Lots of things come with a seal of approval, a certification to acknowledge high quality. I've worked (and am still working) diligently to create an outstanding nature-based preschool and, honestly, I want to shout about it from the mountaintops.
This leads me to the next phase of my planning which is NAEYC accreditation. The National Association for the Education of Young Children is the bees knees where standards for young learners are concerned. Regarded both nationally and internationally, NAEYC sets the bar for the best early childhood programs and care centers. And since offering the very best educational experiences is my goal, accreditation is an important distinction for my preschool.
Yesterday I spent the day in D.C. doing a workshop to prepare for their lengthy accreditation process. The emphasis was on self-study and reflection. They ask candidates to take an honest look at all aspects of their programs: staffing, curriculum, the physical environment, health/safety practices, relationships with families and children, and on-going assessments of what the children learn. I'm bracing myself for the work ahead of me.
NAEYC outlines 10 standards by which they measure over 400 criterion. Yes, you read that right. There are over 400 criterion that I must meet by showing evidence for each one in a program portfolio and in classroom portfolios. Long before anyone ever comes to observe our program, we will need to scrutinize how we implement these best practices and set up improvement plans where we fall short.
As I was reading through the criterion I was definitely feeling overwhelmed. But at the same time, I wanted to race back in to work because I know we already have tons of "evidence" for our portfolios. I'm eager to meet with my team and get everyone on board and reved up about this!
If you are looking for high quality preschools or child care centers for your little one, I highly recommend that you find NAEYC accredited programs in your area. These are places that have decided that a fully enrolled program is not their only goal. Just because a center has a wait list doesn't mean they are offering the highest quality care - it just means they are meeting their budget goals! Programs that seek to constantly improve work hard to achieve accreditation. It says a lot about a program.
(Now, I should also note that there are many places that don't know about the benefits of accreditation or have decided to wait on doing it. I don't mean to discount all of the wonderful programs out there that are not accredited. This is an extra step centers can take to distinguish themselves among the best.)
And this is not just a one time thing and then you're done - in order to maintain accreditation, a program must re-submit materials and do another observation every five years. This is an on-going commitment to offer the highest quality program possible, and to be confident enough to locate chinks in the armour and fix them.
I'll keep you posted on our progress. This will take over a year to complete!