NAEYC Home > Accreditation > Current NAEYC Accreditation System and FAQs

Overview of the Current NAEYC Accreditation System and FAQs

Overview of Process

NAEYC's current Accreditation process consists of 3 steps:

Step 1: Self-Study

Program personnel and parents conduct a self-study to determine how well the program meets the Academy's Criteria, make needed improvements, and report the compliance with the Criteria on the Early Childhood Program Description form provided by the Academy.

If you have questions about the self-study process, the Academy staff is available to assist you. Staff can be reached at 800 424-2460 or by email at accreditation.information@naeyc.org.

Step 2: Validation

Trained validators make an on-site visit to verify the accuracy of the Early Childhood Program Description.

Step 3: Accreditation Decision

A three-person Commission considers the validated Early Childhood Program Description and makes the accreditation decision based on professional judgment. Identifying information about the program is removed before the Commission reviews the information: name, address, etc. Programs are required to demonstrate substantial compliance with the criteria.

Frequently Asked Questions about NAEYC Accreditation

What is accreditation for early childhood programs?

Early childhood program accreditation means that:

  • An early childhood program—child care center, preschool, kindergarten, or before- and/or after-school program—voluntarily applied for accreditation by the NAEYC Academy for Early Childhood Program Accreditation. The program then engaged in an extensive self-study based on the Academy's Criteria for High Quality Early Childhood Program. The accuracy of the program's self-study was verified during a site visit to the program by volunteer validators. The validated self-study, including the program director's responses to the validation visit, was reviewed by a national commission composed of recognized experts in child care and early childhood education, judged to be in substantial compliance with the Academy's Criteria, and granted accreditation for a five-year period.

  • The early childhood program agreed to act upon the commission's suggestions regarding areas needing improvement and to submit annual written reports documenting improvements and continued compliance.

Return to Questions

Why choose an NAEYC-accredited program?

NAEYC-accredited programs have demonstrated a commitment to providing a high quality program for young children and their families. While the NAEYC accreditation process examines the total program, greatest emphasis is placed on the quality of interactions among staff and children and the developmental appropriateness of the curriculum--what really happens to the children. Health and safety, staffing, staff qualifications, physical environment, and administration are all reviewed during accreditation, but primary consideration is given to the nature of the child's experience.

Whether your interest in early childhood programs is as a parent seeking a program for your child, as an employer looking to support your employees' child care needs, or as an interested citizen, accreditation helps you identify high quality programs. High quality is important for children and families, so parents can be reassured that their children are in good hands. And, what's good for families is also good for business and communities. In short, high quality early childhood programs benefit us all!

Return to Questions

What are the characteristics of a high quality program?

There are a number of characteristics associated with high quality programs. Based on the Academy's Criteria, here are some things to consider as you visit programs:

  1. Are the children in the program generally comfortable, relaxed, and happy, and involved in play and other activities?

    Happy, relaxed children who are enjoying themselves as they play and learn is one of the best signs of a good program. See if there is an ample variety of materials for children of this age group. Would your child enjoy this setting?

  2. Are there sufficient numbers of adults with specialized training in early childhood development and education?

    The younger the child, the more individualized attention is needed. The Academy's Criteria recommend that all groups have at least two teachers. Infants should be in groups of no more than 6 to 8 children; 2- to 3-year-olds should be in groups of 10 to 14 children; and 4- to 5-year-olds should be in groups of 16 to 20 children. Specialized training in child development and early education helps assure that staff understand how children grow and learn so they can be more effective teachers and caregivers.

  3. Do adult expectations vary appropriately for children of differing ages and interests?

    Groups for infants and toddlers will look quite different from groups for older children. Toys and materials should vary by age as should teachers' expectations for children. In addition, teachers and caregivers should recognize and respect individual differences in children's abilities, interests, and preferences.

  4. Are all areas of child's development stressed equally, with time and attention being devoted to cognitive development, social and emotional development, and physical development?

    High quality early childhood programs do much more than help children learn numbers, shapes, and colors. Good programs help children learn how to learn: to question why and discover alternative answers; to get along with others; and to use their developing language, thinking, and motor skills.

  5. Do the staff meet regularly to plan and evaluate the program?

    Planning should reflect a balance of activities between vigorous outdoor play and quiet indoor play. Activities should allow ample time for children to work and play individually or in small groups, with the focus on activities that are child initiated as opposed to teacher directed. Flexibility, however, is also key. Staff should be willing to adjust the daily activities to meet children's individual needs and interests.

  6. Are parents welcome to observe, discuss policies, make suggestions, and participate in the work of the program?

    Close communication between parents and staff is vital. Staff should regularly discuss highlights of the child's experiences with parents and show respect for families of varying cultures and backgrounds.

Return to Questions

Which programs can become accredited?

All types of early childhood programs—child care centers, preschools, kindergartens, and before- and after-school programs—are eligible to apply for accreditation. Programs may apply whether they operate on a full- or part-day basis or whether they are for profit or nonprofit. All information on candidate programs is confidential. Programs must be operational for at least one year before accreditation may be granted. In the fully reinvented NAEYC accreditation system before- and after-school programs will no longer be eligible for accreditation.

Return to Questions

How will I know if an early childhood program is accredited by NAEYC?

The current list of accredited programs is posted on-line and updated monthly. In addition, accredited programs may display the Academy's insignia--a torch--on their stationery and promotional material. Also, NAEYC-accredited programs receive a large colorful poster depicting the characteristics of accredited programs along with a certificate of accreditation. Look for the poster and certificate in any program you visit.

Return to Questions

What if a program is not accredited by NAEYC?

