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NAEYC Board Approves New Standards for Early Childhood Programs

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Alan Simpson at NAEYC
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WASHINGTON, April 26, 2005—The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) Governing Board has approved new NAEYC Early Childhood Program Standards. The 10 standards are based on research and professional experience, and outline what NAEYC believes all programs - including child care centers, preschools, Head Start programs, and kindergartens - should provide to nurture the learning and development of young children.

The new NAEYC Early Childhood Program Standards and related Accreditation Performance Criteria will serve as the foundation of NAEYC's early childhood program accreditation system. NAEYC Accreditation is widely recognized by parents, programs, policymakers and others as a sign of high quality in early childhood education programs. Currently, there are more than 10,000 NAEYC-accredited programs around the country, serving more than 850,000 young children and their families. The new standards are part of a major reinvention of NAEYC's accreditation system, which will increase the reliability and accountability of NAEYC Accreditation, and promote higher program quality.

"These standards describe early childhood programs that consistently promote positive learning and developmental outcomes for young children," said Mark Ginsberg, Ph.D., Executive Director of NAEYC. "We believe all programs should meet these standards, because all young children should have access to high-quality early education programs. The new standards and criteria are a major step forward, not only for NAEYC Accreditation, but for the entire early childhood profession, and for all the young children and families we serve."

The new standards are divided into four areas, focusing primarily on the learning and development of children but also on teaching staff, family and community partnerships, and leadership and administration.

In the new NAEYC early childhood program accreditation system—which will be fully operational in 2006 - programs will need to meet all 10 NAEYC Early Childhood Program Standards to earn NAEYC Accreditation. A program will show that it meets each standard by successfully performing a majority of the criteria related to that standard. A complete list of the standards and criteria is available online.

Many public policies at the federal, state and local levels already recognize the value of NAEYC Accreditation in their early childhood systems. The new NAEYC Early Childhood Program Standards will help leverage higher program quality and better financing so that children have positive outcomes, and programs can sustain high-quality services.

NAEYC Accreditation was created in 1985 as a national, voluntary system to evaluate the quality of early childhood education programs, and support programs in their improvement efforts. As part of the reinvention process, the NAEYC Governing Board appointed a Commission on NAEYC Early Childhood Program Standards and Accreditation Criteria. The commission drafted the 10 standards, and worked with teams of educators, administrators and researchers to develop more than 400 criteria related to the standards. The new standards and criteria were approved by the NAEYC Governing Board earlier this month.

The National Association for the Education of Young Children is the largest and most influential organization of early childhood educators and others dedicated to improving the quality of early education programs for children from birth through age eight. Founded in 1926, the organization now has nearly 100,000 members, and a national network of nearly 350 local, state and regional affiliates. NAEYC and its affiliates work to improve professional practice and working conditions in early childhood education, and to build public support for high-quality early childhood programs.

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New NAEYC Early Childhood Program Standards and Accreditation Performance Criteria

The NAEYC Governing Board recently approved the new NAEYC Early Childhood Program Standards and Accreditation Performance Criteria.

The new standards and criteria will be the foundation for NAEYC's early childhood program accreditation system. They are part of a series of changes designed to make NAEYC Accreditation stronger - for the teachers and administrators working to improve their programs, for employers and funders supporting those programs, and most importantly for the children and families relying on quality programs.

The new standards are divided into four focus areas: children, teaching staff, family & community partnerships, and leadership & administration. To earn NAEYC Accreditation in the new system - which becomes fully operational in 2006 - a program will need to demonstrate that it meets all 10 NAEYC Early Childhood Program Standards by satisfying a majority of the criteria related to each standard. There are more than 400 NAEYC Accreditation Performance Criteria, so only a few examples are printed here. The complete list of new criteria is available online, at

Focus Area: Children

Program Standard 1 — Relationships

The program promotes positive relationships among all children and adults to encourage each child's sense of individual worth and belonging as part of a community, and to foster each child's ability to contribute as a responsible community member.

Rationale: Positive relationships are essential for the development of personal responsibility, capacity for self-regulation, for constructive interactions with others, and for fostering academic functioning and mastery. Warm, sensitive, and responsive interactions help children develop a secure, positive sense of self and encourage them to respect and cooperate with others. Positive relationships also help children gain the benefits of instructional experiences and resources. Children who see themselves as highly valued are more likely to feel secure, thrive physically, get along with others, learn well, and feel part of a community.

There are 40 criteria related to this standard, including:

Teachers communicate with family members on an ongoing basis to learn about children's individual needs and to assure a smooth transition between home and program.

Program Standard 2 — Curriculum

The program implements a curriculum that is consistent with its goals for children and promotes learning and development in each of the following domains: aesthetic, cognitive, emotional, language, physical, and social.

Rationale: Curriculum that draws on research assists teachers in identifying important concepts and skills and effective methods for fostering children's learning and development. When informed by teachers' knowledge of individual children, a well-articulated curriculum guides teachers so they can provide children with experiences that foster growth across a broad range of developmental and content areas. Curriculum also helps ensure the teacher is intentional in planning a daily schedule that maximizes children's learning through effective use of time, materials used for play, self-initiated learning, and creative expression, and offers opportunities for children to learn individually and in groups according to their developmental needs and interests.

There are 90 criteria related to this standard, including:

Children have varied opportunities to develop vocabulary through conversations, experiences, field trips, and books.

Program Standard 3 — Teaching

The program uses developmentally, culturally, and linguistically appropriate and effective teaching approaches that enhance each child's learning and development in the context of the program's curriculum goals.

