TODAY   |  October 07, 2013

Jenna Bush Hager reports on new curriculum standards

As teachers return to school, veterans and rookies alike are juggling busy schedules while also planning for reforms that will impact classrooms across the country. TODAY correspondent Jenna Bush Hager, a former teacher herself, reports as part of NBC News’ Education Nation initiative.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> our education nation initiative we sent jenna bush -hager back into the classroom to learn about some of the issues today's teachers are facing. always good to send a teacher herself. good morning.

>> good morning. i liked being back. having been a teacher myself, i know it's a constant juggle between lesson plans and bigger policy issues. i met up with a brand new teacher and a veteran to get their take on some of the challenges.

>> reporter: over 3 million public schoolteachers stepped into the classroom this year armed with study aids, signs and smiles. like samantha, over 300,000 are new to the profession.

>> today is my first day in my own classroom as a head teacher . i'm feeling realdy excited.

>> reporter: others are veterans. she has been in front of a class for 25 years and is still as enthusiastic as ever.

>> this is that part of the year where anything is possible.

>> reporter: along side the reading, writing and arithmetic, teachers this year are planning for reforms. policies that will impact classrooms across the country. one receiving the most attention, the common core standards. a set of consistent academic goals for all students. so far 45 states and the district of columbia adopted the benchmarks. they're endorsed by the department of education and both teacher unions. but teachers have mixed feelings.

>> there's no discussion about are they appropriate and do they engage all students.

>> the politicians don't know what's best. the people that know what is best are the people in the classroom.

>> reporter: it will go hand in hand with testing. results which will impact teachers evaluations.

>> providing a rigorous curriculum was always my goal and i didn't need the state coming in and telling me that. last year, i had a child who said to me if i don't pass this test are you going to get fired? and i thought to myself, no 8-year-old should have that burden on their shoulders.

>> reporter: while the year ahead may present policy challenges, selena and samantha insist their passion in the classroom won't subside.

>> what do you love about your job?

>> i love the fact that after 25 years i still have so much i need to learn.

>> what about you after two weeks?

>> being able to transfer the passion that i have and share with my students, it's the most amazing thing.

>> it doesn't get old.

>> i know, i love it.

>> so neat to see you back in the classroom. there's an initiative called 30 million words. i was fascinated to learn about it.

>> we're rolling this out at education nation today and basically what we found is that kids that are entering the classroom from more marginalized neighborhoods have a vocabulary less than their peers by 30 million words by the time they're 3 years old. so early childhood education is key. reading to your kids is key. even as little as my baby. we read to every day. it's important.

>> it's an amazing work you're doing. great way to kick off education nation, jenna, thank you.

>> thank you.

>> we'll have more on it all week on all the platforms of nbc. coming up