NAEYC's Academy for Early Childhood Program Accreditation may revoke accreditation to any NAEYC-accredited program if it is determined that the program does not comply with the Accreditation Criteria or Procedures. Investigation of written complaints is one mechanism used by NAEYC's Academy for Early Childhood Program Accreditation to maintain the integrity of NAEYC's accreditation system and the safety and well-being of children attending NAEYC-accredited programs.

NAEYC considers all written complaints against accredited programs, and programs pending completion of accreditation, that allege non-compliance with the NAEYC Accreditation Criteria. The Academy reserves the right to reject complaints that are not specific to the Criteria. The Academy does NOT act on complaints in matters of admission, fees, staff appointments, promotions, dismissal or similar matters. In addition, the Academy cannot determine the effectiveness of a program's negotiation strategies and interactions between the program and an individual parent or family. Nonetheless, the Academy and NAEYC recognize that a high-quality early childhood program is one that can continue to work and change with children and families to best serve their needs.

Return to Questions

Procedures for Filing a False Advertising Complaint

Complaints against programs may be submitted to the Academy in writing. Complaints must:

  • be submitted on the Program Feedback Form
  • identify the program (name and location) represented by the complaint and describe the specific matters of the complaints;
  • mailed, faxed or emailed with any supporting documentation (i.e. brochures, websites, parent handbooks, etc.)

Return to Questions

What if I have a concern or complaint about an NAEYC-accredited program?

NAEYC's National Academy of Early Childhood may revoke accreditation to any NAEYC-accredited program if it is determined that the program does not comply with the Accreditation Criteria or Procedures. Investigation of written complaints is one mechanism used by NAEYC's National Academy of Early Childhood Programs to maintain the integrity of NAEYC's accreditation system and the safety and well-being of children attending NAEYC-accredited programs.

NAEYC considers all written complaints against accredited programs, and programs pending completion of accreditation, that allege non-compliance with the NAEYC Accreditation Criteria. The Academy reserves the right to reject complaints that are not specific to the Criteria. The Academy does NOT act on complaints in matters of admission, fees, staff appointments, promotions, dismissal or similar matters. In addition, the Academy cannot determine the effectiveness of a program's negotiation strategies and interactions between the program and an individual parent or family. Nonetheless, the Academy and NAEYC recognize that a high-quality early childhood program is one that can continue to work and change with children and families to best serve their needs.

Return to Questions

What if a program is advertising/saying that they are NAEYC accredited and are not on the NAEYC website?

NAEYC’s Advertising Complaint Policy is described on Page 10 of Accreditation Criteria and Procedures:

Advertisement of NAEYC accreditation

The use of NAEYC accreditation sign, seals, certificates, posters, logos, or other indications of accreditation of accreditation is a privilege reserved for accredited early childhood programs. These symbols are only on loan for proper display during the term of accreditation. An early childhood program may not use these symbols if the program is/has “expired”, “deferred” or “revoked”. No statement should be made about possible future accreditation. Statements such as “has applied for accreditation,” or “is seeking accreditation” are not permissible.

Accredited programs receive information brochures for distribution to parents. These brochures define accreditation for the consumer using the following definition: “Early childhood programs accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children have voluntarily undergone a comprehensive process of internal self-study, have invited external professional review to verify compliance with the Criteria. A copy of the Criteria may be obtained in this section of the website or purchased from the Publication section. NAEYC is not connected with and is not responsible for the administration, acts, personnel, property, or practices of accredited programs.”

Procedures for Filing a False Advertising Complaint

Complaints against programs may be submitted to the Academy in writing. Complaints must:

  • identify the program (name and location) represented by the complaint and describe the specific matters of the complaints;
  • mailed, faxed or emailed with any supporting documentation (i.e. brochures, websites, parent handbooks, etc.)

No complaint will be invalid solely because it fails to satisfy the above requirements; the Academy reserves the right to accept any complaint, which communicates noncompliance.

Return to Questions

Licensing issues

State governments are responsible for licensing most early childhood programs, although the scope and detail of licensing regulations vary greatly from state to state. In general, licensing defines the minimum level of requirements necessary for legal operation within the state. Licensure is required for programs seeking NAEYC accreditation (unless exempt by state statute). If you believe an early childhood program is violating state/local regulations, you should contact the state licensing agency. The National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care's web page lists individual states' child care regulations and provides contact information for the licensing agency.

Process for submitting a complaint about an NAEYC-accredited program

If you, as a family member of an enrolled child, early childhood professional, or other individual, have concerns or a complaint regarding an early childhood program, your first contact should be the appropriate person at the Program. In general, concerns about classroom issues should be shared with the teacher, while concerns about administrative issues or the overall program should be shared with the Program director. If the person you contact is unwilling to discuss and resolve the concerns and/or complaints, consider whether other avenues within the program may be available to resolve the situation, for example, talking to the teacher, the director, the board, corporate headquarters, parent council, or other administrative organization.

If after these avenues have been exhausted the Program is unwilling or unable to address your concern, you may file a formal complaint with NAEYC.

Additional resources

Other resources that may be helpful to individuals working to resolve complaints with early childhood programs include:

ADA Information Line
Disability Rights Section
U.S. Department of Justice
P.O. Box 66738
Washington, DC 20035-9998
(800) 514-0301 TDD (800) 514-0383
http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/ada/adahom1.htm

Child Care Law Center
22 Second Street, 5th Floor
San Francisco, CA 94105
(415) 495-5498

The National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care
http://nrc.uchsc.edu/states.html

Return to Questions

How does a program apply for accreditation or reaccreditation?

An explanation of how to apply for accreditation may be found under Information for Programs.

Return to Questions