While all childcare centers and preschools must be licensed by their state, accreditation certifies that a facility meets certain standards with regard to their staff, curriculum and building. Each accreditation agency has its own guidelines for a center to get its stamp of approval, and the center gets reviewed annually. Find out how three of those agencies determine whether a facility qualifies for accreditation. Then find the best child-care center for your child in MK's Child Care Directory.
The National Association of Education of Young Children
The National Association of Education of Young Children has the most thorough accreditation process. About 1 of every 10 U.S. preschools is NAEYC accredited. The association uses observations, program and classroom portfolios and instructor and family surveys to assess schools. A preschool must have operated for at least a year before it can be considered for candidacy.
The NAEYC checks certain standards during every site visit, with additional standards chosen randomly for assessment. The school must demonstrate success with at least 80% of the randomly selected standards and all of the required standards, which include:
- Assessment of child progress & health
- Community, family and teacher-student relationships
- Leadership and management
- Teacher’s skills and qualifications
- Physical environment
What makes them different: The NAEYC specifically looks for abuse by teachers and makes sure at least one adult in each room has been certified in first aid and child CPR. They also have SIDS-prevention procedures for schools to follow.
The Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools Commissions on Elementary and Secondary Schools
The Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools Commissions on Elementary and Secondary Schools aims to provide a baseline for excellent schools while maintaining each school’s individuality. Their process takes two to five years to complete.
Before a school can become a candidate for accreditation, a member from the MSA-CESS visits the school for a pre-assessment. If a school is offered candidacy, the staff can then begin a self-study, which can take nine months to two years to complete. After the school submits its self-study report, a team visits the school to validate the findings and recommend improvements. Three other groups within the MSA-CESS review both reports before the Commission decides whether to offer accreditation. Standards on which the assessments are based include a school’s:
- Assessment and evidence of student learning
- Educational program
- Governance and leadership
- Health and safety
- Improvement planning
- Information resources
- Mission statement
- Organization and staff
- Student services
- Student life and activities
What makes them different: The MSA-CESS looks specifically for schools to have professional development programs for staff and assesses whether the school promotes healthy relationships between teachers and students, offers age-appropriate instruction and conducts regular teacher evaluations.
American Montessori Society
To become accredited by the American Montessori Society, a school must have been operating for at least three years and be an AMS full member. Full membership requires that all lead teachers must hold Montessori credentials from an AMS-recognized teacher education program for the age level taught. All of the programs that AMS recognizes are accredited by the Montessori Accreditation Council for Teacher Education, the leading standard-setting and accrediting body for Montessori teacher education.
After accreditation, the school must submit yearly reports that outline their progress in these areas:
- Documenting and using results of student, teacher and curriculum assessments
- Facility resources
- Governance and leadership
- Mission and vision
- Records, resources and support systems
- Stakeholder communications and relationships
- Teaching and learning
What makes them different: The term “Montessori” is not trademarked, meaning that any school can call itself a Montessori school. Only schools accredited by the American Montessori Society have been affirmed to meet the rigorous standards established by AMS for quality Montessori schools and recognized by educators worldwide.
Meredith Strom is an English major at Drexel University and a co-op intern at MetroKids.