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What is NAEYC Accreditation?

By Meghan Perry
Updated Feb 15, 2024
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The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) is an organization in the United States that offers accreditation for early childhood programs and any post-secondary institutions that offer programs for early childhood educators. In order to receive NAEYC accreditation, applicants must meet national standards that are set by the NAEYC. Parents often use NAEYC accreditation as a benchmark to determine the quality of early childhood programs, which generally run from birth to age 8. Although there are different systems of accreditation, the NAEYC employs standards that are recognized nationally.

NAEYC accreditation standards reflect the latest research and best practices in early childhood education, and it is these standards that parents of young children often use to evaluate the quality of early childhood education programs. There are three accreditation programs offered by the NAEYC. The Accreditation of Programs for Young Children started in 1985 and sets professional standards for early childhood development programs. The Accreditation of Associate Degree Programs accredits two-year early childhood education programs. The Accreditation of Baccalaureate and Graduate Degree Programs accredits institutions that offer four-year and advanced degrees, and it is part of the accreditation system of the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE).

For a program to become NAEYC accredited, four steps must be completed. The first step is for the program to be enrolled in the accreditation process and complete a self-study; for example, examining the standards that the program must achieve. The second step is applying for accreditation and completing a self-assessment. This situates the particular program within the standards and shows the administrators what areas need to be addressed. The third step is candidacy, in which the program is evaluated by professionals from the NAEYC.

The fourth and final step is for the program to meet the standards. The professionals who evaluate the program measure it against the NAEYC standards. If the standards are met, the program must then maintain the standards. NAEYC accreditation is good for five years, at which time the program must be evaluated again to ensure that the standards are still being upheld. There are 10 standards that must be met, and within those standards, there are 400 related accreditation criteria.

The NAEYC has been in existence since the 1930s and has often been considered one of the leading organizations for early childhood professionals. More than 7,000 programs have received NAEYC accreditation. More information on accreditation can be found at the NAEYC's website.

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