Rationale: Teachers who purposefully use multiple instructional approaches optimize children's opportunities for learning. These approaches include strategies that range from structured to unstructured and adult-directed to child-directed. Children bring different backgrounds, interests, experiences, learning styles, needs, and capacities to learning environments. Teachers' consideration of these differences when selecting and implementing instructional approaches helps all children to succeed. Instructional approaches also differ in their effectiveness for teaching different elements of curriculum and learning. For a program to address the complexity inherent in any teaching-learning situation, a variety of effective instructional approaches must be employed.

There are over 60 criteria related to this standard, including:

Teachers carefully plan and organize activities that are responsive to children's needs and interests. Play is planned for each day.

Program Standard 4 — Assessment of Child Progress

The program is informed by ongoing systematic, formal, and informal assessment approaches to provide information on children's learning and development. These assessments occur within the context of reciprocal communications with families and with sensitivity to the cultural contexts in which children develop. Assessment results are used to benefit children by informing sound decisions about children, teaching, and program improvement.

Rationale: Teachers' knowledge of each child helps them to plan appropriately challenging curriculum and to tailor instruction that responds to each child's strengths and needs. Further, systematic assessment is essential for identifying children who may benefit from more intensive instruction or intervention or who may need additional developmental evaluation. This information ensures that the program meets its goals for children's learning and developmental progress and also informs program improvement efforts.

There are over 25 criteria related to this standard, including:

Assessments use a variety of procedures that are sensitive to and informed by family culture, experiences, children's disabilities, and home language; are meaningful and accurate; and are used in settings familiar to the children.

Program Standard 5 — Health

The program promotes the nutrition and health of children and protects children and staff from illness and injury.

Rationale: To benefit from education and maintain quality of life, children need to be as healthy as possible. Health is a state of complete physical, oral, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. Children depend on adults, who also are as healthy as possible, to make healthful choices for them and to teach them to make such choices for themselves. While some degree of risk taking is desirable for learning, a high quality program prevents hazardous practices and environments likely to result in adverse consequences for children, staff, families or communities.

There are over 30 criteria related to this standard, including:

If the program provides food for meals and snacks (whether catered or prepared on site), the food is prepared, served, and stored in accordance with USDA Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) requirements.

Focus Area: Teaching Staff

Program Standard 6 — Teachers

The program employs and supports a teaching staff that has the educational qualifications, knowledge, and professional commitment necessary to promote children's learning and development and to support families' diverse needs and interests.

Rationale: Children benefit most when their teachers have high levels of formal education and specialized early childhood professional preparation. Teachers who have specific preparation, knowledge and skills in child development and early childhood education are more likely to engage in warm, positive interactions with children, offer richer language experiences, and create more high-quality learning environments. Opportunities for teaching staff to receive supportive supervision and to participate in ongoing professional development ensure that their knowledge and skills reflect the profession's ever-changing knowledge base.

There are over 15 criteria related to this standard, including:

All teaching staff know and use ethical guidelines in their conduct as members of the early childhood profession.

Focus Area: Family and Community Partnerships

Program Standard 7 — Families

The program establishes and maintains collaborative relationships with each child's family to foster children's development in all settings. These relationships are sensitive to family composition, language, and culture.

Rationale: Young children's learning and development are integrally connected to their families. Consequently, to support and promote children's optimal learning and development, programs need to recognize the primacy of children's families; establish relationships with families based on mutual trust and respect; support and involve families in their children's educational growth; and invite families to fully participate in the program.

There are over 25 criteria related to this standard, including:

Program staff actively use information about families to adapt the environment, curriculum, and teaching methods to the families they serve.

Program Standard 8 — Community Relationships

The program establishes relationships with, and uses the resources of, the children's communities to support the achievement of program goals.

Rationale: As part of the fabric of children's communities, an effective program establishes and maintains reciprocal relationships with agencies and institutions that can support it in achieving its goals for curriculum, health promotion, children's transitions, inclusion, and diversity. By helping to connect families with needed resources, the program furthers children's healthy development and learning.

There are over 15 criteria related to this standard, including:

Program staff develop partnerships and professional relationships with agencies, consultants, and organizations in the community that further the program's capacity to meet the needs and interests of the children and families that they serve.

Focus Area: Leadership and Administration

Program Standard 9 — Physical Environment

The program has a safe and healthful environment that provides appropriate and well-maintained indoor and outdoor physical environments. The environment includes facilities, equipment, and materials to facilitate child and staff learning and development.

Rationale: The program's design and maintenance of its physical environment support high- quality program activities and services and allow for optimal use and operation. Well-organized, equipped, and maintained environments support program quality by facilitating the learning, comfort, health, and safety of those who use the program. Program quality is enhanced by also creating a welcoming and accessible setting for children, families, and staff.

There are 50 criteria related to this standard, including:

Non-disposable materials are durable and in good repair. Equipment, materials, and furnishings are available that provide access for children with disabilities to the program's curriculum and activities.

Program Standard 10 — Leadership and Management

The program effectively implements policies, procedures, and systems in support of stable staff and strong personnel, fiscal, and program management so that all children, families and staff have high-quality experiences.

Rationale: Excellent programming requires effective governance structures, competent and knowledgeable leadership, and comprehensive and well functioning administrative policies, procedures, and systems. Effective leadership and management create the environment for high-quality care and education by: assuring compliance with relevant regulations and guidelines; promoting fiscal soundness, program accountability, effective communication, helpful consultative services, positive community relations, and provision of a comfortable and supportive workplace; maintaining stable staff; and instituting opportunities for ongoing program planning for staff and career development and for continuous program improvement.

There are over 50 criteria related to this standard, including:

The program has plans, policies, and procedures to reduce staff turnover, and attract and maintain a consistently qualified, well-trained staff.

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