After almost four years of researching, writing drafts, and gathering feedback from members, the National Association for the Education of Young Children has formally launched its new and revised accreditation system for early-childhood-education programs.
“We are here today to celebrate the success of this system. It is designed to be both an inspiration and a guide,” Josué Cruz Jr., the president of the Washington-based organization’s governing board, said last month at the group’s annual conference. Drawing more than 25,000 early-childhood educators, researchers, and program directors, the meeting was held Dec. 7-10 in Washington.
The new requirements come as states are continuing to target money toward building and expanding preschool services, and particularly as interest in accreditation as one mark of a high-quality preschool program has grown.
Currently, more than 11,000 publicly and privately financed programs—serving more than a million children—are accredited. The NAEYC accreditation program began in 1985.
The special commission that rewrote the accreditation criteria also revised the NAEYC’s 10 program standards, which individual programs will need to meet to earn and maintain their accreditation.
The standards address such topics as implementing a curriculum that covers all areas of development, promoting health and proper nutrition, and conducting ongoing assessments of a child’s progress.
Under the old accreditation system, a program could submit an application at any time, a practice that led to a backlog in reviews and site visits. Now, programs will follow a process for becoming accredited that includes enrolling, making an application, becoming a candidate, and receiving a visit by paid, trained assessors.
In the past, the visits were conducted by volunteers from the early-childhood field.
In addition, a program’s accreditation will last five years instead of three, but reports and audits will be required each year.