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New Accreditation System for Associate Degrees Earned by Many Preschool, Child Care and Other Early Childhood Teachers

WASHINGTON D. C., June 1, 2004 - The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) is developing a new accreditation system that will set a standard of excellence for associate degree programs that prepare early childhood teachers. By recognizing programs that meet this standard at community colleges and other 2-year institutions, NAEYC's associate degree accreditation system will be a key step in raising the quality of early childhood education programs. NAEYC is working with six states in the start-up phase of the system, which will eventually be nationwide.

Associate degree programs are a crucial component of early childhood teacher preparation. Approximately half of the teachers and teaching assistants in center-based child care and preschool programs have taken some college courses, up to and including an associate degree. (About one-third have earned a baccalaureate.) Many states require associate degrees for preschool teachers, and the federal government requires associate degrees for teachers in Head Start. In addition, many early childhood teachers earn associate degrees as a step toward baccalaureate degrees. However, no system currently exists for recognizing how well early childhood associate degree programs meet national standards.

"Research clearly shows that a key step in raising the quality of preschool, child care and other early childhood programs is the preparation of teachers, and for a growing number of early childhood teachers, the associate degree is the first significant professional preparation," said Marilou Hyson, Ph.D., NAEYC's Associate Executive Director. "By raising the standard for preparation of teachers, this new associate degree accreditation system will help many more young children get a great start on learning."

NAEYC's associate degree accreditation system will build on existing national standards that describe what well-prepared graduates of community college and other 2-year programs should know and be able to do. To seek associate degree accreditation, a program will submit a written report describing how it meets those standards. A team trained by NAEYC will then conduct an on-site review of the program, and report to the NAEYC Associate Degree Program Accreditation Commission, which will make the final accreditation decision.

Arkansas, Illinois (primarily the City Colleges of Chicago) Maryland, Massachusetts, North Carolina, and South Carolina will work with NAEYC in a start-up phase of this system. A group of colleges in each of these states will be part of the first cohort of 2-year institutions to go through the accreditation process, refining and field-testing accreditation policies, procedures, and materials. When the system is fully operational, all programs that meet eligibility criteria will be invited to seek NAEYC associate degree accreditation.

NAEYC is already involved in the accreditation of teacher education programs, through its affiliation with the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE). As part of NCATE's accreditation system, NAEYC sets standards for, reviews, and approves baccalaureate, master's and doctoral programs in early childhood education and related fields. NCATE supports NAEYC's development of the associate degree accreditation system, as does the American Associate Degree Early Childhood Educators (ACCESS), which will collaborate in an advisory capacity. In addition, NAEYC has been known for nearly 20 years for accreditation of child care centers, preschools, and other programs for children from birth through age eight.

Funding for the development of the associate degree accreditation is being provided by NAEYC, with contributions from ACCESS and from states involved in the start-up phase. The Rockefeller Brothers Fund supported an initial feasibility study by NAEYC and ACCESS, which showed wide support for an associate degree accreditation system among community colleges, states, and early childhood education leaders. The Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Joyce Foundation and the A.L. Mailman Family Foundation also support this initiative.

The National Association for the Education of Young Children is the largest 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, NAEYC now has more than 100,000 members and a national network of nearly 450 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.