole continuing process of reviews and renaming are disruptive," he added.

Tim Eller, an Education Department spokesman, said the governor always has been against the national Common Core. But with so much controversy and confusion over the state version of the standards, the hearings "will flush it out for the public," he said.

"It's saying let's get down to the nitty-gritty and see what's expected at each grade level," Eller said.

The hearings will focus on "eligible content" - specific descriptions of skills and concepts that students should acquire. Eller said those requirements could be modified depending on the concerns that are raised.

Critics suggested that faced with a tough reelection bid, Corbett was trying to appease supporters.

They say that the new curriculum - and the exams in language arts, math and biology that students must pass in order to graduate - are costly to implement and place a huge burden on lower income districts.