Iowa’s Republican governor has signed an executive order aimed at addressing complaints from conservatives about the so-called “Common Core” standards for Iowa schools.

“I think there’s a lot of concern about the federal government dictating what the state is going to have in terms of academic standards,” Governor Terry Branstad says. “And I wanted to make it very clear that we’re very committed to Iowa-controlled academic standards and the ‘Iowa Core’ and we are not going to let the federal government dictate this to us.”

Forty-five states, including Iowa, have adopted “Common Core State Standards” for schools, an initiative launched by the National Governor’s Association. The standards outline what math and language skills students should master at each grade level. Critics say the “common core” standards will insert “liberal propaganda” in the required reading material for U.S. students. Branstad says he wants “good state standards” focused on improving student achievement, but he signed the executive order to make it clear local districts will be able to choose their own classroom materials.

“Standards are what a student should know and be able to do each year along the way,” Branstad says. “Curriculum should be a local determination made by the school district as to how students can achieve that knowledge.”

In his executive order, Branstad asserts that “student and family privacy is paramount” and the governor will resist any attempt by the federal government to gather what he calls “intrusive, unnecessary” data about Iowa students. However, Branstad is not abandoning the idea that the state should maintain its “Iowa Core” — a set of benchmarks for academic achievement in each grade.

“So we want to give flexibility to school districts on curriculum, but we do want something that Iowa was the last state to adopt and that is standards that measure what students can do at each grade level,” Branstad says, “and I think that’s the balance that we want to achieve.”

The “Common Core” standards have sparked heated political battles in places like Florida and Louisiana where Christian conservatives and Tea Party groups have suggested national standards for schools are akin to a federal take-over of local school districts.