Accreditation is a term I was unfamiliar with before I started working at an early childhood learning company, so I thought many parents might be new to this concept as well. I asked our Quality and Accreditation team to explain what accreditation means to families – read below to learn more. (By the way, nearly half of our centers are accredited and all remaining locations will be in pursuit of accreditation by early this year!)
Accreditation: What it Means for Your Family
According to research from the American Academy of Pediatrics, children who attend high-quality programs demonstrate better skills in math, language, and cognition; are better at developing interpersonal relationships; and have better behavioral self-regulation than children who attend lower quality programs. So it’s not enough to be average. The research says in order for children to be successful, they need to be in programs with exceptional standards and staff.
Centers that are nationally accredited have proven their commitment to provide high-quality care to all children and families. National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), National Accreditation Commission for Early Care and Education Programs (NAC), and National Early Childhood Program Accreditation (NECPA) are three honorable national accrediting agencies. Professional educators within these agencies develop and consistently review high standards for the overall programs and provide a framework for sustaining exceptional quality over time.
The top 10 characteristics of an accredited program:
- Teachers engage in warm, meaningful conversations with children and families and recognize children’s accomplishments.
- The program’s curriculum addresses all developmental areas and provides open-ended experiences for children through small/whole group interactions and indoor/outdoor environments.
- Teachers modify their teaching strategies to meet the children’s developmental needs and are fully engaged in play.
- Teachers use multiple assessment methods to develop goals for individual children and the whole group.
- The program has proper hand washing, diapering, cleaning, and sanitizing routines in place.
- Teachers have educational qualifications, training, and work experience in child development or a related field.
- The program believes in partnering and communicating with families through conferences, new family orientations, newsletters, and daily conversations.
- The program develops professional relationships within the community to provide enhanced learning experiences for the children and families.
- The program is designed for teachers to supervise children by sight and sound at all times.
- The program shares written policies and procedures with families and is licensed and/or regulated by a state agency.
When childcare centers enter into the accreditation process, teachers and administrators work together to improve their program as needed, strive for consistency in delivering high-quality care, and building strong relationships with your children and family. Accredited childcare programs are committed to providing your family excellent service and providing the best education for your children from infancy to adolescence.
The Accreditation process begins with a shared understanding between the administration, staff, and families. The administration team will encourage families and staff to participate in surveys, conduct observations, provide results, and develop improvement plans together in order to strengthen teaching skills, ensure your child’s health and safety, and enhance learning environments while continuing to meet your children’s developmental needs.
A certified Validator will assess how the program meets the accrediting agency’s standards by observing the physical environment, curriculum, health and safety, interactions, and administration. A program will achieve accreditation if the certified Validator recognizes high-quality care and if the agency’s standards are met.
Programs are awarded accreditation for three to five years depending on the agency. Programs are required to submit annual reports to the accrediting agency to ensure ongoing commitment to quality and improvement.