Rules for Accrediting Early-Childhood Programs Revisited

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Accreditation by the National Association for the Education of Young Children could soon last for five years, instead of three. Individuals who coordinate accreditation visits would be paid for their work. And programs that earned accreditation would be expected to keep improving their programs.

Those are among the recommendations for improving the NAEYC's accreditation system that are currently being considered by the association's board.

The group is asking for comments on the 10 recommendations from directors of early- childhood programs, other members of the early-childhood community, and parents.

The NAEYC board will gather comments through June 15 and is expected to make a final decision on the new accreditation system in July. The association is slated to unveil all the changes at the group's annual meeting in November in New York City.

Changes to the process, however, do not mean that the criteria that programs must meet to earn accreditation are set to change—at least not yet. A review of those standards is expected to begin next fall.

More than two years ago, the Washington-based professional association convened a "reinvention commission" of experts in early-childhood education to take on the task of revamping the popular accreditation system. Close to 8,000 programs are currently accredited, and efforts to help more programs through the process have spread in recent years.

The commission was charged with finding ways to respond to the increasing numbers of programs seeking accreditation without lowering the standards that programs must meet. ("NAEYC Asks for Critiques of Its Accreditation Program," Oct. 24, 2001.)

Making It Pay

According to the proposal, the panel's recommendations "are intended to make NAEYC accreditation a standard-bearer for high-quality early-childhood programs."

Issues considered by the 10-member group included whether the volunteers who evaluate programs before accreditation is granted should be paid.

Under the proposed rules, those people—who would be called assessors instead of the current term, "validators"—would still be reimbursed for their expenses.

The commission is recommending, though, that more highly skilled early-childhood professionals be hired as lead assessors and that they be "equitably compensated" for the extra oversight duties they perform.

The commission also recommends that even though the early-childhood years are defined as birth through age 8, the accreditation system should focus only on programs serving children through kindergarten.

"I think how we communicate this is really important," said Mark Ginsberg, the executive director of the 100,000-member association. "This is not intended to signal that the association is narrowing its focus."

The shift, he said, would be intended to acknowledge the growth of the accreditation system of the National School-Age Care Alliance, a Boston-based association focused on after-school programs. In addition, he noted, other associations accredit schools serving children in the primary grades.

More Steps Proposed

Under the recommendations, additional steps would be added to the accreditation process. For example, a program that was beginning the process would file a "notice of intent," after which it would have one year to submit documents to the organization.

In addition, accredited programs would be required to continue making progress to retain their accreditation, under the proposed rules.

The site visit by an assessor would occur during a 15-day window, the proposal recommends. That change would address the complaints by some directors that they often didn't know when the visits were to take place as they went through the accreditation process.

Under the current system, programs that do not receive accreditation are labeled as "deferred." But under the proposed rules, a new category of "denied" would be added for those programs that failed to meet the criteria for accreditation within a specific time frame.

If the new system is adopted, a transition period would begin, allowing programs that are now working toward accreditation to continue to work under the existing rules. The new system would take effect in 2005.

Vol. 21, Issue 36, Page 7

Published in Print: May 15, 2002, as Rules for Accrediting Early-Childhood Programs Revisited
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